Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

One of the promises of the Harry Potter series from the start was that the text would grow with its initial fan base. This didn’t mean that the text would become more prolific, although it did. It meant that as the audience grew more mature, so too would the story. This becomes very clear in the film version of Order of the Phoenix.

Darkness, Maturity, Anger, and Fear

This film feels palpably darker. It might be that there are fewer smiling 8 year olds, and more angst-ridden teenagers. Either way, the film focuses on far darker subject matter. The Dark Lord has returned, and nobody believes Harry or Dumbledore about it. The mood is rank with fear and suspicion as Harry grapples with these internal and external pressures.

He also must contend with growing anger, as a telepathic bond with Voldemort drives him slowly over the edge. This link is fairly common in this kind of media, and is reminiscent of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Predictably, Harry is able to overcome the link, and maintain his integrity. Some older characters also, for the first time in the film series, discuss tragedies in their past. The addition of characters like Luna Lovegood, a young witch at Hogwart’s, add a mixed flavor of fantasy and tragedy. She brings her own baggage along with her charming whimsical attitude. Evanna Lynch, who portrays Lovegood, is a pleasure to watch. She sinks her performance like a master, and makes you truly like a character who could have very easily been a big turn off.

The films final showdown doesn’t conveniently remove all the other child wizards as in the past. Instead, Harry and his friends face off heroically against Death Eaters until the Order of the Phoenix can come to the rescue. The ensuing battle is a feast for the eyes, and the action is amazing and well played, but it is not without tragic losses. These leave a bitter taste in both Harry’s mouth and that of the audience, as his hopes for some semblance of family and normalcy are shattered.

(Almost) Adults Only

Despite the film’s relatively mature tone, it still carries many of the series’ hallmark youth-oriented themes. Some of the characters are still pretty two dimensional, some of the interchange between main characters is cloying and precious. It often seems like characters, rather than actors, are just going through the motions. At times, you know from previous films, that the demands of this script are beneath the skills of the actors on the screen– both young and veteran.

There is also the standing dichotomy between the errant youths and their harsh school headmasters. In this case, it is Dolores Umbridge, whose autocratic policies destroy life at Hogwart’s and precipitate a lot of the film’s action. She represents a lot of the fear and suspicion in the world which encroaches on Harry’s world, and ours.

The Coming Storm

The overarching theme of this film is the sense that whatever happens now, the battle that is still to come is what will decide the collective fates of all involved. Since Voldemort has returned, it is only a matter of time before open warfare with him resumes and the world of magic descends into chaos. This is what everyone has secretly feared since the inception of the series, and since now it is a reality, it hangs like a fog over the action and the characters.

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