Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.
This week, the one I’ve been told is one of the worst so buckle up.
So first a little peak behind the curtain of this whole thing. If you’ve been reading these since the beginning, you know that I’ve been playing up the whole “I don’t know anything about Harry Potter” thing and while that’s mostly true, I do have SOME experience with the franchise. This is the first time I’ve seen any of these movies but I did read the first four books when I was really young. So all the reviews so far, while I didn’t know what was going to happen in advance, I had some skeletal idea of where they were going.
At this point though, I’m fully off road.
That being said, the fifth book was the one that made me stop reading the series, so I’m nervous about this one.
At least it’s only 2 hours and 18 minutes. Respectable.
WE BEGIN with Harry bein’ all creepy on a playground.
Like, he’s what? 16 now? You aren’t allowed to hang out on swings in children’s playgrounds at 16. Did the movie start too late for us to watch him go down the slide and swing on the monkey bars?
Dudley Dursley shows up looking like Eggsy from the beginning of Kingsman and starts bullying Harry. Harry has e-nough of his shit and pulls out his wand to fuck him up.
SWEET! Possibly Evil Harry is back! I missed you in the last movie, pal.
But no, because the sky goes dark and Harry and Dudley decide they need to go. On the way through an underpass tunnel, they run into some old pals.
Goddamn security ghosts.
I literally cannot understand why Dementors are a thing. Like, The only thing we’ve every seen them do is try and eat the souls of the innocent. I wonder if they’re AT LEAST good security guards?
But Harry manages to fight off the Dementors and save Dudley, but Duds remains pretty fucked in the head by the whole experience. Harry drags him back to the…
Wait, the Dursleys?
HE STILL LIVES WITH THE DURSLEYS?
After he killed that lady in part 3?
Papa Dursley assumes Harry was the one to eff up Dudley and yells that “this is the last straw!”
THIS is the last straw? THIS? T-H-I-S?!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not, oh, I dunno, him KILLING your SISTER???!!!!!!
But whatever, Harry receives a letter expelling him from Hogwarts and summoning him to stand trial for using magic in front of a muggle. Harry panics, but is saved in the night by Mad-Eye Moody and company.
Sooooo, Harry and Mad-Eye keep acting like they personally know each other, but that can’t be the case, right? In the last movie, they didn’t find the real Mad-Eye until the final day of class and Harry spent the whole year getting to know David Tennant pretending to be Mad-Eye. They can’t know each other that well. At best, they’ve maybe met once.
Mad-Eye’s crew brings Harry to the location of the Order of the Phoenix (title drop) where some old friends are already hanging out (yay, Ron) (yay, Hermione). We learn that the Ministry of Magic is covering up all evidence of Voldemort’s return to avoid looking bad. And the head of the Ministry is… wait Cornelius Fudge? For fuckin’ serious? I only mentioned him in the last review because I thought his name was hilarious, I didn’t think he’d actually be, y’know, important.
So Harry eventually gets dragged into court for his hearing.
The system is, of course, totes rigged against him, but through Dumbledore’s intervention, Harry’s name is cleared and they are forced to admit that maybe he was in the right to use magic to save himself from murder-wraiths.
On his way out Harry is pulled aside by a large dog who turns out to be… Sirius Black!
SWEET! I love Sirius Black. He’s the legit best. Sirius talks to Harry about how much he misses James Potter. Which, uh, given the types of jokes I tend to make about Sirius is a little uncomfortable. Like, does Sirius ever call Lupin “James” by accident? Aw dammit, I hope not, I want their relationship to be stronger than that.
Oh but forget about that, because we are off to Hogwarts! Harry and crew take a carriage to the train to Hogwarts, but Harry notices the carriage is being pulled by a skeleton horse. No one else sees the skele-horse except one new character…
This is Luna Lovegood. She’s pretty great. And not just because she’s reading that magazine upside down. Although that’s a big part of it. Luna is portrayed as pretty batshit insane but in a cute way. A cute and kinda spooky way, but nonetheless. Her name though? Like, that one don’t leave much up to the imagination. Shockingly suggestive, in fact. What, was Luna Goodatsex just a step too far?
We arrive at Hogwarts and get another new character. This movie’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is a Ministry of Magic rep named Dolores Umbridge.
If you want a job at the Ministry, is it a requirement that you have a dumb fucking name?
Umbridge is such a great villain. Especially for what this movie is, which is a classic boarding school drama in the purest sense. Umbridge is the ultimate uptight professor for our characters to get the better of. She’s so shitty, it’s the best.
