Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Rated: PG-13
Grade: BCBC=C+
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $292 million US, $646 million Int’l, $214 million DVD

Directed by: David Yates, who previously made The Girl in the Café (which I loved), and is slated to do the next two Potter movies.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Watson, Brendan Gleeson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, and Alan Rickman.

The Ministry of Magic is in a serious crisis because its head refuses to acknowledge the return of Lord Voldemort, despite urgent pleading by Dumbledore and Harry Potter. In an effort to clamp down on Hogwarts, a new teacher is assigned there who brings a totalitarian system of control and magic suppression. Meanwhile, Sirius Black and the mysterious Order of the Phoenix try to thwart the plans of the evil wizard.

Entertainment Value: B
I watched this just as I watched each of the other Potter movies, enjoying it, but not particularly loving it. The characters are, as always, intriguing if a bit strange. If I have a complaint here, it’s that this plot, much like all the others, just seems strange and difficult to follow to me. Whenever I watch a Potter movie, because I haven’t read the books beforehand, I always feel a little bit foggy, like everything is 80% clear. This was true again here, but it was still pretty fun to watch.
Superficial Content: C Drugs/Alcohol A, Sexuality A, Violence D, Language A, Illegality A Though this is the first movie where teenage romance becomes a theme, it’s so insubstantial that there are no concerns here. Language is clean but for some mild name-calling. There’s a scene with beers on the table, but that’s it. Obviously, for many people, the sorcery and witchcraft is going to be a problem, though it never bothers me. The real issue here is clearly violence and scary sequences, including people being killed, chased, captured, threatened, and tortured. Death is a constant theme, given Harry’s parents and their connection to the plot.

Significant Content: B
Evil knows no love or friendship. Knowledge is a great temptation. Beware those who are always smiling, for their shiny exterior may hide the worst sort of evil underneath. Rules may be broken for the right reasons without consequence. And all people are a mixture of good and evil, the key being to move toward the good as much as possible. Leaders must be willing to accept the truth they don’t want to hear.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Here’s what’s so difficult to assess about this movie. Because of the political themes, it’s hard to separate this movie from the current political situation in America. On the one hand, it is a critique of those who refuse to acknowledge the real danger of real evil and want to take a Pollyanna approach to it. On the other hand, it is also a critique of those who are willing to do awful things which violate basic human rights in the process of accomplishing their goals. As such, it’s impossible to pigeonhole the movie politically, which is good, since both critiques are quite valid. As I mentioned before, part of my problem with the movies in general is that I feel like they don’t keep us non-readers in the loop about what’s going on. That interferes with me enjoying the movie for its own sake and being able to look for more artistic elements. Obviously the crafting of a fantasy realm is once again quite good. One problem here is that this is the fourth director for the series (he’ll do the remaining three), and they switched screenplay writers midstream. Strange.

Discussion Questions:
~How do you go about deciding when it is okay to break the rules and when you should obey them? Should breaking the rules always have consequences, even if the rule was wrong or deserving of violation in the particular case? Consider reading Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and discussing it as a serious contrast to Harry’s way of breaking rules.
~What allows Miss Umbridge to take control of Hogwarts? Does this series of events seem plausible to you? What do you make of her character, especially her love of pink and tea? Is she evil, or is she inept, or what?
~From a less favorable point of view, Harry’s secret wizard club and the Order of the Phoenix might both be seen as shadow operations within a crumbling government. Do you think it’s a dangerous precedent for secret military forces to operate within a nation or country? Why is official oversight of such operations so important?
~Did it seem plausible to you that the wizard tribunal would so ignore the testimony of Harry in the beginning?
~It’s been said that the one thing that keeps good people from becoming evil is that they are aware of the times when they are tempted in that direction or actually move in it. How might this apply to Harry. Is this idea a sound one?
~Do the developments with Snape change your impression of Harry and his father?
~Is everyone a mixture of light and darkness?
~What similarities do you see between Voldemort and Satan? Consider particularly belief in each’s existence.
~What political messages do you think this movie is sending? Is it intending to do so? Consider applications to the current situation with respect to terrorism and torture. Is there a difference between using torture to gain information and using it to discipline someone?
~Harry expresses the idea that combat is exciting when you imagine it and horrible when you experience it. What do you think about this? What implications does this have for movies about action and war?
Overall Grade:” C+
Once again, I’ll say that it probably wows those who have read the books, but it tends to leave the rest of us only moderately entertained. I watch them more out of a sense of obligation than real enthusiasm.

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