I'm sponsoring Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and its first match is The Lion King, backed by Jessica at Meet the Buttrams. Read on to see why Harry should prevail.
* * *
The Harry Potter series of films is blessed by phenomenal source material and I think they are all good, but when asked to choose my favorite (so far), it's not a hard decision at all. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix chronicles Harry's 5th year at Hogwarts. The film is a tight, compelling, and fully-formed story that has the power to capture the hearts and minds of both children and adults in the audience.
The film opens with a Dementor attack on Harry and his distasteful cousin, and Harry is brought up in front of a jury by the Ministry of Magic for unlawful use of magic by a minor. While in London, Harry meets members of the Order of the Phoenix and is surprised to find that his nemesis, Snape (imbued with divine ambiguity by the talented Alan Rickman), is one of the trusted few. Though Harry is cleared of the charges at the hearing, we get a first glimpse into the tyranny that will be brought to Hogwarts by the grating Professor Umbridge, who in her ill-fitting pink suits, is about as delightful as nails on a chalkboard. It quickly becomes clear that the Ministry's desire to deny of the return of Voldemort has been manifest in a campaign designed to smear Harry, which has reached all the way to Hogwarts and threatens his friendships at school - the only place Harry has ever been happy.
In response to the Ministry's edict that the Hogwarts students will not actually learn any defenses against the dark arts in the course of that name, Harry and his friends form a secret society they dub 'Dumbledore's Army' and begin to practice the spells that will arm them for a conflict against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. This strengthens the bonds between Harry and his schoolmates and begins to relieve some of the isolation he felt as the school year opened.
When Harry receives a vision of an attack on his beloved godfather, Sirius Black, at the Ministry of Magic, his friends Ron, Hermoine, Ginny, Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood join him in a journey to London to try to save Sirius. It turns out to be only a ploy by Voldemort to lure Harry to the Hall of Mysteries. A battle ensues between the Order and the Death Eaters which results in the death of Sirius at the hands of his cousin, Bellatrix LeStrange, using the unforgivable Avada Cadavra curse. Harry chases after her and Voldemort appears, taunting him to use the same unforgivable curse to kill her. At this point, Albus "The Man" Dumbledore (insert we're-not-worthy bows here) arrives and engages in a truly epic duel with Voldemort. During the duel Voldemort possesses Harry, who fights back from within and discovers that he has something Voldermort never will, the love of friends.
The themes running through the film, the bureaucracy and authoritarianism of the Ministry of Magic, the factionalism in the wizarding world, the erstwhile isolation of adolescence, the acceptance of the oddities of individuals such as Luna and Neville that can lead to tight bonds of friendship, and the power those bonds can provide to us against the difficulties of the real world, reflect that these films are growing up right along with their protagonist. Drawing from the terrific source material of the novel, brought to life by a superb cast - both the maturing child actors and a phalanx of talented adults, backed by an inspired soundtrack and impressive special effects, particularly in the culminating duel scene, this installment of the Harry Potter series is, in my humble opinion, the most enjoyable so far.
* * *
So why should Order of the Phoenix advance past that Disney juggernaut, The Lion King? Nobody does animation better than Disney and the The Lion King is a well-executed version of old school animation that brings the circle of life, well, to life. But we're all adults here, right? Wouldn't you rather watch the most kick-ass wizard of all time marshal the forces of fire and water to triumph over evil than have that insidious "Hakuna Matata" song stuck in your head? Just sayin'. Either way, click over to EduClaytion and vote for your favorite.
Photos courtesy Warner Bros.