All grown up
Latest Harry Potter installment matures with its characters
Even if you love it, loathe it or are impartial to the whole brouhaha, the Harry Potter series still demands respect as one of the more interesting pop-culture phenomena of the last decade (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone made its Brit debut in July of 1997).
Author J.K. Rowling at least deserves a certain amount of respect for spurring an entire generation to reconsider the dying art of reading. As the press packet story goes, a struggling single mother who put post-quality time attention to the keyboard, Rowling drew from the experience of raising children to imbue her pre-adolescent cadre of students at the mythical and magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with a certain vérité.
The story arc of the seven-novel series (which culminates in the July 21 release of the final entry, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) focuses on the titular character and his close friends Hermione and Ron, as Harry learns the survival skill-set to eventually take on Lord Voldemort, the nemesis who killed his family and seeks to destroy all that Harry holds dear.
As we rejoin Harry and his posse, they’ve entered their fifth year at the school and things are getting progressively worse, as the Ministry of Magic continues to make its insidious way into the curriculum through the person of one Dolores Umbridge. Also on the agenda is Voldemort’s continued efforts to snuff Harry. After Harry is given a workout in a kangaroo court, accused of being a minor in control of magic, he is coerced into training a select group of fellow students in the art of defensive magic. Not much else to report here, because in itself, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes across as sort of marking time in the series, putting pieces into place before moving inexorably toward the imminent conclusion.
Which is not saying that the film is bad or ill-structured or, even worse, boring. Anything but. While in places the pacing seems a bit lethargic, as a whole the film is compelling without actually bringing anything new to the table (aside from a few new characters being put into place). Here newbie (to the series) director David Yates brings a certain vision reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s dystopian bureaucracy opus Brazil, and a thinly veiled allusion to the concurrent Muggles’ War on Terror adventure.
As her own children have entered adolescence and on, here Rowling’s themes and characters have matured along with them. Along the way, so have the actors portraying her characters (odd to watch Harry get buff and suffer razor burn), lending a unique chronicle that will probably never again be matched in a series of film, as we’ve watched children mature into adulthood in the course of 10 hours of film. The picture itself carries a palpable sense of dread, a horror of inevitable conflict that, no matter what is done, cannot be averted.