Harry's cousin Dudley this time falls foul of a couple of rogue dementors as the two of them are near the house and Harry is forced to break the underage wizarding law and use magic to get rid of them to save not just himself but also his cousin (who in this book has turned into a bit of a rude boy and started picking on ten year olds bless). Harry's patronus does not go unnoticed of course and he is called up for his illegal act by the ministry who are convinced that this was not a self defence act but an act in support of Dumbledore.
In an attempt to keep a watchful eye over Hogwarts, the Ministry have sent over Dolores Umbridge to teach the Defence Against the Dark Arts class. But when it comes to lesson plans, Umbridge believes in the theory, not the practice of dark magic and has the class writing passage after passage. Though this of course does not sit well with those students who believe Voldemort has returned, it seems to always be Harry who has something to say and is punished for his disobedience using a nasty spell by the eerily polite yet totally evil teacher. Clearly she doesn't mind using dark magic, it's just teaching it she has issues with.
The most fun happens when Hermione takes charge (as Hermione always does) and organises an elite group of classmates who want to learn the practical side of defence under the tutelage of Harry himself. And then suddenly Neville shines, Cho and Harry get closer to their infamous first kiss and the group really start to form their own little private army ready to face Voldermort and the deatheaters. There's real fun and humour thanks to the new lesson and seeing Hermione realise that sometimes it's worth going against the rules is just delightfully naughty.
The Order of the Phoenix has one of my favourite endings (surpassed only by the ultimate Deathly Hallows ending) as the mini army of Harry and his friends face the deatheaters. The Order itself, comprised of the Weasleys, Lupin, Sirius, Snape and more new faces join in and a massive fight ensues.
This was the first book I have ever read where I was so shocked, so totally stunned by an event, that I actually turned the page back for fear I had misread it. Sadly, I had read it correctly.
In the film version, Imelda Staunton was beautifully cast as Dolores Umbridge. She has such a cute and cuddly persona and encapsulates the cat loving, pink cardigan wearing Umbridge beautifully while managing to show real menace behind her perfect smile. The film also saw the deatheaters start having things to say. So far we have only really seen Lucius Malfoy as a character but suddenly we are learning more about some of the others. Helena Bonham Carter was born to play Bellatrix Lestrange. Nobody else could possibly be that manic and silly and still scare you to your very core! Voldermort finally gets some real screen time himself and shines as Ralph Fiennes takes on the role of he-who-shall-not-be-named so creepily.
The real downside to the film is that massive amounts of the book got lost in the conversion. The big build up to the finale and the fight itself was trimmed down to its bare essentials, losing the suspense needed to make the end so jaw-dropping. It all just came off a bit rushed and panicked.
Ron: Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I have ever met. If I'm ever rude to you...
Hermione: I'll know you've gone back to normal.
The effects are cool, though, and there's more spells and wizadry to enjoy throughout. The three main actors have really come into their own now and have both the comic timing and serious drama down. More importantly though, they are able to lead the ever-growing ensemble cast. It's really become a team effort in Order of the Phoenix and everyone is holding their own.
All in all, nobody was ever going to get all the subtleties and character development of such a chunky and intricate book into a 2 hour film but they gave it a pretty good bash.
Harry Potter 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince