Yes, it's been a week since I saw the film, but today, I was in a reviewing mood.
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Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint mature in their respective roles of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ronald Weasley in their fifth year at Hogwarts. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Lord Voldemort (played with an intriguing venom by Ralph Feinnes) has returned, and the Wizarding world is skeptical about it out of fear. Where we last left Harry Potter, Harry had witnessed the return of Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
This film opens up with the same drill as films 1-3. Harry Potter is in the Muggle land, living with his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon (Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths) along with his plump cousin Dudley (Harry Melling). Once confronted by Dementors in the Muggle world, Harry is put on trial in the wizarding world for underage wizardry (albeit in self-defense).
Though found not guilty on the trial, Harry's problems have only just begun. On his return to Hogwarts, Harry and his friends are confronted by a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Delores Umbridge (Imelda Stauton), who works for the Ministry of Magic and slowly ceases control of Hogwarts.
The film is based on the longest book in the series, and so obviously, much of what was stated in the book was left on the cutting floor for the film. While the same thing happened in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I cannot find it in myself to say that it was done as well with the fifth movie.
Where Potter 4 restructured much of the story, Potter 5 makes the story more convulted. Hence, much of Potter 5 felt like a two-and-a-half hour montage. Scenes are crammed together in such a way that the movie will only make sense if you've read the book. Fortunately for me, I have.
Performances by the three main characters are more solid than they ever have been. Harry, Ron, and Hermione display an aura of maturity in both themselves and the characters which they play. Moreso than Goblet of Fire, they capture the feeling of adolescence.
However, it is once again the supporting characters who are given the limelight, despite most of them having brief appearances. Alan Rickman plays Professor Snape, who moreso than his previous appearances, displays a more snappy, cunning persona more or less like how the character is described in the book.
Michael Gambon returns as Professor Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as Professor McGonnigal, Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, to name a few. But the best performance here is Imelda Stauton's Umbridge, who captures the moralistic, perfectionistic attitute with a dash of obsessive compulsions perfectly according to what I pictured in the book.
A number of magical creatures appear in the film, including the Thestrals, which are now revealed to pull the carriages to Hogwarts, and which are invisible to all except for those who have seen death. Kreacher, Sirius Black's aging House Elf, makes a brief appearance, although technoligically and graphically, this House Elf is inferior to Dobby in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, though thankfully, much less annoying. Hagrid's half-brother, a giant named Grawp, also makes an appearance, as do the Centaurs who live in the Dark Forest.
There are many impressive visuals in the film, although with the crammed-in plot, there is not enough chance to enjoy them. The film doesn't seem to tell the story coherently, and a great percentage of the time, it is stuck seeming like a random series of events. It's in this that makes Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix one of the weakest installments, only second to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. C+