Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Warning: If you haven’t read book 5 and haven’t seen the movie, this post contains minor spoilers!

Meaghan and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie last night at the Regal theatre on TV highway.  I have had four free movie tickets in my wallet for the past few months and finally decided that it was time to use at least two of them.  Additionally, I received an $8 Regal gift card at the Microsoft event I attended last week and wanted to make use of it before I lost or forgot about it.  Free tickets, a free large Sprite, and two dollars for a large popcorn (the total exceeded the $8 on the gift card) was a really great deal!  To top it all off, I really enjoyed this movie.  I thought it was superb.

I’ve been on the fence about Harry Potter since reading the first few books and seeing the corresponding movies.  I thought there was a great story in there that was occluded too often by a target audience identity crisis on the part of the author.  Let me digress for a second while I clarify that point.  I appreciate that authors, publishers, and even movie directors desperately want to tap into the “universal audience”, as evidenced by their rampant use of marketing hype like “appeals to all ages and demographics” and “has something for everyone”.  Unfortunately, there are very few projects that actually achieve this magical universal cross-over appeal.  Instead, the attempts made to appeal to all audiences can leave many feeling disinterested and gives off the identity crisis I described above.

In reading the first three books, I felt as though there was a really great back story, a strong set of characters, and several great long-term plot lines that were spoiled by inconsistencies introduced purely to keep the books child appropriate as well.  This struck me as even more strange when I read the quite adult-oriented fourth book.  Here’s an example of what I mean:
Voldemort is a rampant killing machine, an evil beyond compare who enjoys nothing more than the suffering and ultimate termination of all who would defy him.  He kills Harry’s parents without even batting an eye and would have finished Harry too if he could.  However, when he has father Weasley at his mercy in the Hall of Mysteries, he simply lets him live.  I’m not looking for death and destruction at every turn, but the inconsistency in a major character like Voldemort just sits oddly and makes him feel a lot less dangerous.  When Umbridge, almost dead at the hands of a Centaur only moments earlier, is dragged off into the forest by those she assaulted I pretty much assumed she was done for.  However, she later turns up unharmed.

That being said, I thought this was the best Harry Potter story so far.  From people I have spoken too, the book is one of their least favorites in the series.  Apparently Harry is very whiny and irritating in the book  This certainly was present in the movie but not to the degree it appears was in the book.  The story in this movie was much grittier and the overall atmosphere felt a lot more intense.  For the first time in the series I actually believed Voldemort was someone to be truly feared, a harbinger of doom with evil plans afoot versus the rather lame and easily defeatable opponent of Harry Potter from the books before.  “Harry, it was your love that defeated him”- (sigh).  The threat to all was very real and the growing danger was a compelling component of the story.  The action scenes were very well done and the overall acting and performance of the cast has improved dramatically over the course of the movies.  You might find yourself wondering during some of the action scenes whether inspiration was drawn from the Star Wars movies as they can feel a little like massive light saber battles at times, but it was nice to see so much action in this one after being teased for so long.  Let’s face it, who wasn’t waiting for the “big battle” with wands, charms, sparks, and firebolts flying everywhere?  I know I was.

I’m now somewhat interested in reading books six and seven, just to find out what happens in the rest of the story.  I think I’ll give number five a miss as many have reported it as their least favorite.  I’ve got a good list of active books going right now, so it probably won’t be any time soon, but for a series I’d pretty much written off it’s nice to see a little interest rekindled.  I’m hoping that Voldemort wins; he was pretty cool!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix receives two thumbs up!  I think I’ll even buy the DVD.  If you’ve been somewhat blasé about Harry Potter so far, I highly recommend checking out this movie; I thought it was great.

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