Plus oh my god so much pink.
We also learn something that’s a lot more troubling. There are students at Hogwarts who don’t believe Voldemort is a present threat.
I’m sorry, do you not remember four years ago, when he literally ATTACKED the school while in control of a professor? No, what about three years ago when a giant murder snake terrorized the halls under a contingency plan he enacted? Or two years ago when one of his minions attacked the school again and triggered a Dementor attack? Or last fucking year when a student died under mysterious circumstances and Voldemort’s own personal army came active again?
Can you at least accept the POSSIBILITY that he MIGHT be a thing you have to worry about.
So through Umbridge we get introduced to the new big threat for this movie…
No but serious question time: what are these for? Is there wizard college to go to after college? Because if not, the OWLs can only be to gage the school’s performance, so the students shouldn’t be freaked out about them. Also, Hogwarts has no real competition, so who gives a crap how well they score?
Harry gets pissed when Umbridge implies that Voldemort isn’t really back and shouts that Voldemort killed Cedric as proof.
Um… no he didn’t?
Peter Pettigrew killed Cedric, Harry. You were there? You should remember this?
Whatever, so Umbridge calls Harry in for extra punishment after class. When he arrives in her office she remarks “You’re going to be doing some lines for me today, Mr. Potter.” I wish. Ohmygod, how incredible would coked up Harry Potter be? Answer: SO INCREDIBLE.
Harry begins writing with Umbridges special quit which CUTS THE MESSAGE INTO THE FLESH OF HIS HAND HOLY SHIT.
Christ on a cross, that’s hardcore.
Writing down on my notes right now, “do not… fuck… with Umbridge.” There, got it.
Harry decides to do some sulking in the woods (like you do) and runs into Luna Fuckswell and the skele-horses. Luna reveals that only those who have seen death can see the horskeletons. Which all look like the Jersey Devil, by the way.
I don’t know about you but any creature whose appearance has witnessing a murder as a prerequisite isn’t one I’d feel safe spending time around. And haven’t ALL OF HOGWARTS seen at last one person die at this point? Like, Ron and Hermione haven’t watched at least one first-year take a thirty foot tumble off the moving staircases yet? Really?
Umbridge is assigned to a new position, the Head Inquisitor of Hogwarts. “Inquisitor” is never a GOOD word. No one’s ever like “oh hey, did you see the Inquisitor brought cupcakes? How great is he?”
Sirius talks to Harry through the fireplace in a much cheaper looking effect than last movie and warns him about upcoming danger. But Harry has a problem:
Umbridge isn’t actually teaching any of them how to apply magic directly and without combat training, they will all die in a serious conflict. So what are they to do?
MAGIC FIGHT CLUB!
I’m am so down for magic fight club as a concept it ain’t even funny!
They hold their meetings in the Room of Requirement, which is a secret moving room that only appears to those who need it. We’ll come back to that in a sec.
So fight club begins in earnest with a bunch of wizard duels in training. Which, BT-dubs, maybe not the BEST idea for one of the combatants to be always standing in front of a lit fireplace while practicing knockback magic?
Umbridge suspects the group and sends Filch to hunt them down. So my question is the following: Why can’t he? If the Room of Requirement only appears to those who need it, and Filch needs to find it to perform his duties for his job, shouldn’t it automatically appear to him? Right?
Guess he just didn’t want it bad enough.
Harry’s visions have been getting stronger as Voldemort invades his mind more and more. One night, he witnesses a vicious attack on Arthur Weasley. Arthur survives, but everyone is shaken up as people start to realize that Voldemort might be after something powerful he didn’t have during his last reign of terror.
Back at the Black house, Harry bumps into a house elf who speaks normally which confirms my suspicions about just how effed in the head Dobby was. Harry is having real difficulty fighting back against his darker impulses, which is a plotline that’s been building through the preceding movies in a way I really like.
Voldemort’s initiate a massive prison break of Azkaban which disproves the theory that Dementors are good at even one thing.
From one raid to another, Umbridge blows open the Room of Requirement and forcibly disbands magic fight club, although Dumbledore takes the blame for it before anyone can be expelled. Dumbledore then disappears by exploding into a phoenix which, I’ll concede, is pretty fucking metal.
So now the evil professor is in charge of the whole school and her rules are bringing everybody down. Now is time for the required third-act crazy party that overthrows the establishment somehow and changes everything for the better.
