Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint,
Imelda Staunton, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes. Rated PG-13.
Fans of flashy Quidditch
tournaments and magical classroom mishaps, be warned: Harry Potter has finally
reached the end of the innocence.
Indeed, The Order of the
Phoenix is the bespectacled young wizard’s
darkest, most harrowing journey to date, and easily his most satisfying. Far
removed from the safe, superficial spectacle of Harry Potter and
Sorcerer’s Stone, it delivers all the
expected wonders of a semester at Hogwarts, where witchcraft and sorcery are
core requirements, without sacrificing the keen edge that distinguishes J.K.
Rowling’s books from more toothless children’s fare.
While Rowling has never hesitated
to explore the sinister realities facing her cast of wand-waving heroes – on
the contrary, she seems to relish subjecting even her most beloved characters
to the cruelest fates – the filmmakers charged with adapting her prose have
often been loath to follow suit. Luckily, the fifth time’s the charm.
Resisting the urge to dazzle with
frivolous displays of magic – you know, for the kids – director David Yates and
screenwriter Michael Goldenberg dispense with the training wheels and race into
ominous territory. The Boy Who Lived is becoming a man, whether he likes it or
not, and he is faced with the daunting task of preventing an impending
holocaust, orchestrated by a familiar nemesis, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is up to
the challenge, of course, but never before has he found himself so bereft of
allies and friends. Branded liars by those who refuse to acknowledge the return
of Voldemort, he and Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) have become personae
non gratae at Hogwarts.
Worse yet, Dolores Umbridge
(Imelda Staunton, who embraces her villainous turn with demented glee), a
sadistic bureaucrat, has taken over as de facto headmistress, paralyzing the
student body with a series of regulations designed to punish all who oppose her
bloody reign. (Yes, bloody – she makes the kids cut themselves when they
Although The Order of the
Phoenix retains some of the sweetness that
informed its predecessors, this is a much darker chapter, a waking nightmare in
which the threat presented by Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters, long
rumored, has become a stark reality.
Harry, for one, has
so conflicted. Asked to save the world for the umpteenth time, he is finally
beginning to feel the strain, and that’s a good thing. Rarely before has he
seemed so vulnerable, so innately human, and it is his doubts, creeping in his
mind even as he and his friends prepare for their climactic showdown with the
Dark Lord, that make him such an endearing, enduring hero. He’s a magic man, no
doubt, but one with the complicated soul of a Muggle.