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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Viewed: Theater

I’m not a fan of the Harry Potter series. I read the first book, and found it decently entertaining, but not engrossing. It wasn’t good enough to make me want to read the following books. I’ve been to see each of the movies because my wife wants to see them, but I’m not drawn to them for my own entertainment. This movie is about like the previous ones. It’s not a bad movie. In fact, the acting, effects, and general entertainment are good. But there are things about the whole Harry Potter world that I find . . . off putting.

The magical world is very dangerous towards children. Now, I’ll agree that the real world is plenty dangerous, but we don’t willingly and regularly put children (even those in their late teens) in dangerous situations for sport. Fortunately, this movie didn’t pit Harry or other children against monsters and villains for sport, but the specter of the previous movies pops to mind whenever an adult tells Harry they’re doing something (or not doing something) to protect him—they put him in a fight with a fire-breathing dragon last movie! They had the children handling flat-out deadly plants the time before that, and the whole freaking school is surrounded by evil Dementors to protect the children from worse dangers on the school grounds! If the adults wanted to protect Harry, they should just leave him to the muggle world of guns and bombs.

This movie has some great and exciting heroic fight scenes, which I love. Wizards and witches blasting each other, wisping from one place to another, etc. But these scenes have a weakness: we, the audience, don’t know what all this blasting and wisping actually can do. They’re all witches and wizards, and we’ve seen them do all kinds of magical things, but in a fight, they blast each other. Why aren’t they turning each other into frogs, or turning each other to stone, or some other classically magical things? Their magical powers in previous movies has seemed almost limitless, yet in a fight, they just zap each other like shooting guns.

When the children are learning how to fight, to be Dumbledore’s Army, they blast each other with their wands. I was thinking during this whole episode that this was like having students beat each other with baseball bats (or cricket bats, as befits the setting). The whole Dumbledore’s Army thing was like a Fight Club with wands.

And although this activity was banned from school in this movie, because the Ministry of Magic was afraid the school was building and army to take over, this activity of actively fighting each other in sparring matches was condoned and sanctioned in previous movies.

Now, I understand many schools have fighting sports: wresting, fencing, etc. But throughout the movies, it has been stressed how dangerous magic can be, yet the teachers at the school have pitted students against each other in wand fights. This would be like the muggle world telling students that “guns are dangerous, and you need to learn how to use them safely, so you two come up here and duel as an example for the class.”

At least this movie didn’t have a Quidditch match. Children too young to drive a car or motorcycle, put on brooms flying fast and high, ramming one another, and actively trying to knock opponents off their brooms? What sadistic adults.

Also, another thing that bugged me about these movies, and this was played up in this movie particularly: the magic world is stuck in the 12th century with castles and candles and carriages. They seem to eschew muggle technology for their homes and schools and personal conveyances, but they have a train? In this movie, Dad Weasley is impressed and awed by muggle technology, the London tube system particularly, but the wizards use many things that are essentially normal tech devices (telephone booths, elevators) powered by magic.

Anyway, the above complaints are things that just jolt me out of the setting. It’s like watching a Western-genre movie and spotting a radio antenna on the horizon or an airplane in the sky. Or hearing in an old spaghetti Western that Chicago is just a few days ride from Phoenix. It’s all like the author is just writing story and plot elements without really giving any thought to how it all would fit together logically.

Like Harry’s trial at the beginning: they knew, somehow, that Harry had used magic in front of a muggle, but they didn’t know about the two Dementors attacking him? And the magical, talking letter that expelled him from school, (for using magic in front of a muggle), did its magical show right in front of that same muggle and his parents. The school broke the very rule they were expelling Harry for breaking.

So much of the magical world of Harry Potter is self contradictory. Some of this stuff may be explained in the books (although nothing was explained in the book I read), but I can only judge the movie, and the movie series, based on what is shown in the movies. I know the books are written for children, and most children won’t question or have an issue with illogical elements, so maybe I’m just being too adult.

All in all, I don’t have any feelings for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The setting problems just prevent me from really getting into the story and enjoying any of it. (And this is coming from a man who thoroughly enjoyed a movie about giant alien robots who transform into vehicles. I’m not hard to entertain.) But hey, I’m not the target audience anyway. If the kids love it, more power to the moviemakers and the kids who made J.K. Rowling the richest woman in the world. God bless ‘em. Just ignore my negative comments.


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