Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has the darkest beginning of any of the Harry Potter films to date. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) looks and sounds different, losing his boyish looks, and coming across as a very defined young man facing an uncertain future and threats to Hogwarts, his only real home. Radcliffe finally gets into Harry’s skin, playing the beloved icon as a disturbed young man.
In previous films, Harry’s friends, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) have been unfailingly loyal to Harry, but in this film Harry’s battles are in his own head, and his friends can no longer help him.
As Harry, Hermione and Ron head back to Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry for their fifth year, a darker mystery looms over Hogwarts. Dolores Umbridge (a real scene-stealer played by Imelda Staunton) has been imposed on the school by the Ministry of Magic to become the new Dark Arts teacher, and even her little hiccup laughs and pink snapdragon suits cannot hide her sinister side.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix feels like a bridge leading up to the final two films. Director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg, both newcomers to the series, are not necessarily to blame. They have the daunting task of taking an 870-page book (the longest) and turning it into a 2 hour and 15 minute film (the shortest), on top of adding new characters including Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge, eccentric fellow student Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), and the villainous Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter).
Yates, who also will be directing the next film, has easily brought the most effective character developments to the series, while cutting back on special effects, but in the end there is too much story here and not enough time to tell it. We know that the ending is near and filmgoers also await the final book of the series, which will be released June 21. Let’s hope that in the last two films, that Warner Brothers will give its director proper time to tell these stories, rather than cutting them short.