Plot: When we last left Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory was dead and no one believed that Lord Voldemort is back. Harry’s fifth year in school brings another Defense of the Dark Arts teacher in Dolores Umbridge, who has been brought to Hogwarts by Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic. Dolores attempts to take control of Hogwarts as Harry, Ron and Hermione decide to form an army to defend themselves from the coming of the Death Eaters and Voldemort.
Who’s it for: Each movie is a little darker and for a little older crowd, but luckily kids have been growing up with Harry and have probably read the books.
Expectations: Historically, I have gotten used to the fact that the movies just don’t fully capture the feelings of the books. Plus, before I see a movie I have to read refreshers since it’s very easy to confuse the timelines of the books with the movies. Remember, the seventh and final book is about to be released and this movie is the fifth.
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter: He is Harry Potter, plain and simple. He captures the spirit quite well again. Once again, Harry finds himself ostracized from his peers, and when he yells at Dumbledore to look at him, you feel for the kid.
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore: There was just something about Richard Harris
(who played Dumbledore in the first two before his death) that was better. Maybe it’s because Gambon almost looks like Santa Claus, or maybe it’s the ongoing problem of the Dumbledore character always holding onto too much information until the very end.
Rupert Grint/Emma Watson as Ron/Hermione: After the last film, Grint and Watson both found higher ground with their characters. Ron said more things than “brilliant” and Hermione was becoming a young woman. Well, they are rarely seen or heard from in this film except to give Harry words of encouragement, over and over again.
Talking: I’ve always been curious, are spells just a matter of saying the right words? Believing in yourself? Snapping your wrist correctly? Or is it like those awful midichlorians from “Star Wars,” with some wizards simply more capable? Well, this is the fifth film and I am still wondering.
Sights and sounds: The Potter films are always a step below others such as “Spider-man” and “Lord of the Rings.” The broomstick sequences always remind me of Christopher Reeves flying around in “Superman,” and that’s not a special effects compliment.
Best Scene: Finally, Dumbledore and Voldemort duke it out with their wands. Visually, it’s the best part of the film.
Ending: It’s nicely summed up just like all the other films. But there’s a key death in this film that’s not focused on nearly enough.
Random Thoughts: No Quidditch and no points for the four houses, and that’s a shame.
Rewatchability: No, but I think I am going to reread the sixth book before I read the seventh. It’s too bad the Potter films didn’t steal the “Spider-man” technique of recapping the previous films at the beginning of the new one.
It’s an odd thing, the Harry Potter movies are consistently good, yet they never compare to the books. There just isn’t enough effort to slow down and put you in the world of muggles, half-bloods and wizards. This is the shortest Potter film yet at 2 hours and 19 minutes, but this was also an 870-page book. There’s more sorcery here, and Dumbledore’s Army is a pleasant addition in to the maturing of Harry Potter and the rest of his classmates. Perhaps the main problem is all the underutilized actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter. Luckily, that will change for some of them in the next film. But with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” there’s that nagging feeling of a dad trying to rush the family on a vacation. When you hurry up this much, you’re bound to miss something and that keeps the Potter films away from greatness.
Overall Grade: 6