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Monday, August 3, 2020

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Latest film has a dark twist


Being a teenager has always been difficult, especially when there are forces acting upon you beyond your control – and we’re not talking about hormones. For the latest in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the troubles of being of a teenager are augmented for the pleasure of audiences, despite being the darkest installment of the movie franchise.

It might seem a bit obnoxious for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) to think that the world and the entire wizarding community are against him. But who can blame him? Restless nights, apathetic guardians, government officials plotting against him, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the confusing subject of girls can be too much for this hero, but Harry exemplifies grace under pressure in this film.

The terror starts in the beginning when a gentle pastoral scene quickly turns awry as two dementors, dark creatures that serve as guards for the wizard prison Azkaban, attack Harry and his portly cousin Dudley.

Order of the Phoenix sees the introduction of new character Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), who has been sent by the Ministry of Magic to Hogwarts in order to keep a careful eye on its headmaster and tout the propaganda that the Ministry wants everyone in the wizarding community to believe: Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has not returned and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is plotting a coup against the Ministry.

Umbridge refuses to teach combative skills to students by order of the Ministry. Wanting to find a way around this, Harry and the gang search out pro-active ways of learning hand-to-hand (or wand-to-wand, if you will) combat against the Dark Arts, forming a group known as Dumbledore’s Army.

While in the book Umrbidge is described as a frumpy, toad-like woman, on screen, Staunton comes off like a high-class woman, delivering Umbridge’s venomous, passive-aggressive behavior like an empowered Margaret Thatcher.

But the movie does have some flaws: it overlooks some subplots, compacts other plot lines tightly and diminishes roles of fan regulars.

The film is really about Harry and his gang of rebels showing dissent toward the establishment, including the sweet, but extremely odd Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch).

Rowling’s creativity and vivacity shine through with polished and pristine settings.

The film also packs a punch with fierce battle scenes toward the end. The last battle scene against Voldemort and Dumbledore is the best use of special effects in the films by far. Complex magic, a fiery snake and the near-destruction of the Ministry itself bring life to this scene better than the imaginations of some children can.

The frantic camera action, moving perspective and lack of light in indoor scenes is another layer in which audiences feel the calm before the storm (the second war against Voldemort).

The airy and carefree magic that ensnared audiences in the first film slowly waned with each preceding film; in this one, it’s all sucked out. There is no more room for fun or games. No wonder or excitement. Not even a game of Quidditch. There is only a grim determination against Voldemort.


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