But before that, we see a little flashback into Snape’s past, and get a hint that James Potter wasn’t the kind of perfect human we’ve been previously led to believe. Turns out he was kind of a piece of shit to Snape when they were both students. Sweet, character depth and complexity!
Unfortunately, it’s now time for the OWLs, but right as the exam begins, Fred and George Weasley burst in to shoot off fireworks and cause chaos because Fred and George realize what kind of movie this is.
They are some genre-savy motherfuckers.
But before we can enjoy that too much, shit starts getting real again. Voldemort is going after the special secret artifact he needs, which is at the Ministry of Magic headquarters. And Sirius is being held hostage there. Harry and magic fight club break away from campus to go into battle, fleeing on horskeleton-back which raises some questions. If only Harry and Luna Laidalot can see the horskeletons, is everyone else just riding invisible flying creatures? Because that sounds goddamn terrifying.
They arrive at the ministry building and head straight for that room from the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark where they find they aren’t the first ones there.
A Death Eater appears and– WHAT THE FUCK LUCIUS WHY DID YOU TAKE OFF YOUR MASK? I know Harry already knows you’re a Death Eater but now half your son’s classmates do too.
I will concede the Death Eater outfits are better in this movie. Still not good.
But, like, better.
The battle starts in earnest and it is pretty fun to watch our newly assembled crew kick some ass. It was high time the supporting cast got in on a fight and it feels like a big deal now that it’s finally happening.
harry finds a room with a ghost door which seems important. Sirius finally joins the battle and he and Harry get to fight side by side. The moment when he slips up and accidentally calls Harry “James” hit me so hard emotionally I wasn’t ready for it.
After kicking Lucius Malfoy’s ass with Harry’s help, he’s blasted from behind by Beatrix Lestrange (his evil cousin) and killed. And my heart might have broken a bit. And that’s when I realized something.
I care about these characters. This was always sort of an experiment designed to see if it could get me to care about Harry Potter, which I never had before. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible. But there I was, sitting there, feeling saddened. Experiencing triumph and loss not as a guy scanning every moment for comedic material to be used in a review, but as a fan of the movie having a real moment with it.
“Tell Lupin I loved him.”
Harry goes full on dark wizard at this point and nails Beatrix with a Crucio curse. One of the things I like about this series is that it builds things up so that when they happen, it really means something. Harry casting Crucio really does come off as a Shit Got Real moment because of the setup it’s been given up to this point. Voldemort tries to convince Harry to execute Beatrix, which is gonna make for one awkward car ride home for the two of them later. Harry refuses just as Dumbledore shows up.
Voldey and Dumbles battle a bunch and I think I have realized one problem with these movies so far: Voldemort doesn’t feel all that powerful. Most of the murderin’ is done by his underlings and the only two battles we’ve seen him in at this point were against Harry and Dumbledore, both of whom beat him. As a whole, it doesn’t paint the most threatening of antagonists.
Dumbles rebuffs Voldemort, who makes one last attempt to take over Harry’s soul but Harry pushes him out by focusing on the love and friendships in his life and I know that sounds super corny when I write it out but it worked in the movie I swear you guys.
Fudge shows up just in time to see Voldemort disappear to which he responds: “He’s back?”
Yeah, I thought you knew that? Weren’t you covering up the fact he was back KNOWINGLY to make yourself look good? Because if that wasn’t what was going on, then you’re just a colossal fucking moron.
To quote a classic, Cornelius Fudge, “you’re either lying, or you’re stupid.”
We get a bunch of way-too-quick resolutions via newspaper headlines which is admittedly annoying, but afterwards, we watch magic fight club head toward the train ready to leave for the summer. And I actually can’t wait to see what happens next.
So I know I’ve been told that this one was one of the worst by a number of people. But still…
…I really liked this movie.
Really REALLY liked.
It’s a smaller story but it majorly advances the plot, wraps up a FIVE MOVIE LONG character arc for Harry of rejecting his darker impulses, and actually gives us a larger supporting cast to love. Plus as an english boarding school drama, this is awesome. Hits all the notes pretty well.
I’m not gonna say my full ranked list of these movies (saving that for the final part) But right now, I’d honestly put this down as my second favorite, below part three. Part Three is still a better film, but I’d argue that this one holds together MUCH better as a cohesive whole that part four for instance.
I, um, I love this series. I am fully invested and I understand the appeal of this franchise.
Doesn’t mean I’m not gonna mock the shit out of the rest of these movies though.
Who do you think I am?