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Harry Potter Retrospective: Part 5: The Order of the Phoenix

It’s been a rough year for poor Harry Potter. He watched helplessly as a friend was murdered, his amorous intentions were as fruitless as a Tesco Value apple pie, he was instrumental in the return of The Dark Lord and he got slapped in the face by a Dementor’s dick (that last bit was cut out of the film, but it’s a hidden extra on the DVD. Go find it. Go on!). And things are only set to get worse this coming year at Hogwarts. For this year, Harry will be the victim of a smeer campaign, will witness (possibly even be responsible for) the death of a loved one and get tortured by Vera Drake.

The movie starts bleakly enough with Harry sat on a swing at twilight. His cousin Dudley (who we haven’t seen for a couple of films and has since become an Uber-Chav) rocks up with his mates and chastises Harry for screaming in his sleep. The boy wizard has been having night terrors, crying out while dreaming of the death of Chinny McChin AKA Cedric, which occurred a few months prior. ‘Whose Cedric?’ Dudley mocks. ‘Your boyfriend?’ As his scally mates chuckle, fan-girls the world over drift away with thoughts of Edward Cullen on Harry Potter action (having just thought of that, I Googled it, and it does exist. Now to delete internet history… marvellous). As Harry roars with anger, the skies darken. All feuds are forgotten as all are joined in terror. A malevolent force closes in and the cousins flee to the nearest gloomy looking tunnel (where else would you go?) then suddenly… Dementors! Dudley can’t see them, but he can sure as Hell feel them, as they start to suck at his life force, draining any happy feelings and leaving only despair. Harry remembers that all too well (and let’s not forget the Dementor dick slapping). Being a hero, he can’t leave even a twat like Dudders to such a fate. ‘EXPECTO-PATRONUM!’ he bellows, casting his protective spell, and the hooded fiends disappear into the night. But what’s he gone and done? Used magic outside of Hogwarts, which is (or WICTHES, Boom!) illegal for underage Wizards.

Thus Harry must face a disciplinary hearing from the Wizengamot (a council of magical elders) at the Ministry of Magic. This is our first viewing of the MoM, and our first peek into the political and administrational world of magic. We’ve heard of the trials and tribulations faced by Arthur Weasley, who is the head of the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects and….

….oh Christ I’m bored. Basically Harry gets off and can go back to Hogwarts. Good? Good.

Before he does, Harry is introduced to The Order of The Phoenix, most of whom he already knows. Mad Eye Moody, the Weasleys, Snape, the returning Sirius and Lupin among others. What he didn’t know was that together they form an organisation headed by Dumbledore that operates outside of the MoM in opposition to Voldemort. Harry wants in, but Weasleys aren’t so sure. Sirius wants him to join, because Sirius is cool, right? He isn’t the only hip cat in The Order, as we’re introduced to Nymphadora Tonks (played with hot swagger by Natalia Tena). A loveable klutz who seems not long out of Hogwarts herself. Her hair changes colour with her moods, she can morph her face to looks like a variety of different animals and she’s a refreshing change of age, as most characters are either still in school or teachers/parents. It’s nice to get someone who is neither. She’s a pleasure to watch and a popular addition to the cavalcade of characters in the Potter-verse. As is often the case though, she doesn’t get much time to develop. Which to be fair, is understandable as, much like the previous adaptation, the book is gargantuan. So a few things must go by the wayside. But we’ll be seeing more of her in future films, along with her blossoming relationship with a sexy werewolf. Imagine if Twilight was watchable or readable. It still wouldn’t be as good as this.

