Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Directed by David Yates

Written by Michael Goldenberg

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is the fifth film in the series and the one in which Harry and his friends come up against the refusal of the Ministry of Magic to believe that Voldemort has returned. The book was the longest in the series, with Dolores Umbridge (another in the line of great names that J.K. Rowland has invented) taking over Hogwarts and replacing Dumbledore. And it ends with the death of Harry's godfather Sirius Black in a fight with Voldemort and his allies in the bowels of the Ministry. It's a film that should have held us captive from the first moment to the last.

Unfortunately it's also the first film in the series that does not do justice to the book, and we can lay the blame squarely on the director David Yates (who unfortunately has already been signed to direct the sixth film). Yates, who comes from television, seems to have been overwhelmed by his assignment; he doesn't trust Rowling's ability to let her characters breathe between battles, so he hurries through the intimate moments by having his actors rush their lines, speaking as fast as possible; the famous kiss between Harry and Cho Chang barely has any resonance. And when Harry and his friends put together their Dumbledore's Army to learn defenses that Umbridge won't teach them we have no sense that this is a matter of life and death.

Yates doesn't know how to stage confrontations either, so that unless we already know the book we're going to be lost. It's particularly true in the final battle, where the death of Sirius is just another moment in a big and confusing fight, instead of our feeling the tragic wrench of Harry losing his only remaining family. Yates takes for granted that we already know the relationships between Harry, Ron and Hermione, and so they never have a moment together in which they're not simply dealing with new plot demands. In this film they spend their time frantically responding to new attacks.

There's even more, unfortunately: Michael Gambon, who took over as Dumbldore when Richard Harris died, is badly cast; he seems to have misread Dumbledore's sense of inner serenity; instead of being the rock on which the whole series rests, he overacts, is too loud, too surprised by events to be trusted, and, well, just too human.

Is there anything that's gone right in this film? We meet Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), who brings a sense of the magic and the tragedy that should have been there all along. And Ron's twin brothers Fred and George are given at least a quick moment to shine, though if we don't know the book we're at a loss to know why. But Helena Bonham Carter is wasted in a walkon as Bellatrix Lestrange (we don't know what her connection is with Sirius, or why); But ultimately the fault lies with Yates and his writer Michael Goldenberg (who took over from Steve Kloves), because they've emphasized all the wrong points and minimized all of the book's strengths. Harry Potter deserves a lot better than this.