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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A darker chapter for Harry
By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic
Published July 10, 2007
The magic isn't missing from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It's just darker and more subdued than in the previous four films.
The movie, based on the fifth of J.K. Rowling's seven Potter novels, capably serves as a link in the saga. It is good enough to make us believe that Rowling and Warner Bros. are trying to keep entertaining us, not merely phoning it in to make money as sequels often do.
However, the movie doesn't thrill as often or expand as many themes as its predecessors - or as the final two chapters likely will.
This is the minor slump that even the best serials can suffer, and we're too far in to quit now.
Director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg cram nearly 900 book pages of supernatural intrigue into just over two hours onscreen. That doesn't leave as much room for details or dazzle.
Order of the Phoenix hits the book's talking points - there's a lot of talk over the first 90 minutes - yet almost could be condensed and attached to the end of 2005's Goblet of Fire or the beginning of Half-Blood Prince, due in 2008.
Harry ( Daniel Radcliffe) is being roundly doubted for his claims that evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. That's where the fourth movie ended.
Only the noble Order of the Phoenix - a secret wizards watchdog group including Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Harry's godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) - believes Harry.
Facing expulsion from Hogwarts and a Ministry of Magic tribunal, Harry's fifth year of schooling begins sourly. His best friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) offer support while other classmates shun the boy wizard. They come around when this film's best new wrinkle comes into the picture.
Imelda Staunton (an Oscar nominee for Vera Drake) plays Dolores Umbridge, Hogwarts' newly appointed Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Umbridge is a wolf in pink tweed, part of the ministry's clampdown on free thinking in education. Staunton plays her with gusto, all phony smiles and giggles hiding a bureaucrat's cold heart.
Umbridge's stern directives cause Hogwarts students to rally behind Harry. They form Dumbledore's Army, a youth rebellion with Harry at the helm, teaching the spells that helped him survive Voldemort up to now.
The movement doesn't advance far, at least not in this episode. Everything dovetails into another special effects-laden confrontation with Voldemort and his chief Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter).
Director Yates, a BBC television veteran, briskly steers the material although his matter-of-factness with elements such as giant skeletal horses and centaurs is a bit underwhelming. One wonders what a visionary fantasy creator such as Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) could do with Rowling's imagination.
The sets, music and performances are on par with the previous Potter films except for Radcliffe, who is actually getting better, finding more about Harry to explore with each new adventure.
Now it is up to Yates - who has been signed to direct Half-Blood Prince - to do the same.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, David Thewlis
Screenplay: Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling