This is not my favorite book. (Harry does too much screaming for that.) But it’s a brilliant movie. Some things do suffer in translation, however…. what I loved most about the book was the chapters spent at the House of Black. I laughed so hard reading about them cleaning out bookcases full of toxic “doxies” and other malicious bits of magic. And I felt so bad for Molly when battling the boggart, and loved Lupin so much more when he gave her a hug and reassured her that her fears were unfounded.
Really, the saddest thing about this film is that the adults are not given enough screen time. When they are around, they are magnificent — Tonks with her ever-changing hair, Sirius and his words of wisdom, Snape and his general nastiness. What I missed most was the antagonism between Snape and Sirius, especially their almost-duel in the kitchen. A wonderful part of the book and sadly missing from the film, but that is minor nitpicking on my part.
Where do I even begin? With Luna, perhaps. I don’t know how this was accomplished, but the choice of actress for her is spot on. She fits the image in my head even better than some of the original kids do — a wispy-haired, faint-voiced, ethereal creature with a dreamy expression and surprising sweetness. Oh, yes, and her radish earrings. There is so much to love about it — the moving kittens on the plates in Umbridge’s sickening pink office, Arthur trying to get through the turnstile at the “Muggle station,” the arrival of the Order at the Ministry (those swirls of white and black as they do battle with the Death Eaters are just about the coolest things I have ever seen), the twins feeding their test candies to First Years, the mild romantic tension with Ron and Harry…
But the Fifth Year for Harry at Hogwarts is not all fun in games. In fact, for him, it’s miserable. Why?
Universally, the most-hated character in the fandom. I have never met a single individual who doesn’t loathe her, and it’s not hard to understand why. Her petite, soft voice and girlish giggle contains an entirely different brand of evil than the audience is accustomed to. We GET Voldemort. He’s evil. Malicious. Cruel. Hateful. But then, so is Umbridge, and what makes it all the worse in her case is that she is abusing children with her authority, and she is using such evil for “good.” What kinds of evils? Having Harry write out lines in a pen that carves the words into the back of his hand. Oppressing the students without mercy when she becomes Headmistress. Squelching every bit of individuality and unique thought from their heads. Coming this close to using one of the Unforgivable Curses on Harry, to “gain information.”
Evil. But of a slightly different sort than Voldemort.
Rowling is very clever. Her book, and as such, the film, are full of subtle allusions to certain kinds of thought, political and moral statements, and other symbolism. Like the Ministry’s insistence that Voldemort is dead, and has not returned, in spite of evidence to the contrary. Until he is literally standing in their corridor surrounded by broken glass and smoke, they don’t believe it. Denial, a classic case. They don’t want to believe a great threat has returned and thus pretend it hasn’t, opening themselves up to danger. You cannot deny the existence of evil, for in denying it, evil creeps in. Modern beliefs would have you believe pacifism solves everything, but villains will never agree to be pacifists. You cannot talk your way out of a confrontation with Voldemort’s Death Eaters, and enforcing “government policies” at Hogwarts hinders and removes all their liberties much more than it makes them “safer.”
Voldemort is a true evil that we are “comfortable” with, but Umbridge is of a different sort. My contempt and hatred for her is unparalleled. Questioning and “taking down” Dumbledore, throwing out Trelawney, badmouthing Lupin, and other crimes built steadily in me throughout the book (and the film) and made me as eager to see her downfall as that of Voldemort. It takes a special woman to be “worse” than You-Know-Who.
So what did the kids do, rather than become pacifists like she wanted? They started an army. They studied, they trained, they watched each other’s back, and in the end they put up a heck of a fight. They did not give up even though it was dangerous. They did not give in even when punished. In short, it was a Cause they believed in and fought for to the bitter conclusion.
That’s how we should be. Don’t listen to what the world tells you. If you see an injustice, fight it. If you hear an untruth, correct it. Be as proud of warriors in the Kingdom of Heaven as you can. Because some battles really are worth fighting, and some Umbridges do need “taken down.”
Until tomorrow, dear readers, when I will be full of “early reactions” to the 6th film.