I caught a snippet of “Goblet of Fire” maybe a week or two ago, and am very familiar with the first three films, so I decided to start my binge on the fifth film “Order of the Phoenix.” This was my favorite book of the series but my second least favorite of the movies, the first indication that a full-length feature film may not be long enough to capture all of the storytelling nuances interspersed throughout J.K. Rowling’s growing word count.
Same thing with “The Half Blood Prince,” both my least favorite of the books and of the movies. There’s so much happening in the book that the movie misses out on, that it feels like we’re watching a hastily-edited version of what should be a three-hour film, where certain plot motifs and story moments don’t bear the same significance as they do in the books, or sometimes none at all.
“Order of the Phoenix” and “Half-Blood Prince” are forgettable films, simultaneously taking themselves too seriously and not seriously enough. But if you appreciate them not as late entries in this epic wizardry world saga, but instead, as a two-part John Hughes’ esque installment about teen wizards’ angst against their parents, their teachers and their sexuality, it becomes a far more rewarding cinematic experiences.
Dumbledore and Harry had always been close, with the grand wizard occasionally throwing bits of grandfatherly love to the boy who lived. But their relationship wasn’t fully realized or put into action until the fifth book/movie, where Harry became something that Dumbledore had to actively deal with on a daily basis. Dumbledore notably ignored Harry as a means of keeping him safe, and then in “Half-Blood Prince,” did the reverse and went full helicopter mom on his ass. It’s the classic “why doesn’t my dad love me?” and “I hate my dad” tropes in full employment.
But on a more serious note, the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore is an interesting meditation on adult reaction to loss and how they cope with the fear of loss. Besides Snape, Dumbledore is the only person in the world who knows just how valuable Harry is to, well, everything. And if he makes the wrong move, by being too protective or not protective enough, then its doomsday for all in wizard world. The arguably greatest wizard in history is having to deal with what kind of parent they want to be.
Collectively, these films become an unintentionally hilarious, often morose “Breakfast Club” set in the Hogwarts dining halls. Boys are noticing girls, girls are noticing boys, and everyone’s making out with each other or trying to. Wizards hate their parents, and they get their most hate-able teacher yet, Dolores Umbridge. Before her appointment, teachers were just a nuisance, even the ones trying to kill them Harry and crew. Now with Umbridge, these teens have gone full “teachers are arbiters of woe and misery.” You wouldn’t even know Voldemort was coming to kill them all since they’re all these teen wizards are apparently dead inside being in Umbridge’s class.
Ok, that’s a bit much. But it’s crazy to see in how these films tried to establish the fact these magical kids were now horny teens, these later “Harry Potter” movies inadvertently became bastions of high school tropes themselves. This isn’t what Rowling intended, nor is it was the filmmakers or screenwriters did. But it’s an interesting takeaway on how two lackluster films when looked in a new, magical light can manifest themselves into something much more hilarious and wonderful.