So Harry is off to Hogwarts for another year of anguish and personal growth. Keeping up with tradition, there’s a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher named Dolorus Umbridge, played by the incredible Imelda Staunton. Newly appointed by Cornelius Fudge, she represents the MoM and will be making changes. This is obvious subterfuge from Fudge who does not trust Potter or Dumbledore. He simply won’t believe that  Voldemort is back and thinks our heroes are plotting to overthrow him. This marks an interesting point in the series as it proves the notion that wizards aren’t simply good or evil. Fudge genuinely is not a bad man, he is just paranoid and cowardly. Rather than face the possibility that the world’s most dangerous wizard is back, he convinces himself that it is all a conspiracy against him. He is by no means in league with Voldy, yet he is a strong antagonist. Similar to Lockhart before him, he is motivated by self preservation and to Hell with the costs. Robert Hardy does a great job of keeping Fudge’s delusion believable and keeps the character grounded. Maybe because we see him do so little magic, Fudge seems almost without magic, almost helpless.

He does have great influence over the Daily Prophet (the biggest magical newspaper, however. This leads to smearing both Potter and Dumbledore and, to Harry’s frustration, many believe it. The paper questions his sanity, his trustworthiness and straight up denies that Voldemort is back. This causes friends to turn on Harry and leaves him feeling more alone than ever. It doesn’t help having Umbridge about who, like Fudge, is not at all in league with Voldemort. She exists outside of that narrative opposition and is a great villain in her own right. So much credit must go to Staunton for what is a tour de force performance. Her tiny frame, pink handbag and squeaky voice conceal the sadistic monster within. For Dolorus Umbridge takes great pleasure in torturing children. There is a surprisingly alarming sequence in which Harry, doing detention with her, is required to write the lines, ‘I must not tell lies.’ But with Umbridge’s enchanted quill, the words are carved into his hand. Blood is drawn as flesh is sliced, all under the serene smile of his abuser. She is psychotic but subtle and throughout the film grows wilder and more unhinged. It’s a shame the payoff with her was not properly built up. She is lured into the forest by Hermione where she is captured and taken away by the centaurs. Which is fine in the book, as they had several mentions throughout, with disputes over territory that Umbridge was usurping. But in the film, they come out of nowhere, having not been seen since a brief appearance in the very first film. So that is kind of unsatisfying, but fear not, as she get’s a better resolution in DEATHLY HALLOWS P1.

Another addition to the fold is Luna Lovegood, a delightfully daffy young girl played by the equally spaced out Evanna Lynch. She won the part at an open casting call, about which David Heyman (producer) said “The others could play Luna; Evanna Lynch is Luna.” Which presumably means that she’s nice in small doses, but you wouldn’t wanna hang around with her for too long. Luna is a sweet character, often over looked by fans. It is easy to miss the inherent sadness in her, clues of which are laid when only she and Harry can see the thestrals. These are grotesque looking but good natured creatures that can only be seen by those who have witnessed death. Her mother died experimenting with spells when Luna was only nine, so that may be the reason she is always in a dreamlike state, a coping mechanism for what must have been a terrible thing to see. But ultimately, she is a hero. Fighting alongside people she hardly knew previously, she stands up to Death Eaters and fights valiantly in the final showdown. She may not be someone you want to be stuck in a room with, but you would want her on your team.

It is this year that Harry’s anger almost over powers him. This could be partly hormonal, partly psychological. It is also to do with Voldemort’s legilimency, which is the ability to access and control one’s thoughts and feelings. Harry is occasionally struck by visions of what Voldy can see/think/feel. But are they real? Or are they put there intentionally to screw with his head? In order to fight this, he is taught occlumency, the practise of defending your mind from legilimency (stay with me). This is taught this by Snape, which is not great for Harry but brilliant for the audience, because we’ve been clamouring for more Snape in all of the films. Rickman relishes this chance to shine and does not disappoint. He is a brutal task master, but ultimately wants to help the poor boy. He reaches into Harry’s mind, invading personal memories and closely guarded secrets. This is beautifully represented and a testament to the direction of first time Potter helmer David Yates. There is a poignant moment when Harry lashes out and does the same to Snape, accessing the deeper memories of his detested teacher. We see James (Harry’s dad) in school uniform bullying an appropriately emo teenage Severus. It’s a very brief scene but in incredibly telling. We now can see the roots of Snape’s distain for Harry and that his father was not the perfect, loveable student we were led to believe. He was flawed, just like everyone else, and Snape too was once a victim. He is proving to be one of the more intriguing characters and Rickman is always magnetic. And… alright. He’s buff ting. It’s taken years to admit, but yep. He’s bang tidy, alright.

