My list of criticisms regarding this franchise are long. From the author (that’s most of them, to be honest) to the characters and certain story decisions, on and on it goes. Sometimes it’s so long that I find myself forgetting why this series became so popular in the first place. As well as why I myself enjoyed it.
One of the biggest factors is how the books, as well as the films, grew up with the audience. The first two books were very much children’s books. Fantasy mysteries with plenty of fun and whimsy. Then books/movies three and four starting to take a slightly darker, more mature turn. As the readers/watchers grew up, so too did Harry and the stories centered around him.
And this is where we really start to feel it.
Not long after Voldemort’s return, Harry is ambushed outside of school by Dementors. After defending himself and Dudley, he’s expelled from Hogwarts by the Ministry of Magic. The current Minister of Magic, along with several other higher-ups in the magical world, aren’t happy with his claiming the Dark Lord has returned. Now Harry once again finds himself as public nuisance #1. Will he be able to stick to his guns and prove Voldemort’s return before it’s too late?
The plot here is pretty good, but not without issues. Certain characters are a big waste of time, plot threads are introduced and concluded way too quickly, and a lot of the characters make decisions that make no sense. It’s made up for with the best action scene in the whole series, some great emotional moments, and a fairly strong ending.
The most stand-out character in this movie is the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher: Umbridge. Whom I already wrote an article about a few days ago, so I’ll keep it brief: rarely before have I, or anyone else, despised a character so much. She’s a far more loathsome antagonist than even Voldemort!
The new Death Eaters introduced here are mostly pretty forgettable with the exception of Belatrix, another fan-favorite character to hate. Unfortunately, none of the others even get a face and the only returning DE is Lucius Malfoy. You know, the character who has been humiliated by small children multiple times at this point. How threatening.
Some of the Hogwarts characters are pretty worthless, too. Like the totally-not-racist-in-naming Cho Chang (J.K. had one Asian character and she went with that… we should’ve seen her turn to evil coming a long time ago). Her entire role in the plot is ‘be a love interest, betray the group, then vanish’. You could just as easily replace her with literally anyone else and it would be more effective. Especially since, again: Cho just straight-up vanishes after this!
Other plot threads are just as hollow and rushed. Take Hagrid’s half-brother, for example. The giant doofus is introduced in one scene and his plotline is concluded in the very next scene. It makes these plots feel contrived and convenient rather than an integral and compelling side of the narrative.
The majority of the plot works pretty well. Harry stepping up to teach all of his friends how to actually defend themselves is pretty dope; him telling them that risking your life isn’t fun and heroic is a pretty strong character moment (one of his few). Fred and George get some strong moments here, too; they show their kinder sides to balance out their chaotic natures. This story has some incredible highlights.
That final battle is pretty cool, too. It’s filled with some pretty fun uses of magic, both from the characters and the environment they’re in. It’s not as thrilling or imaginative as it is in the book; no brains in jars, no people being turned into babies, and no broken noses interfering with spells. But it’s still the most exciting magical battle the films ever reached.
Mostly thanks to the single best duel in the series: Dumbledore VS Voldemort.
This is the only battle in the entire series that actually feels like a battle between wizards. Most others are just green laser vs red laser; a Dragon Ball Z fight without anything more interesting going on in the background. But this duel between the greatest wizard and the most terrible wizard of the age is so much more than that! We’ve got giant balls of water! We’ve got fire snakes! We’ve got breaking windows and throwing shards of glass! Then we’ve got turning shards of glass into harmless dust! It’s short, sweet, and an absolute joy to watch! A fantastic way to wrap up the story!
Visually speaking, this film mostly holds up. The CGI doesn’t look all that spectacular and the practical effects have all but been abandoned at this point. But it’s got some clever shots and fun editing. It’s hardly timeless, but it still looks pretty good.
All in all, Order of the Phoenix is a decent entry of the series. Definitely not without issue, but still enjoyable. A worthy follow-up to the return of Voldemort.
Unfortunately, it only gets more inconsistent from here.