I spent last night at Hogwarts and enjoyed my trip quite a lot. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is second in my list of favorite Potter movies, behind Prisoner of Azkaban (which remains my favorite… I would love it if Alfonso Cuarón would return to direct, perhaps #7).

Order of the Phoenix is a dark film as Voldemort’s return becomes more apparent, and harder to deny. Both Harry and Dumbledore are initially under fire for trying to prove the return, while the Ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to keep order and deny that anything is wrong. As Hogwarts becomes more under the Ministry’s control, it’s up to Harry and his friends to prepare to defend themselves.

One of the things I liked so much about this film is how the friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione continues to develop and become more mature. They don’t back away from Harry while he’s having problems, but they do give him space while still letting him know they are there for him. And they have some great bonding moments. One of my favorite scenes is in the common room when Hermione tells Ron he has “the emotional range of a teaspoon” it’s good for a laugh rather than a fight.

The final battle of the film is quite good too. Watching the friends work together was good. Meanwhile the battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort was like watching the battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan, except in this case no one is dead… yet.

I didn’t miss the scenes that were eliminated from the screenplay. I owe that to the fact it’s been nearly three years since I read the book, so it’s not overly fresh in my mind. I do, however, miss seeing some Quidditch on the screen, but I don’t think it would’ve been worth the minutes added. Brian, meanwhile, has a slightly different take on this book vs. movie issue, but I do see his point that if you haven’t read the book you might be a little in the dark, as the movie really zips along.

The film also packed more emotion than the last. I was disappointed with Goblet of Fire because it really undercut the emotion of Cedric’s death. I was devastated reading that in the book and it just didn’t pack a punch on screen. Phoenix has several emotional moments that come off great.

Overall, a solid film… and it keeps July’s movie cavalcade moving right along at a good pace. Next week, a genre shift as Hairspray hits theaters.