Related Articles: Movies, All

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Grows up and Gets Darker

By the time Harry Potter reaches 18, it wouldn't be surprising if he will have dyed his hair black, pierced his face, gotten a few tats and walked around wearing a Joy Division t-shirt. Such is the arc of this young man's angst-ridden, tumultuous life. Of course, author J.K. Rowling's final edition to her beloved Harry Potter series comes out on July 21st and who knows who Harry will turn out to be. What can be said is that the film adaptation of book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is as dark, mysterious and wondrous as ever. Much like adolescence itself.

Director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg have streamlined the thickest book in the series, coming in at a whopping 896 pages, into an absorbing and sharp movie falling under just two and a half hours. The tagline for the movie reads: The Rebellion Begins! And it certainly has. There is no quidditch here. No dances. In short, no teenaged fun. With the exception of one or two scenes, Harry (played by Daniel Radcliffe) is all business.

Part 1984, part Star Wars, the world in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is getting more sinister and dangerous. Driven by paranoia and fear and, of course, corruption, the Minister of Magic (think Prime Minister) first goes after Harry and then goes after Hogwarts, his school. Believing that Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is gathering his own private forces in a move to take over the Ministry and attempting thwart all rumors of Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) return, the Minister instates a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton, who is amazing here).

And while she may look like a harmless 50s housewife, Umbridge is the most frightening character of all. Through ruthless means, she wiles her way into power and soon takes over Dumblemore's position as Headmaster sucking all life out of the castle's walls and ruling with an iron fist. Meanwhile, Harry is fighting his own battles.

Most of the school doesn't believe his claims of Voldemort's return. However, just when he feels most alone, he realizes that his friends, most notably Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), are right there beside him. Together they form Dumbledore's Army as a means to defend themselves against the growing threat of Voldemort.

Consisting of various students from across the houses, like scene stealer Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), they begin to meet secretly and train under Harry's care. The sessions build both confidence and strength in the students and it is here that Harry gets his very first kiss with Cho Chang (Katie Leung). Dumbledore's Army is also a student counterpart of sorts to the Order of the Phoenix, an underground army consisting of various characters, including Harry's godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who had fought the Dark Lord the first time around.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an engaging film that leaves you wanting more once the credits begin to roll. This is not to say that it is somehow incomplete but rather so engrossing that you do not want it to end. You are immediately drawn into his world. Thus, the sets, costuming and special effects are mostly top notch. As every year, the acting improves with the main principles -- Radcliffe, Watson and Grint -- supported by an array of superbly trained British talent in the likes of Fiennes, Oldman, Gambon, Alan Rickman as Professor Snape and, of course, Imelda Staunton.

Every director thus far has brought his own vision to the films and since Yates is slated to direct the next in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we can expect that things will only get darker for our young hero. But such is life, especially when you're a teenager.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars