Potterwatch: Harry Potter Retrospective, part.2

It’s that time again, it’s time for the second edition in my running series of posts looking at the Harry Potter films from the perspective of an outsider. I am quickly moving through the series and much to my surprise my opinion and J.K. Rowling’s franchise on the screen has changed from indifference to enjoyment. Just as I am quickly moving through the series, the final film is fast approaching. The end of an era as many fans are claiming is nigh. Let’s not jump the gun though, let’s concentrate on the here and now – the film’s which I will be talking about this time are The Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix.

The Goblet of Fire

Harry and friends return for their fourth year at Hogwarts with Harry sporting what can only be described as a hilarious haircut. I would say what he looks like but I’ll only get angry comments and I have better ways to waste time. Back on topic. Furthermore, the series has surprised me for a second time. With Prisoner of Azkaban I believed that film was the jump from an unabashed series for children into one that could be enjoyed by anyone. Although that statement is true, I didn’t believe the next film would be as dark as Goblet of Fire. The darkness is both thematic and literal. Gone is the colour palette of the earlier films, which may sound like a petty complaint but the film feels a bit lifeless in comparison to the predecessors.

The theme has changed too. This is a film where the protagonists are growing from children into young adults and this is represented best in many ways. The two most important occurrences are the school dance and the titular goblet of fire. In earlier films there was always a sense of peril in the world that the children stuck their noses into but they never once were put into a situation where it was possible for one of them to die. Enter the tri-wizards tournament, a competition where three schools arrive at Hogwarts for a competition that only the best of the best are able to enter. While I am talking about this, the entry of the other schools into the grand Hogwarts hall is camp and comedic when I am pretty sure it’s not meant to be either. Sure, you are supposed to make yourself look big but the competing schools go far past that, they look like they are about to burst into a musical number.

Although the film doesn’t come anywhere near the series high in Azkaban, mainly due to the first hour of the film being the most ponderous of the series thus far, there is still plenty to praise. The peril that comes from the tri-wizard tournament and the threat that Harry could be killed and for Ron and Hermione they could lose their friend. This gives the character a much greater strength of character than they have at any point leading towards this film, as a by-product this means that they young cast is developing into actors that can hold their own alongside such an illustrious cast.

What elevates this film from perfunctory to good is the last twenty minutes. It’s during these last 20 minutes and its many twists and turns that the series is changed forever. Cedric Diggory being murdered and the arrival of Voldermort would be enough for any film, yet more is still pulled out of the bag. The massive twist surrounding a character who you believed to a ‘good guy’ was brilliant. Sure, the sort of plot twists thus far usually boil down to the same statement – don’t trust adults, they will betray you and try to murder you – but the thing which separates this twist from those in the first two films is that it is done well here. You think you know a character and a level of trust was built up, both with Harry and the viewers, only for that to be destroyed in the climactic moments. What stood out the most with Goblet of Fire was the introduction of Voldermort who developed from lingering potential to full on threat.

The Order of the Phoenix

Potter and friends are back for the 6th year of school life at Hogwarts and true to the form established in every single film that preceded this – it isn’t going to be an easy year. This time around the ministry of magic and by proxy the press believe Harry and Dumbledore to be lying about the return of the dark lord. In another new turn for the series, the order of the phoenix has turned its hand to something new – this time around it’s the government and media. The inclusion of such story telling tools may be unwarranted in a series about magic and wizards, however it allows the series to have its most interesting villain thus far.

That is to say that this films main threat isn’t just Voldermort there is also the representative of the ministry of magic who has slowly takes over the school. This provokes the school to form Dumbledore’s army, a collection of students who are sick of the changes in the education system that favors theory over practice, a situation that is exacerbated by the arrival of the dark lord. What I like about the order of the phoenix is that the threat is not through the evil motivations but a product of stupidity. The ministry of magic is effectively sticking their fingers in their ears and hands over their eyes and using the playground rules whereby if you can’t see something that must mean it isn’t real or true.

The one thing I don’t like is the way that the series is progressing about the ‘darkness’. Rowling’s writing implies that the only way a story can be dark or mature is to kill characters off. It isn’t but I’ll concede defeat given that this is going to only get worse on the evidence of the war that these films are leading towards.  Nevertheless, I have a problem with the way the death was presented in this film. In The Goblet of Fire it was pretty clear for all to see that we were witness to a murder, someone was effectively shot with a blot of green lightning. Now if that doesn’t kill somebody nothing will. Fast forward to this film and its much less understandable. The scene in which Sirius Black is killed is confusing, he wasn’t shot down or stopped dead, NO – he floated off behind a cloud. If it wasn’t for the reaction of Harry, I wouldn’t have guessed that he died. Ending on such a brutal note that demanded an emotional response is fine, but when you are confused about what happened – that’s bad story telling. Poor form J.K. Rowling.

It’s a enough film order of the phoenix, but the more I think about it and the more I give it time to settle the more I am bored by the film. Sure it was well made and well acted (sans a few silly roles), it’s just that the story isn’t very good. It’s not bout magic and wonder, it’s more a story of satire and rebellion. This is not what I expected nor want to see in such a big honking epic of a film. Paint me disappointed.

NEXT TIME WE ARE TO THE FINAL TWO FILMS BEFORE THE SERIES IS DONE, THE FINAL TWO FILMS BEFORE THE END OF AN ERA FOR MILLIONS OF PEOPLE. IF YOU HAVE LIVED UNDER THE SAME ROCK AS ME, THOSE TWO FILMS ARE THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE AND THE HEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 

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