Oh for the good old days of riding one's broom and playing quidditch. Harry has moved on from those mostly care-free days and now is presented to us as a troubled youth. The trouble with Harry is that he is not only haunted by his past, his loss of his parents and various other troubling events, he's being hunted, mentally at least by Lord Voldemort (a newer version of Dr. Death or Darth Vader). There is some connection between Harry and the dark lord, and its driving him bonkers as evil creeps into his mind. Add to this the conflicting feelings of puberty and you have one nicely mucked up Harry who has become short-tempered, and even stand offish with his dearest friends. His saving grace is his relationship with Sirius Black, some sort of relative, but even that goes for naught before this movie is done.
Like the last movie, J.K. Rowling in 'The Order of the Phoenix' is once more diving into the deep end of the pool of evil, though for some reason this movie seemed less heavy and foreboding than the last one-- perhaps because no children are destroyed in this one. The movie is a well paced one, clocking in at 2 hours and 14 or so minutes, and their really is no filler. It is full of CG magic (I especially like the animated tea plates on the wall with kitties mewing and moving around), and pleasant set pieces (including flying over London on brooms), but the story line percolates along rather well without interruption.
Unfortunately Hogwart's has been taken over by the Ministry of Magic (headed by Fudge-- ably played by Edward Hardy of 'All Creatures Great and Small Fame') and a headmistress in pink one Ms. Umbridge (as in 'I take umbridge at that'), who clearly was trained in the No Fun League begins to squeeze all the possible joy she can out of school and put all the deadly rules in she can. One begins to wonder if she is actually in league with the dark lord herself. Headmaster Dumbledore continues to be his affable and pleasant self, and Severus Snape is his usual melancholy self, but most of the other instructors we are by now used to at Hogwarts make no more than cameo appearances. The story focuses on the psychological struggles and drama going on in the life and mind of young master Potter. Left behind is the rivalry with other students (e.g. the aptly named Malfoi-- which means 'bad faith' hardly appears) in order for the larger struggle with evil to take center stage. Not left behind, but not as central as before, is Harry's relationship with Ron and Hermione, his two best chums. In fact, at one juncture Harry has his first kiss, and its with a girl we have not previously met before this movie.
One of the things about Rowling's novels as they have developed over time is that they have certainly become longer and more complex, and the story telling has become more adult. One wonders what small and mid-sized children are doing at movies like this, and what they make of it. Clearly much of what is going on and the nuances of the psychological drama will be well over their heads, and the dark images frankly too dark for most children.
The phoenix of course was the bird which rose from the ashes, apparently from the dead, and it not surprisingly became one symbol in early Christianity for the resurrection. It is no accident that this episode is named 'the Order of the Phoenix'. This refers to a group of good magicians who have banded together to rise up and fight the evil, and Harry, in his own fashion starts a student chapter of the order at Horgwarts, complete with training sessions in spell casting or zapping of bad things with a wand.
There is a juncture in the movie where there is a very crucial and serious discussion between Sirius Black and Harry. Sirius reminds Harry that the world is not composed of those who are all good, on the one hand, and those who are nothing but evil on the other. "Most people are a mixture of good and bad" Harry is reminded. This presumably is meant to help Harry not be so hard on himself when he has dark thoughts, but Sirius also stresses that Harry is a good person with some flaws, and he should not doubt his goodness, nor blame himself for all that has gone wrong. The message, if there is one, is that ordinary persons with some goodness in them, can strive to be their best selves, and overcome their temptations to give way to darkness.
Various of the reviewers of this movie have commented on the fact that it seems like an interim report, before we get to the real epic struggle between good and evil. This is a helpful observation, and it is in this movie that we hear the prophecy that either Voldemort or Harry must be done away with before the resolution of the drama. That is barely on the horizon here. The good news for now is that Harry is able to fight off the mental invasion of darkness into his fertile and sensitive mind.
So we must bide our time until the penultimate installment of these films comes out-- 'the Half-Blood Prince' in a year or so. In the meantime, start working on your wand waggling-- evil is coming to town and will not be messing around.