It was the penultimate installment of the week, and things were getting heated. Voldemort was back in earnest (not that people wanted to believe it), and the stakes were raised yet again. But these two films, which it occurred to me tonight really work well together as a pair, also raise the stakes emotionally, as relationships are forged and tested and two beloved characters meet their ends.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
When I first saw this, it was easily my favorite movie of the bunch. The pure evil of Dolores Umbridge is perfectly captured by Imelda Staunton, and her almost erotic pleasure in the pain and torture of others makes her villainy even creepier. Not only that, but seeing all the films in sequence allows one to appreciate how truly scary this one is – one of the scariest, in fact – because while the other films frighten us with magical creatures and curses, this one deals in the all too real horrors of living under fascist rule. No one is allowed to speak up against Umbridge, much less the Ministry, lest they be considered traitors, and their tyranny continues virtually unchecked. In this new order, people can be tossed out of their homes, or thrown in jail, illegally questioned, corporally punished, or even tortured, all on the whims of those with the power. It is the actions of a select few, brave enough to dissent against what they know is wrong, who make the biggest difference. And that, is exactly the point. Dumbledore’s Army does what is right, even though it is not easy – another key moral in the series. Of course, Harry pays a terrible price for his bravery in the end. The loss of Sirius has always been a devastating one, but last night, watching it again, wishing it would end differently this time, I simply wanted to sob for days. Subtlety win: Every time Harry and Cho are seen or mentioned together, Ginny’s in the background, unhappily eyeing and assessing the situation.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This book is all about the history of Tom Riddle, about the discovery and understanding of the horcruxes, about Harry’s certainty that Draco is up to no good, and about Snape’s dreadful reveal at the end. Unfortunately, none of those things are easily transferred to the screen, given that they are mostly comprised of discussions and theories over actions and confrontations. Therefore, the movie becomes a showcase of the maturing relationships of our heroes and heroines: the stark pain of Hermione seeing Ron with Lavender, the shy awkwardness of Harry realizing his feelings for Ginny, the hopefulness and loneliness and confusion that comes with love. To underscore the importance of these developments, the reveal of the central mystery – The Half-Blood Prince – is secondary, downplayed against the other gut-wrenching events taking place. Some facts are altered or omitted in service of expediency, but as with Prisoner of Azkaban, I found on this viewing that I’m not as bothered by it as I was at first, because the efficient storytelling is so much more visible in the marathon setting. As the movie closed, a smattering of soft crying could be heard throughout the theater. Mourning our loss, we braced ourselves, as Harry did, for the daunting task to come. Continuity win: In Slughorn’s memories (the altered and the original), Riddle is wearing his grandfather’s ring (referred in the movie as his mother’s), which Dumbledore later reveals as the second horcrux.
Tonight my journey comes to an end, as Harry confronts old Tom Riddle for the very last time (after going on a long and stressful camping trip), and Bellatrix finally gets what’s coming to her, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, parts 1 and 2. And then I might cry for a while.