Publicity image for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had a very strong opening week at the box office, earning $140 million in the United States between its opening last Wednesday and the end of the weekend on Sunday. That’s the fourth-largest such take of the summer, and the most for the Potter franchise.

The film is indeed "darker" than the previous ones, as many critics have noted, but it’s certainly enjoyable even by young children. In addition to the sheer imaginative inventiveness evident in the concept and settings, as has been widely noted, the book and film series have benefited from themes that resonate strongly with their target audiences.

Children, for example, can easily embrace the idea of Harry having a different set of real parents who are much more interesting than the ones with whom he is living, as that is believed to be a common childhood fantasy.

Older kids, for their part, can relate to the series’ reification of the typical adolescent feeling of being misunderstood and possessing great powers and knowledge of which other people, especially adults (muggles, one and all), are unaware.

For adults, political and spiritual themes are particularly prominent in the present installment. The prevalence of political corruption and power-greed in the wizards’ world is all too reminiscent of today’s political culture in the United States, and the vulgarity, rampant irresponsibility, and bias of the wizards’ newpapers are all too familiar to U.S. and British audiences. In addition, the takeover of the Hogwarts school by "progressive" educators (with the wizarding equivalent of the "new math" and "whole language learning" and the institution of a plethora of behavioral regulations like contemporary political correctness codes) would be comical if the real-world counterpart were not so tragic.

In addition, the film has very evocative religious overtones. In its strenuous insistence on the issue of whether the wizards believe in the existence of Lord Voldemort, the film evokes the waning belief in the devil among self-professed Christians that took place during the twentieth century, and it shows the importance that such belief has in motivating religious believers to fight for their faith.

Those are some strong themes for a fantasy story to bear—but perhaps their very power means that this sort of fanciful environment, far removed from our everyday concerns, is particularly suited to such contemplation.