Back Comments (16) Share:
Facebook Button
If you haven’t seen the previous movies in the Harry Potter series, you might not want to keep reading. I’m not going to give away any spoilers for this movie, but you could pick up one or two things you might not want to know about the first four. You have been warned…

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Feature


Following the death of Cedric Diggory and the return of Lord Voldemort at the end of Goblet of Fire (told you there’d be spoilers), Harry Potter finds himself threatened with expulsion from Hogwarts for using magic to save the life of his cousin. The architect of his persecution is the minister of magic, Cornelius Fudge, who refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned and puts one of his cohorts in place at Hogwarts to bring everyone in line with the way he thinks magic should be taught. At the same time, Harry is introduced to the Order of the Phoenix, a group that helped to defeat the dark lord the first time.

With the fifth movie in less than six years, the audience knows exactly what to expect from a Harry Potter movie. We’re in familiar territory and it’s difficult to imagine how any director could come on board and screw up the franchise as it now enters its final stretch. The actors are all comfortable with their characters, although Emma Watson still looks a little awkward when it’s her turn to deliver some important exposition. Of all the young cast, Daniel Radcliffe has pushed himself further outside the series and his growing acting range is on show as Harry’s emotions go into further extremes in a movie where he gets his first kiss and comes closer than ever to a showdown with Voldemort.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
The first three stories focused heavily on the mystery elements of the story, with the central characters spending a lot of time deciphering some rather contrived puzzles but the tide turned with the more action-based Goblet of Fire and now the tone changes again with Order of the Phoenix. State of Play director David Yates may have seemed like an odd choice to pick up the reins from Mike Newell, but this is a movie that shows the political machinations within the wizarding world and Yates’ TV drama background serves him well in his big screen debut. The only problem I had with the director’s approach was in the editing. There are a handful of key moments that could have been tighter, where an additional shot could have plugged small holes in the plot.

We’re more than half way through Harry’s journey through Hogwarts and it was up to JK Rowling to start setting her stall out for the big climax, hence the introduction of the Order of the Phoenix. The addition of a secret society that operates outside the government is a great idea, but left me feeling that it wasn’t part of the master plan from the beginning. Harry meets Ron and Hermione at the Order’s headquarters early on, only to discover that they knew about it all along. I haven’t read the books so I may be wrong about this, but after four years at school together, you’d think they would have told him about it. Rowling’s feelings about the state of the British education system are laid bare in this chapter of the saga, and while I agree with some of the sentiments, it’s all a bit heavy-handed and took me out of the movie at times when I should have been sympathising with the characters.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
There are some nice new additions and development in Order of the Phoenix, most of all in the expansion of the young cast as they band together to form Dumbledore’s Army. Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood is a welcome new arrival, even if her sudden appearance isn’t really explained and the character of Neville Longbottom receives a lot of development and more, well-deserved screen time. We’re also allowed more time in the company of Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape and get the opportunity to literally get inside his head. It’s Imelda Staunton who steals the show though, with a great performance as the seemingly timid but tightly-coiled Dolores Umbridge.

The main problem I found with Order of the Phoenix is the fact that because it’s the fifth movie in the series, along with Harry Potter we’ve already discovered most of what is hidden within the world of witchcraft and wizardry. The moments of wonder that were common throughout the early movies are fewer and further between. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing given that this story is dark and compelling, I was ultimately left feeling like this is a movie very much in the middle of a series and the best has either gone before or is yet to come.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Video


Before getting my hands on a Blu-ray player, I picked up the standard definition release of Order of the Phoenix and was very surprised by the video quality. It was lacking in detail and grainier than I would expect a DVD released in 2007 to be and getting too close to the screen makes the viewing experience much less enjoyable. However, I’m happy to report that all the problems I had with the regular DVD have gone away with the Blu-ray version.

One day I’m going to stop extolling the virtues of the level of detail in high definition releases, but that day’s not coming round any time soon. The detail here is incredible, with long wide shots allowing you to pick out objects and characters far away in the depths of background and you can be sure of not missing the tiny sparkly bits in Dumbledore’s beard. The black level is spot-on and the only problem I picked up on was that sometimes the shadows had a bluish tint. This may be something to do with the set lighting rather than the transfer but it was a bit off-putting at times.

Finally, even though this was completely unrelated to the quality of the transfer and more about the general visual experience, I thought the use of CGI was a bit dodgy in this movie. Some of the magical creatures look incredibly fake, most of all with the introduction of Hagrid’s half-brother. I’m not sure if different creature artists were used on this movie or not, but digital characters like the dragons in Goblet of Fire looked far more convincing than they do here.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Audio


Beginning as ever with the haunting theme, the music is important in setting the mood in a Harry Potter movie, even if it does sound a bit like a TV advert for Alton Towers. The general volume is set quite low and I had to turn my system up early on but when we get into action territory I had to turn it back down again after the loud music and action kicked in. I thought the bass level was set higher than I would normally expect, giving the effects more power, and it’s clear a lot of work has gone into getting the details in the soundtrack just right. Echo effects are very convincing and the dialogue is clear, allowing full appreciation of Imelda Staunton’s great vocal performance.

Extras


‘Kiddie-friendly’ is the best way I can think of describing the extras on offer here, including a ‘Fun and Games’ section in the menu. This contains a short featurette about editing with David Yates and his editor Mark Day. This ends with an interactive feature that allows the viewer to edit a scene together from a short selection of video and audio clips, which is surely a lot more rewarding if the viewer is using a mouse rather than a DVD remote. Again, Warner Bros give us deleted scenes (in 1080i) under the guide of ‘Additional Scenes’, which are either extended scenes or alternate takes of existing scenes, most of which provide additional moments for Emma Thompson’s character.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
‘Trailing Tonks’ (also shown in 1080i) is essentially Movie Making 101 for kids as we follow Natalie Tena (who played Nymphadora Tonks) around the set, introducing us to the people behind makeup, set design, props and even the canteen staff. It’s all very interesting for people of a certain age and I’m sure that if she doesn’t make it in the movies, there will be a career for Natalie Tena as a kids’ TV presenter waiting for her. ‘The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter’ is an attempt to piece together clues from the movies in the series so far to explain the relationship between Harry and Voldemort and the various mysterious characters, including interviews with the cast, crew and Harry Potter ‘experts’.

‘Focus Points’ is a high definition exclusive (shown in 1080i and also available on the HD DVD edition), which is a set of twenty-eight featurettes that go into detail about the making of key scenes. These can either be watched separately or the viewer can branch from the movie by pressing a button when a flashing disc appears in the corner of the screen. Unfortunately, the ‘In-Movie Experience’ video commentary tracks and community-based online extras on the HD DVD release haven’t been included on this disc, which is a reflection of the limitations of the current generation of Blu-ray players rather than awarding one format exclusive rights to these extra features.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Overall


Fans of Harry Potter won’t need me to recommend this title to them before they pick it up. Obviously it’s not the best place to start if you’re new to the series but it’s a decent entry in a consistently entertaining series that looks and sounds amazing on this release. The lack of extras when compared to the HD DVD release makes this the second choice if both options are open to you, but the greater number of Blu-ray players (in particular PS3s) out there at the moment means this will probably sell more copies.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


Links: