Harry Potter gets darker: Movie review

“What if after everything that has happened to me, I have become bad?” Harry Potter

Harry Potter is a pop culture icon and name brand franchise, the latter which I usually avoid/disdain, along with the likes of Bratz dolls, Disney stores, Coca-Cola products, and Paris Hilton. But when you’re a high school English teacher, as I was for nine years, you realize that freshmen(and all high school kids for that matter) don’t always like to read independently. Imagine my curiosity when student after student submitted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a book chat(a brief interview with a reader, much more fun than an ordinary written or oral book report.) I finally gave in and became a fan of the boy wizard, both of the books and the movies. I recently bought the long-awaited final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows(already nearing page 400 after only 24 hours!)and today my mother and I saw the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

For those of us who remember our adolescence as a time of angst and pain, we will relate to the very different Harry(played by Daniel Radcliffe.) Now embittered by the death of a classmate and still very troubled by the chain of tragic events in his life, Harry is a moody, somber teenager. Harry has grown up and his future doesn’t look bright. The film seems to echo the change with dark, gloomy sets and more dramatic acting from the leads. Harry’s archnemesis, Lord Voldemort(a hideous Ralph Fiennes), gets much more screen time as their final showdown(supposedly taking place in Book 7) approaches. Though the special effects are impressive, the light moments are scarce. This is a bittersweet movie.

My favorite scenes were actually the sad ones. In one scene, Harry wonders about the connection he shares with Lord Voldemort. He complains to his godfather, Sirius Black(played by Gary Oldman), that he feels “angry all the time” and wonders about the darker qualities of his personality/soul. Tears started running down my face. Who hasn’t wondered if they were more evil than good? Who hasn’t been scared when we have made wrong choices? But this existential angst was countered by the core tenet of the Harry Potter phenomenon: Power is great but love is greater. Harry Potter became the Boy Who Lived because his parents loved him. Harry Potter remains a good person because he loves his friends. As he faces Lord Voldemort, Harry declares “you will never know love or friendship.” Ultimately, this is what keeps saving Harry’s life. And many of our own.

I don’t recommend this fifth installment to Harry Potter newbies. It’s much too depressing if you are not invested in the storyline and characters. Nevertheless, I found it moving and faithful to the books.

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