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Rated 3.42 stars
by 1449 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Children of the Revolution
by Jeffrey Chen

After watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I may have come to a realization: I'm a bigger Harry Potter fan than I readily admit. I find myself always happy to revisit Hogwarts at the movies, especially since the third movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, set the darker, more angst-ridden tone. We are now at the fifth film, and a welcome consistency has settled in, even as yet another new director, David Yates, takes over. But Yates doesn't miss a beat -- Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is still angry and conflicted, and the world around him appears to grow even more unfair.

That is to say, the movies themselves have become quite reliable. The Harry Potter franchise either has you hooked by this point, or it doesn't -- I'm sure there are some people feeling Harry Potter burnout, and the new movie won't do anything to help them, as we're thrown headlong into the story and its shipload of characters. Meanwhile, from a fan's standpoint, it's like returning to a familiar place, with appropriateness of casting choices being the main curiosity. In that area, the series has, again, been reliable.

This time around, Imelda Stuanton steals the show. She plays arguably the most reviled villain in the Potter series so far, Dolores Umbridge, and she nails the part. Umbridge is the representative of everything we hate about interfering bureaucrats, combined with the personality of a rigid disciplinarian, and Staunton brings to the role the perfect blend of condescension and smugness, topped off with that everpresent self-satisfied smile, a mannered stance and gait, and that nerve-grating high-pitched sound of her throat-clearing "hem-hem." She is even visually aberrant -- the character is eternally dressed is loud pink, and Yates has a great time contrasting her color against the dark, earthy interior greys of Hogwarts. She's a marvelous movie creation.

Also making an impact is Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, a student who might be described as spaced out, but who becomes a trusty associate of Harry. Harry needs all the help he can get this time, as the movie, in keeping in line with the book, is about the growing pain of realizing you can't depend on authority figures -- that governments may not only be flawed, but also terribly misguided. The reach for independence comes with the shedding of innocent reliance on the system; here, Umbridge institutes what amounts to a hostile takeover of the school and employs a fascist rule (supported by a cowardly finger-pointing ministry), forcing a small group of students lead by Harry to revolt underground.

As with the last movie, some of Order of the Phoenix's best scenes involve spending time with the kids. Here, the excitement of the students in holding secret meetings to learn about defending against the dark arts is exhilirating to watch. It's the movie's way of delivering a heady, youthful version of revolution. Even exemplary student Hermione (Emma Watson) talks about how good it feels to break the rules this time, and that about sums up the spirit here. While waving their wands to practice knocking each other down, the students are realizing their potential to stand up on their own.

The theme runs parallel to the one of Harry continuing to lose his father figures. With less adults left to lean on, his mid-teen years are spent finding his foothold in a dangerous adult world. There's even a quick but effective sequence in this film that begins the process of unraveling the unquestioning reverence Harry has had for the father he's never met.

It's part of the reason why, in many ways, this is one of the more interesting entries in the Harry Potter series. Order of the Phoenix is the story that encourages questioning, and endorses action against abuse of power. The bogeyman Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) doesn't even seem as evil here as some of the governing figures the kids were brought up to trust.

(Released by Warner Bros. and rated "PG-13" for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.)

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