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Potter saga continues to bewitch

When I signed up to write a review of the newest Harry Potter film, I thought it would be no problem. I believed that I could be unbiased, fair and professional.

However, once the Warner Brothers logo appeared and the film’s title, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, emerged onscreen, I immediately reverted to the fan girl who waited for six hours just to get my hands on the novel. Picking up where 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire left off, this film is even darker than previous entries in the series, with much of the plot relating to the return of the evil Lord Voldemort.

While Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) appeal for help in dealing with this menace, the Ministry of Magic has chosen to remain in denial rather than face the horrible truth. While his classmates believe he has gone mad, Harry must also combat teen angst, troubling dreams and, worst of all, an authoritarian new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, Dolores Umbridge (Academy Award nominee Imelda Staunton).

One of the biggest worries for the loyal Potter fan base has been the series’ change in director, with David Yates taking the reins this time around. Yates’ previous credits primarily include British TV projects, while screenwriter Michael Goldenberg possesses only three other film credits. Luckily, they both rise to the occasion and do not disappoint.

Particularly, Yates handles the transition from directing television to helming such a massive blockbuster with ease. He brings out gut-wrenching, believable performances out of his cast, from the children to the veteran actors. The trio of stars – Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson – ­­continue to improve with each film, with Watson remaining a cut above her co-stars.

Meanwhile, Goldenberg manages to successfully translate the story to the big screen. He has a better grasp on the characters than Steve Kloves, the writer of the last four films, and wisely includes the best lines from the book, including Hermione telling Ron that he has the emotional range of a teaspoon. He also doesn’t waste time including new scenes in place of fan favorites. Somehow, Goldenberg is able to distill the most important moments from the 896-page novel into a 138-minute movie.

In fantasy epics such as this, so much of the story depends on the visuals, and the film delivers on this front. The special effects are able to make the wildest imagination come to life. In the past movies, they have shown only the children dueling, but this film’s battle in the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Mysteries shows real wizards duking it out. As a result, those scenes are the most visually mind-blowing of the series.

However, the movie is not without its flaws. Once again, Gambon’s portrayal of Albus Dumbledore is far from what author J.K. Rowling described. Dumbledore is supposed to have a calm, composed attitude. His eyes are always twinkling, and he seems to have the answers for everything.

Gambon’s Dumbledore raises his voice, gets angry and never truly embodies the spirit of the character Rowling created.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, while dark, is entertaining. Those searching for a happy children’s film may be disappointed, as this Potter adventure is the most intense yet. However, those fans willing to let the series grow up are in for some real magic.