Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) movie poster

(2007) director David Yates
viewed: 01/07/11

I’m a little Harry Potter’ed out of late.  My kids, on the other hand, are in full Harry Potter swing.  At night, we are reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  In the car, they are listening to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  We’ve revisited Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) recently on DVD.  And when asked what they wanted to watch on Friday Night Movie night: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).  Well, one side-effect for me is that I am much more caught up on the stories that before I’d never read or viewed in quick succession.

Order of the Phoenix is the film of the 5th book in the series, also the 5th film in the series, and the first of an eventual four films directed by David Yates.   Yates before Harry Potter was mostly a British television director.  I don’t know that he’s brought such a signature “style” to the series, but he has manfully managed the monstrously long tomes and delivered them on-screen as increasingly entertaining films.  Order of the Phoenix is probably the weakest of his contributions, as he’s seemed to have gotten stronger as he’s had more consistency in the director’s chair.  He’s inherited, largely, a cast established and designs established under Chris Columbus, who directed the first two films.

The main plot of The Order of the Phoenix centers around the evil machinations of Delores Umbridge, the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher (every year there is another).  She’s played in the film by Imelda Staunton with perfectly cringe-inducing aplomb.  Unlike so many of the other villainous villains, Umbridge is decked out in pink and represents authoritarian control with a smug, polite smile upon its lips.  She’s all the more creepy because she’s so banal and under such a pretense of being benign.  Staunton is very good.

It’s funny, but with this inundation of J.K. Rowling’s magnum opus(es), I’ve really been gleaning this vivid and colorful world view of hers, at times slyly embedded in the narratives, other times blatantly embodied in the characters.  Umbridge, for instance, is a critique of an overzealous government, with over-regulated rules, controlling and conforming the populace.  Evil with a smiley face.  What’s also interesting is her portrayal of the press, embodied in two different publications, The Daily Prophet and The Quibbler.  The Daily Prophet is, while widely read, full of highly-slanted, politically-motivated news, and often outright lies.  The Quibbler, on the other hand, is a publication of conspiracy theorists, and while often aligned more with the truth than The Daily Prophet, is also equally dubious in publishing the equivalent of Bigfoot sightings or UFO abductions.  I haven’t gotten my head entirely around it (maybe when I finally see the final installation or the kids talk me into reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) but the wizarding world contains quite a lot of socio-political commentary.  And it’s quite interesting.

Well, with the kids all hepped-up on Harry Potter, I don’t doubt for an instant that this will not be the last re-visit to a film from the series before next summer’s release of the final segment of the filmic narrative.  But I can certainly say that it’s far from the worst of these epic children’s collections, though it has certainly spawned some lame rank imitators.  Such is the curse of success, I suppose.  Felix likes to point out to me, from his latest Guinness Book of World Records, that Rowling is the wealthiest author on the planet.  Good for her.

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