“Order of the Phoenix” is famously known for being the Harry Potter series’ longest book, coming in at a whopping 870 pages. However, its film boasts the second-shortest run time of the movie series, at just two hours and eight minutes.
Let’s do the math here: how likely is it that a storyline that is so extensive it requires 870 total pages would seamlessly translate to a film that clocks in at just over two hours? The answer is not likely.
Let me preface this review by saying that “Order of the Phoenix” is my favorite of the Harry Potter books, so for me to be offering a single negative remark about its film adaptation hurts my heart. Unfortunately, though, the fifth installment of the Harry Potter series falls flat on the big screen.
It’s not that “Order of the Phoenix” is necessarily a bad movie; it is just lackluster in comparison to both its book and the other films of the series.
“Order of the Phoenix” kicks off with Harry rescuing himself and his cousin Dudley Dursley from a Dementor attack, resulting in his expulsion from Hogwarts. He is taken to the home of his godfather Sirius Black, where he is introduced to a secret organization known as the Order of the Phoenix. There, Harry learns that the Ministry of Magic is vehemently denying his claims of Voldemort’s return.
Harry’s expulsion is not upheld, though, and he returns to Hogwarts, where the school’s new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, begins to take a dictatorial hold over the school while Dumbledore is largely absent.
In response, Harry, with the help of Ron and Hermione, forms a secret group of Hogwarts students known as Dumbledore’s Army to fight back.
What makes “Order of the Phoenix” so great as a story is that it simultaneously feels like a refreshing change of pace from its predecessors while still propelling the series’ narrative forward. Voldemort, the most terrifying villain imaginable, has returned as more of a threat than ever, but Harry and his peers find themselves facing an entirely unexpected battle on their own homefront against the oppressive rule of Umbridge. Seeing a different kind of villain pose a threat in a new way makes for an exciting story.
Harry and his peers have always been courageous, but watching them take it a step further and form an entire secret society, led by their own efforts, brings a new level of maturity to the beloved characters as they inch closer and closer to the darker events of the last few books.
However, the attempt to cram so much material into such a small time frame ultimately detracts from everything that makes “Order of the Phoenix” so great. The stakes do not feel as high in the fifth book’s film adaptation, and it ultimately loses the little parts of the narrative that made it such a compelling story in the first place.
The movie sees a high point, though, from Imelda Staunton’s flawless performance as Umbridge. She makes viewers hate her so much that it’s almost hard to remember that she’s not a real person (and that Staunton is probably a nice person in real life).
In addition, the movie is powered by scenes of Dumbledore’s Army in action, as it’s undeniably exciting to see the series’ younger actors come together in such a powerful, compelling way.
So all in all, “Order of the Phoenix” failed to translate to the big screen as well as it could have. It’s hard to put the blame in one place, though, since fitting such a large amount of material into a short time frame is a daunting task for even the best filmmakers.
At the end of the day, the filmmakers are lucky that J.K. Rowling is responsible for THAT death (you know the one) and not them because this movie would be getting an F if they had anything to do with it.
Filmnetic Grade: C
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