Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Order of the Phoenix, for all its shortcomings, does make clear the sense of loss and struggle that comes with maturity.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Imelda Staunton, Katie Leung
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: Warner Brothers
First date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2007-07-12 (General release)
US Release Date: 2007-07-11 (General release)
As the Muggles say, "Truth will out."

-- Arthur Weasley (Mark Williams)

The kiss. Though poor Daniel Radcliffe is rightly tired of answering questions about it, the kiss may be the most significant event in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It is somewhat sad if inevitable, denoting that Harry is -- so slowly -- growing up (and so signaling the eventual end of the franchise), wrestling with death, desire, and guilt in ways he couldn't have imagined in 2001's Sorcerer's Stone. And Order of the Phoenix, for all its shortcomings, does make clear the sense of loss and struggle that comes with maturity.

Such sense is manifest in the kiss. Less a Spider Many spectacle than a poignant manifestation of youthful yearning and confusion, it shows that Harry can't quite empathize wholly with his object of affection, Cho Chang (Katie Leung). His mad wizard skills newly recognized, Harry's teaching an illicit class in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and she's his student, their mutual attraction thus framed by a discomforting power dynamic. More to the point, both are grieving the death of Cho Chang's boyfriend Cedric (Robert Pattinson), killed in Goblet of Fire (which Harry witnessed, granting him understanding beyond that of peers who have not seen death). And both are troubled by the peculiar political swirl around Hogwarts, the official denials that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is back, that order is uncertain, that good and evil may not be exactly what they appear. Amid this havoc, Harry and Cho steal a moment that is, as Radcliffe says, less romantic than "incredibly complicated."

The film doesn't actually pursue such complication; the book on which it's based is, famously, 896 pages, impossible to reduce to 139 minutes. Instead, it makes allusions, even as the kiss itself is rendered rather banal (circling camera, swelling soundtrack). The more pertinent point about the kiss comes in its aftermath, when Harry remembers it for Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) -- neither having enough to do in this film. Pressed for words, all Harry can manage is "Wet!" Though Hermione is typically brilliant, suggesting that Cho Chang's tears at the time of the kiss were due to her mixed sadness and guilt over liking Harry when Cedric is barely gone, Ron is less perceptive: "You'd think a bit of snogging would cheer her up." Hermione again points out his boyish limits, noting he has "the emotional range of a teaspoon," and all three have a good laugh. But the respite is brief, for in seconds the kids are drawn back into the Voldemort puzzle, by way of a moderately ooky visit from Sirius Black (Gary Oldman, whose puckish energy is so very welcome in this self-serious franchise).

The puzzle has to do with Voldemort's ongoing pursuit of Harry, and Harry's emerging pursuit of him, which intimates the young man's own (potential) darkness. The darkness is repeatedly imaged in Harry's head, or rather, visions visited upon him by Voldemort, suggesting the young wizard can commit violence and take weird pleasure in it. The darkness also reframes the kiss, as one more indication of Harry's troubled and troubling maturity.

An earlier indication comes in the first scene. Harry is, as he always is at the start of every film/novel, back at the Dursleys', here, more specifically, in a park nearby with his cousin Dudley (Harry Melling). Harry's only slightly perturbed by the bullying offered by a thuggish crew, taunts about his scar, scary nightmares, and general fretfulness (Muggles' insults being mundane in any event). But he is visibly alarmed when the sky above them literally darkens. They are soon beset by Dementors and Harry takes wand action, forbidden in front of Muggles, of course. This leads directly to his next lesson in darkness and confusion about adults' bad judgments, when he's set before a tribunal and nearly expelled from Hogwarts.

The ostensible reason is that he has broken rules, but the real one is the official denial of Voldemort's return. While the film doesn’t explain the politics of this denial, it does have a disturbing relevance to it, during our current reality-challenged wartime. As newspaper headlines and photos declare between episodes, Ministry of Magic head Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) insists that the battle is won, that Voldemort is nowhere -- despite the fact that Harry has seen him and you have seen him seeing. This makes the Ministry, soon embodied at Hogwarts by its pink-adorned representative Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), look awfully out of touch, to the point of willful ignorance.

Harry seeks help for his own cause, but receives it only in bits, which is further disheartening. While Dumbledore argues for his continuing enrollment at Hogwarts, at school, the students are denied instruction in Defense Against the Dark Arts: snippy Umbridge teaches spells in a "secure, risk-free way," insisting "Theoretical knowledge will be enough to get you through the examinations." Such willful lack of preparedness inspires Harry to teach his fellows how to handle their wands. They do so under the name "Dumbledore's Army," inspired by Sirius' revelation to Harry that he and other self-aware wizards -- like Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Lupin (David Thewliss), and Snape (Alan Rickman) -- have organized into the secret Order of the Phoenix, something of an "underground" at staid and rule-bound Hogwarts.

The adult Order members tacitly encourage Harry's on-campus rebellion, though they won't help overtly, leaving the students vulnerable to remonstrations from the increasingly odious and perfectly named Umbridge. Each day she issues new and narrow-minded proclamations of proper behavior, nailed into walls with loud hammering flourish. These allegedly support the Ministry's credo, that "Security is our top priority," but are plainly designed to shut down student interactions and innovations, leading "Dumbledore's Army" under-equipped and under-prepared for this film's not-so-climactic showdown at the Department of Mysteries.

While Order of the Phoenix focuses on the students' dissidence as a means to some idealized maturation, it leaves most of this process to your imagination. With plot scattered and too many characters abandoned to brief walk-ons, the movie lacks forward momentum. While this underlines Harry's persistent loss, it's also left to you to surmise. Though he tells his students they need to know real-world applications ("Out there," he warns, "When you're a second away from being murdered or watching your friend die before your eyes... You don't know what it's like!"), his lessons appear mostly as pretty CGI-ed shorthands (to survive the Dementors, you must conjure "happy" thoughts, like bunnies and puppies). Dumbledore's Army's noisy, Star-Warsy confrontation with Voldemort's Army (which includes Azkaban escapee Bellatrix Lestrange [Helena Bonham Carter]) mostly demonstrates the youngsters' need for more training -- in battle if nowhere else.

It is the kiss, so full of pain and pining, that resonates at last. To the film's credit, Harry's inevitable clash with Voldemort is less a matter of wands-as-light-sabers than Harry's interior conflict. Decidedly unspectacular, his earnest writhing and (frankly underwhelming) digitally spooky eyes recalls the complexity of the kiss in more explicit terms. That the film leads Harry back round pretty much to where he started -- dreading the return of Voldemort, only next time believed by his fellows and even stuffy Fudge -- is a little tedious. But now at least he sees that the Dark Lord is not so simply his opposite. As Harry comes to see their affiliation, he also comes to see himself. And in so doing, he accepts a responsibility that too many adults do not.







The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.