How does the fifth film outing fare up against the anticipation of the release of the seventh and final book?

Principal Cast and Crew

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Harry Melling as Dudley Dursley
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks
Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody
George Harris as Kingsley Shacklebolt
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Dame Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Timothy Bateson as Kreacher
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
James Phelps as Fred Weasley
Oliver Phelps as George Weasley
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
Robert Hardy as Cornelius Fudge
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Katie Leung as Cho Chang
Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood
David Bradley as Argus Filch
Devon Murray as Seamus Finnegan
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawny
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid

Directed by David Yates

Screenplay by Michael Goldberg based on the novel by JK Rowling

Warning

I am going to assume that you have read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I am also going to assume that you don’t consider changes between the book and film versions to be spoilers. If you do, then you can just read the final score, which is thirty-four out of forty-two.

Synopsis

The Ministry of Magic is actively attempting to suppress the news of Lord Voledmort’s return by discrediting Dumbledore and Harry. They appoint a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, a dreadful woman with very poor taste in interior decoration, who rapidly acquires power and takes over the school. Harry and a group of friends start a secret group to learn how to fight Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

High Points

  • Ginny’s little resentful look just before Harry and Cho kiss
  • Harry, Ron and Herminone just after Harry and Cho kiss
  • Any scene with Luna in

Low Points

  • Flying along the Thames on broomsticks? Added for pure spectacle, given Moody’s obsession with secrecy in this same scene in the book – and the International Statue of Secrecy.
  • Harry and Cho’s kiss. Too long and unconvincing. Also, the Nargles in the mistletoe joke doesn’t work without Luna mentioning them first, which was omitted from the film.

The Scores

Originality: a movie which is the sequel to four other movies, all of which are based on books which are sequels to each other. Not looking good for originality points here. Harry Potter has never been a hugely innovative series, but you don’t ever feel like you’re watching the same old same old again. The tone and action is different to the previous films, and makes this one feel more like a continuation than a money-spinning followup. Four out of six.

Effects: the effects work is generally superb. Tonks’ transformations, particularly her hair colour, are utterly seamless. The magic effects get better and better, and the Thestrals look superb. I particularly liked the treatment of travel by Floo powder. Unfortunately amidst such excellence, the bits that don’t work quite so well stand out: Grawp looks more like a character from a more-realistic Shrek film than a live-action fantasy, and it’s easy to tell when Umbridge is replaced by a computer model. Five out of six.

Story: the story has been greatly compressed and modified from the book. The basic elements are there: Umbridge taking over, the DA, the discrediting of Dumbledore, the breakout from Azkaban, Harry’s dreams and the final showdown at the Ministry. Unfortunately I felt some of the alterations detracted from the story a bit. Some things happen in the wrong order – Fred and George should have caused their chaos and departed on Umbridge’s first day as Headmistress, which I think is far more fitting than mucking up an OWL exam as they did in the film (particularly since in the book they explicitly mention not wanting to disrupt people’s revision). Their departure turns from a grand act of supreme chaos and disrespect of Umbridge to a childish prank which they pull before leaving. I also felt that omitting Harry’s interview in which he told the full story of Voldemort’s return was a mistake, because it leaves Seamus’ reasons for changing his mind looking rather weak. One change which did work very well was having Cho betray the DA instead of Marietta, as it allowed us to avoid the rather embarrassing Valentine’s Day trip to Hogsmeade which leads to Harry and Cho’s breakup. Without my knowledge of the book filling in gaps, I think the story might look a bit patchy. Four out of six.

Emotional Response: surprisingly strong. From the trailers and clips I wasn’t sure that Harry would grab me this time, but the film does manage to tug the heartstrings at the appropriate moments. A shame the meeting between Bellatrix and Neville was so truncated though, that could have been a marvellously emotional moment. Nonetheless, you still find yourself caring very much about the characters and their welfare – and Mr Weasley on the Underground is pure enjoyment. Five out of six.

Acting: it’s been said by JK Rowling herself, and I have to agree: Evanna Lynch is definitely the perfect choice to play Luna Lovegood. Although the Irish accent is slightly surprising at first – I always assumed she was English – she has Luna’s eccentricities down absolutely perfectly, from the slightly surprised expression to her tendency to say tremendously insightful things in a very off-hand way while looking at something entirely different. In the other new arrivals, Imelda Staunton does a wonderfully creepy Dolores Umbridge, and Helena Bonham Carter portrays a gloriously insane Bellatrix Lestrange, although she didn’t get time to explore the full part of her character’s role in the book. I hope we see her scenes in Half-Blood Prince. For the regulars, I thought Radcliffe, Watson and Grint put in their usual performances, perhaps slightly better than before. I can’t mention everyone as the cast list is enormous, so I shall say that I was disappointed with Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid this time. He seemed rather feeble compared to how he should be. Five out of six.

Production: all the familiar Hogwarts locations return, and we get to see the marvellously-realised Headquarters, which is every bit as dank and unpleasant as the book makes out, and the Ministry of Magic, which is nothing short of spectacular. You’d think they’d install some lighting in the Hall of Prophecy though. The editing is generally clean and well-timed, with excellent sound design and a wonderful score which builds superbly upon the familiar John Williams themes. Six out of six.

Overall: I can’t help but feel disappointed that it’s not as good as the book, but this is probably close to the best one can actually do with a runtime that people will actually sit through. Five out of six.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix receives a grand total of thirty-four out of forty-two.