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Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Vanessa Lees follows Harry Potter to the dark side

Published on July 13th 2007.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

My, how quickly they grow. In 2001 the young wizards and witches flew onto the big screen with their squeaky voices and painful absence of Sylvia Young Theatre School training.

Now six years on in the latest of the Harry Potter series The Order of the Phoenix and the young cast (even Rupert Grint who plays Ron Weasley) have managed to ditch their am dram performance style and morph into fine young actors.

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) more than most has come of age in this film. It's somewhat difficult to distance oneself from Radcliffe's recent exposure (quite literally) in the stage performance of Equus where he played a psychotic stable lad with a penchant for gauging out horses' eyes. And that's possibly because for a good proportion of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, Harry is battling with his own demons.

If you considered Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to be dark, then Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix provides a crystal ball look into hell.

Gone are the chirpy intros of jolly broom stick greetings at the beginning of term at Hogwarts. Instead we enter the film through a sinister scene set in a suburban playground in the real world where Harry's troubles are about to begin.

The film picks up where Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire leaves off with Harry defending himself against his tormentor the evil Lord Voldemort who has sent Dementors to destroy him.

This is no regular school term. Harry has the threat of being expelled from Hogwarts for illegally using magic outside school (albeit in self defence), ostracised by his peers who think his recent encounter with Voldemort is a lie and that he was responsible for school mate Cedric's death and he and the rest of the school are being victimised by the newly appointed power crazy Professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton). She has been sent by the Ministry to teach Hogwarts "defensive magic" which wouldn't help them defend themselves against a kitten, never mind the dark forces who are coming to kill them. Yup, it's a bad ol' year for our young wizard.

So it's up to Hermione Grainger (Emma Watson) and Ron to convince Harry to form "Dumbledore's Army" and teach the Hogwart students how to use real magic as a weapon against Voldemort and the dark arts.

But just in case you're slightly concerned that you're about to watch the JK Rowling version of Night of the Living Dead, you can relax. Dark it may be but lacking humour it ain't. In fact, it's positively charming in parts, with oodles of magic, practical jokes, good old fashioned wizardry and Harry's first snog, all which make this such a spectacular film.

If there are any flaws at all, it's the fact that sometimes you wish you could wave your wand for time to stand still while you refresh your memory from the last four films to make sense of this one.

But that's just the nature of sequels I'm afraid. So unless you are a complete Harry Potter boffin, complete with lightening scar, pet owl and live in a cupboard under the stairs, you would do well to go on a bit of a refresher course.

With the addition of new characters like Luna Lovegood played by brilliant newcomer Evanna Lynch, even more fabulous special effects and a 3D fight scene, I challenge the most cynical of beings not to start believing in magic.

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (12A) is out on general release

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