Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review
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In the past, I’ve learned that it’s best not to read (or re-read) a book right before its movie adaptation hits theaters—because, when I do, I’m almost always disappointed by the movie. So I refrained from digging out my copy of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because I knew that I’d find myself comparing the movie to the book—which isn’t fair, really, since there’s no way you can squeeze all 870 pages into two hours and change. But, despite my attempts to go into the movie with an open mind, I was still disappointed.

The fifth Harry Potter installment finds Harry in trouble with the Ministry of Magic. After the horrifying attack in 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it’s pretty clear to Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) that the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is gaining strength. But the members of the Ministry continue to deny it—and they’re doing everything they can to make Harry and Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) look bad.

Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, there’s a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher—Ministry Undersecretary Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton). Professor Umbridge keeps a tight reign on the activities at Hogwarts—and she’s not even allowing the students to learn the magic they’ll need to defend themselves in case of another attack by you-know-who. So Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) form a secret group called Dumbledore’s Army to teach students the magic they’ll need to fight back.

As Harry Potter books continue to get longer and longer, it gets harder and harder to turn them into movies. Consider, for instance, that the unabridged audio version of Order of the Phoenix is 25 hours long—and the movie is less than a tenth of that length. So, naturally, there’s a lot of stuff that’s left out. Usually, though, the Harry Potter movies do a good job of picking and choosing plots—but not this time. The action feels weak—except, of course, at the very end, when things pick up just a bit. And certain subplots from the book are touched on just for a minute or two but aren’t fully developed—so they may make sense to those who have read the book (who, thus, know the whole story), but they’ll probably be a little confusing to anyone else.

Actually, very little in Order of the Phoenix is fully developed. It seems that the filmmakers just assume that everyone in the audience already knows what’s going on. You already know that Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) is crazy—so they don’t really need to show that. You already know about the Order of the Phoenix and all of its members, so they don’t really need to talk much about it. It feels like most of the plot is just skimmed over.

If you think of Order of the Phoenix as a companion to the book, it isn’t quite as disappointing. If you’ve read the book, it’ll make sense. It shows the basics—and there are some pretty cool magical battle scenes. But there’s really not much to it. It just moves the story along and sets things up for the final two movies. On its own, it’s not that exciting—and, if you haven’t read the book, I have a feeling you’ll be pretty confused (though seeing the other four Harry Potter movies first might help). It doesn’t have much of a beginning or end. It doesn’t do much to further develop the characters. There’s very little Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). There isn't nearly enough Snape (Alan Rickman). There’s no Quidditch at all. And even Harry’s big first kiss seems like it was slapped in there just to give fans something to talk about. In the end, I’m not even entirely sure what’s left. It’s just a bridge, I guess, to the next movie. But it's definitely the least impressive Harry Potter film to date.

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