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“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” Stays Pretty Faithful to the Original Novel

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Professor Dumbledore

When adapting a book as popular as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” a director and screenwriter must feel as if they are juggling a dozen live grenades simultaneously. One mistake and the movie (and quite possibly their careers) will be blown to pieces.

To their credit, director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg have created a film that is as faithful to the original novel as anyone could come without creating a 10-hour miniseries. Unfortunately, Yates and Goldenberg get a bit too creative at times, which leads to some glaring oversights and errors.

After battling Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters for the last 4 years, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) now is dealing with survivor’s guilt over the death of fellow student Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) during the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Following an attack by soul-sucking Dementors, Harry is spirited away by Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody (Brendan Gleeson) and other members of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society formed by Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) back in the days when Lord Voldemort first came to power.

Harry is pleased to see his godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) once again at the Order’s headquarters and, thanks to Professor Dumbledore’s intervention, he isn’t expelled from Hogwarts School for doing magic to ward off the Dementors. Unfortunately, the school has a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher named Dolores Umbridge (an extremely nasty Imelda Staunton). A minion of clueless Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), Umbridge does her best to discredit Harry’s claims that Lord Voldemort has returned.

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Because Umbridge won’t allow the students to practice defensive spells in the classroom, his best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) ask Harry to help train their classmates in proper defense techniques. Reluctant at first, Harry agrees and forms a group called “Dumbledore’s Army. Though these lessons are going quite well, Harry is tormented by visions of something hidden deep with the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. Each time he seeks the counsel of Professor Dumbledore, his friend and mentor seems to be avoiding him.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is based on one of the heftier books in the 7-book series, but David Yates and Michael Goldenberg have, however, distilled and refined the text to fit nicely into 138 minutes of screen time. Imelda Staunton and Evanna Lynch also are perfectly cast as the sadistic Dolores Umbridge and the flighty Luna Lovegood.

There are some obvious oversights, though:

(***Warning: Spoilers Follow***)

“Ginny Weasley and Harry”: In the book, Ginny, in an effort to get Harry to notice her, follows Hermione’s advice and goes out with other boys. In fact, her brothers tease her in the novels about all the male students that she’s seeing. The onscreen Ginny (Bonnie Wright) still makes puppy dog eyes at Harry, though, and, when Harry lingers after one meeting of Dumbledore’s Army to speak with Cho Chang (Katie Leung), there is obvious disappointment and a pained look on Ginny’s face.

“Nymphadora Tonks”: J.K. Rowling describes this young shape-changer as something akin to a punk rocker, but, as played by Natalia Tena, Tonks is, well, pretty darn hot-looking. She can wear a pig nose at my table anytime.

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“Quidditch”: With the exception of “Goblet of Fire,” this airborne sport played on broomsticks always is an important element in any Harry Potter book. Quidditch is noticeably absent here, which is odd because in the novel, Ron Weasley finally joins the Gryffindor team and goal keeper. Ron’s Quidditch playing is also important in Book 6, so director Yates, who also is directing “Half-Blood Prince,” has painted himself into a corner.

“The Betrayal”: Director Yates also stumbles badly here by making Cho Chang the one who betrays Dumbledore’s Army to Dolores Umbridge. Originally, Hermione had bewitched the parchment signed by every member of the group, so when Cho’s friend Marietta blabbed to Umbridge, the word “Snitch” appeared on her face in purple pustules.

Like the novel, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is the darkest film in the series thus far and one that is quite long on story and lean on action. It’s enjoyable, though, and as Hermione herself says “We’re in this with you, Harry.” Truer words were never spoken.