One Wand-erful Film

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I need to preface this review by the fact that I am not a Harry Potter fan. I do not run around my house in a scarf shouting "Wingardium Leviosa!" while waving a small black wand. I do not think about nargles when I am looking for a misplaced sock. In fact, to be honest, I have not even read a single book in the series. All I know of the Harry Potter Universe and Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft & Wizardry is what I’ve seen on the big screen.

And quite frankly, I didn’t understand what the entire hullabaloo was all about. I don’t recall seeing a lightsaber or a transforming robot! However, after seeing the latest installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise, I think I’m finally getting it.

Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix is easily the best movie of the series, and it is worth seeing even if you are a mere muggle to the mysticism that surrounds J.K. Rowling’s amazingly best-selling series.

The movie starts off slowly as Harry encounters a pair of Dementors in the "muggle world" while on vacation from the school. This leads him to an encounter with the Order of the Phoenix – or what is left of it. While watching the movie, I had worries that I was in for a long 2 and a half hour experience, as the pacing of the first 15 minutes or so was way off. It was as if the director wasn’t sure how to deal with an educated crowd. Being the fifth movie, all the characters have been established, all the origins have been presented. The time probably could have been better spent delving deeper into the minor characters or the relationships between the characters.

In fact, when Harry is told he is expelled from the school within the first few scenes, I couldn’t care less. It was the comic equivalent of the title character "dying" in the first issue of their series. It just wasn’t going to stick, and I hadn’t enough invested at that point.

Luckily, things begin to pick up when the students return to Hogwart’s school for their next year of school. It’s here that we get to see the traits of the characters that have been developed over 4 movies really shine, and where relationships between characters are finally explored.

What’s shocking about this movie, and what really separates it from the previous films, is how the villain of the movie is much less in your face and more covert. In fact, the main plot is devoted to the conflict of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. As the Ministry, led by the delectable Dolores Umbridge, pulls for control of the School, the tone of the movie is much more cerebral – and therefore sinister.

And therefore, that much more exciting.

Yes, there is the typical evil villain overlord in Voldemort, but his influence is felt more through this institution versus institution conflict. It grounds all the fantastical in reality for this installment, and I feel it’s this contrast and intrigue that push The Order of The Phoenix above what has come before.

Another departure from the previous movies is Harry’s overall attitude. At the beginning he is his standard mopey self. But again, as the movie transformed from a yawn-inducing affair to a smile-with-glee affair, so did Harry’s self-imposed segregation. It was as he learned to rely on his friends that they were in turn allowed to share the center of the screen. The chemistry and camaraderie helps lift this movie out of the doldrums that weighed down the last film, and is what keeps this universe exciting and fresh, even if you don’t realize it.

The cast is great throughout, with the additions here (especially with a star turn from Imelda Stauton) strengthening the ensemble. These kids feel like they have been keeping up with their acting lessons, even if they already are contracted through the rest of the series. And the production is top-notch, with effects that amaze as they should, and sound that works magic when the visuals don’t; all as would be expected from a movie version of the best-selling series from the last 20-plus years.

If you’re a fan, you’ve probably already seen this movie, and know that your fandom has been well served with the latest movie. If you’ve been holding out, then this is the time to see what all the fuss is about. Meanwhile, I’ll be heading down to the local shoppe in search of a scarf and a wand that feels just right.

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