I finally viewed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this morning. Before I dive into the movie, I want to comment about my movie experience.
I used to get a kick out of seeing movies on opening night with 6-10 of my friends. We’d get there early, plan out our strategy for getting the seats we wanted, then we’d stand in line an hour or two (or sit and play cards or talk). That was always fun because of the company.
I went through a period in my life when movies were seriously an extra that I didn’t have money for, and my movie buddies have moved on (and in many cases, moved out of the city). Now that I can afford to see a movie here or there, I reserve my movie money for the sci-fi flicks or special effects marvels that must be seen on the big screen. Otherwise, I just wait for the movie to come out on video and watch it in the comfort of my own home.
That said, Harry Potter movies are an in-theater must see. I don’t mind going to movies alone, so I decided I’d go to the first movie showing this morning at 9:45. I arrived at 9:20, got the fourth parking spot in, and walked into the very thinly populated theater lobby. I bought my ticket and went to the bathroom one last time (knowing I’d have to wait 2 1/2 hours to go again) then bought breakfast – a small popcorn (which costs a small fortune, but I had a movie gift card, no worries).
In a theater made for at least 300 people, this first showing of the day already had at least 20 people scattered throughout and by the time the movie started the theater was at least 1/3 full. I had the seat I wanted, there were no noisy people around me and everyone turned their cell phones off when Forrest Whitaker and AT&T told them to.
The only thing that made my experience any less than wonderful was wondering why anyone would bring a small child to a PG-13 movie that promised violence and death. There were many small children there (age 10 or less), and while I know people who take their kids to these movies (but I’m not talking 5 year olds), I also know they’ve read the books (the kids and parents), they’ve talked about the movies and know what to expect. It will never cease to amaze me to be in a theater full of kids, when the even the previews for other movies for this PG-13 movie scream that this experience is not for small children. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
I don’t envy the screenwriter who has to take a 870 page novel and squeeze a 2:15 minute movie out of it, but this adaptation of the doorstop-sized book rises to the challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie from beginning to end, and though the movie takes liberties with events (out of sequence, squeezed together) and some important actions are attributed to other characters (the betrayal of the D. A.), – which keeps the number of peripheral characters down – the movie stays true to the spirit of the book and would not have the stamp of approval from the novel’s author JK Rowling if it didn’t.
I won’t spoil the movie for those who don’t read the books but see the movies. I encourage anyone to read the books to get a fuller picture of Harry Potter’s world, because, as all movie adaptations go, they have a limited amount of time to work with, and details sometimes get left out in the movies that makes the whole experience richer. Reading the books in this series and then seeing the movies will take the experience from fuzzy rabbit-ear antenna to high definition.
By the end of the movie, I was satisfied with the storytelling and can now visualize the books even more fully. So many times I wanted to slap Dumbledore (that’s another blog entry) for ignoring Harry, and I often wanted to hug Harry and tell him that he’s not alone. I was impressed by the Ministry of Magic and the Department of Mysteries, and the Wand Duelling near the end gave me a whole new understanding of the nuances of the wand and how it really is an extension of the arm. It’s more than just swish and flick.
One scene in the movie was deeply poignant between Harry and his godfather, Sirius Black. Sirius says to him (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the screenplay in front of me) that it’s not DeathEater versus good or light versus dark, because “we all have good and evil within us, it’s which part we choose to act on that matters.”
That phrase is central to the Harry Potter world. Just as in the last movie when Dumbledore (who is still in line for slapping) tells Harry that the time has come when he will have to choose between “what is right, and what is easy,” Harry learns that the difference between him and Lord Voldemort (aka He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) is that he knows love and friendship, and Voldemort hasn’t and won’t. Harry has something worth fighting for, and Voldemort doesn’t. Harry chooses to act on the side of the good. The movie ends with Harry knowing that Voldemort’s defeat rests largely on his angsty teenage shoulders, but he’s not alone in the fight.
Another part of the movie that really drew a spiritual parallel for me were the scenes of the students learning Defense Against the Dark Arts. Dolores Umbridge (who was played to pink, sadistic, control freak perfection by Imelda Staunton) has decided that the students need to learn about Defense Against the Dark Arts so they can pass their tests, but the students do not need to learn how to use the spells to defend themselves.
How many people can quote Scripture but don’t know how to use it when they are under attack? It’s important to know the Word, but it’s equally, if not more important to know what to do with it and how to bring to life what it tells a person to do. Of course, if someone is raised in an environment where evil is ignored, why should they know about the armor of God, or how to protect themselves with God’s word?
Umbridge is merciless in her pursuit of keeping the kids in a safe, sterile environment where the mention of the reason actual application of the spells needed to protect themselves is cause for punishment. When Harry suggests that the evil they all fear not only exists, it’s back in the form of Voldemort, Umbridge makes Harry endure a painful detention where he writes “I must not tell lies,” on a piece of parchment and it’s etched, painfully, into his skin, and she makes him continue until it “sinks in.”
Hermione decides that they need to know how to protect themselves, and if Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic won’t show them how, they need to learn it themselves.
I don’t see this as the big teenage rebellion over authority that many reviewers have. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad example for kids. If you are a child and you know you are in danger, and the adults in your life won’t protect you, you must learn how to do it yourself. I know this firsthand.
In the Room of Requirement, Harry finally finds a purpose. All of his pain, all he has been through, all he has learned from facing evil, he can pass on to others. He can help his friends learn to defend themselves from the danger he has experienced personally. Even Neville Longbottom, the clumsy, accident prone teenage wizard learns to believe he can defend himself. Armed with these tools, these kids can now face evil with the belief that they can defeat it.
I still don’t see why people think lessons like that are evil, but I may never understand that mindset…another soapbox for another day.
All in all, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was an enjoyable experience. I watched all the way through to the end of the credits. Two other people were left in the theater and we spoke briefly about how well this movie was adapted from the book and then we talked about Book 7 and my plans to try and read it within 24 hours of it’s release (because I don’t want the ending spoiled!).
I can’t wait until Friday night so I can get book 7 and find out how the series ends!