It’s not all doom and gloom (about 60% doom and 36% gloom) in their fifth year, as Harry has his first kiss. It’s a lovely little scene with Cho Chang who is still mourning the loss of Chin-Chin-Cheroo. Being inside the Room of Requirement, where whatever you need appears, they find themselves standing below some convenient mistletoe. ‘It could be full of Nargles,’ says Harry, echoing Luna’s non-sequiturs. ‘What are Nargles?’ enquires Cho. Harry gazes at her, ‘I have no idea.’ Then they kiss. It was nicely built up throughout the Goblet of Fire (or as Dumbledore would say, Goblit O’Foire, ye little shoite!) and feels very satisfactory, and for his first time, he looks to be pretty good. When Ron and Hermione (one more year, peeps. Just one more year) quiz him about it afterwards. It’s a rare moment of teenage curiosity, bonding and friendship between mates. They laugh, they scoff, they have an evening off. Our trio get very few moments of not having to worry about the horrors at their door. So seeing kids be kids, maybe for the last time, is very sweet.

The stand out sequence in the film is the Weasley twins attack on the Great Hall. In the scene previous, we see them comforting a second year who endured the same torment from Umbridge as Harry had. As she passes them by, they eye her curiously. Fred says, ‘You know, George, I’ve always felt out futures lay outside the world of academic achievement.’ ‘Fred,’ replies his brother, ‘I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing.’ It cuts to the fifth years sitting their exams. The silence is deafening as Umbridge watches over her students with a grim satisfaction. Then some odd, distant noises catch her attention. She walks down the hall, our interest growing. She opens the large oak doors and is met with a small whizz bang, a tiny firework fizzes in front of her face and flies over her shoulder, popping in the air above. She looks back down the corridor as suddenly, accompanied by a sweeping orchestral score, Fred and George zoom past on their broomsticks. They throw a dazzling array of fireworks around the room, a whirling zeotrope of colour and delirious detonations. Umbridge and Filch are powerless and can but watch as the mischievous brothers defy her and her regime in the most enjoyable way. The students cheer and whoop as they hurl their biggest concoction, a magical dragon’s head, at Umbridge. It chases her out of the hall, screaming as she flees. It closes it’s jaws on her and one final massive explosion rocks the corridor, shattering all of her decrees in a cascade of glass. She is totally unharmed as the students run after the high fiving twins while they make good their escape into the courtyard. Amongst the cheers, we see the tiny Professor Flitwick pump the air with barely restrained glee as the Weasley Twins throw out their last firework, which lights up the sky with a fiery W. For fans of the Weasley’s, it’s the best scene in the series. For me; what with the music, visual effects and performances coming together, it’s one of the most uplifting scenes in recent memory.

Right, it seems that without my girlfriend Vicky to edit me down, I may have got a little carried away with this induction. Okay, some final notes. Um, Helena Bonham Carter turns up playing the part of Amy Winehouse, theres some bonding between Harry and Sirius, um, the final duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore is banging and Sirius get’s whacked and falls through a mysterious doorway which is never properly explained. Oh and Hagrid’s brother is in it, but he’s rubbish. The end.

John is a gentleman, a scholar, he’s an acrobat. He is one half of the comedy duo Good Ol’ JR, and considers himself a comedy writer/performer. This view has been questioned by others. He graduated with First Class Honours in Media Arts/Film & TV, a fact he will remain smug about long after everyone has stopped caring. He enjoys movies, theatre, live comedy and writing with the JR member and hetero life partner Ryan. Some of their sketches can be seen on YouTube and YOU can take their total hits to way over 17!

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