With nearly 900 pages to its name, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the Harry Potter series. In the hands of director David Yates, it became the shortest film. The presence of house elves is nearly non-existent, and there was no mention of Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) controversial selection of school prefects, Quidditch, or the betrayal of Ron's (Rupert Grint) brother, who estranged himself from his family in favor of The Ministry of Magic. The dark artifacts in Sirius' (Gary Oldman) house appear to be collecting dust on the cutting-room floor, and aside from a brief mention of their "pureblood mania," so does the Blacks' family history.
Yet, despite the absence of these and various other moments from the book, Yates nonetheless admirably captured the essence of what fans refer to affectionately as "OOTP": oppression, rebellion, paranoia, denial, betrayal, and the rollercoaster that is being 15 years old. Rivaling Voldemort himself for sheer evil and his followers for unerring sycophantism, Imelda Staunton is superb as Dolores Umbridge, the Ministry-appointed Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a honey voice, pink wardrobe, and very little qualms regarding child torture. While Staunton darkens the palette considerably, Order was already a dark film; the first scene depicts a grimy, graffiti-ridden alleyway in the "muggle" world, and for the first time, the wizard community is hardly an improvement. The world is a generally unfair place in Order. Just a few months after witnessing the murder of a classmate, an already traumatized Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is subjected not only to the disdain of his peers (a hazard of celebrity which he somewhat regularly endures), but also gets the cold shoulder from the community at large, which has been swayed by propaganda touting Harry as a spoiled egomaniac. Whereas Harry is none too pleased with his treatment, fellow outcast Luna (aka "Looney") Lovegood handles her own pariah status with a dreamy grace peppered by crackpot theories and genuine insight alike; soft-spoken newcomer Evanna Lynch seems custom-designed for the role. The infamous trio (Grint, Radcliffe, and Emma Watson as Hermione) deserve no small amount of credit for their own performances -- they've grown up with these characters and it shows. Still, the elder British cast couldn't help but steal the show once again. Gambon makes a believably impressive Dumbledore alongside Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in the film's riveting final battle, while Helena Bonham Carter's relentlessly unhinged take on the über-loyal, prison-hardened Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange made for an interesting contrast to Staunton's infuriatingly restrained brand of cruelty. Overall, despite the lack of several key book elements and the addition of several not-so-key others, Order of the Phoenix is a rousing, effectively streamlined addition to the Potter series, and set the tone well for the next installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.