Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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It's a well-worn story. A messianic man-child, pursued by a malevolent father figure, labors to harness his powers and save the world. As the champion matures, the dilemma underlying the operatic clash of good and evil comes into focus: how to reconcile inherited strengths with the darker side of parental legacy. One reason J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has been a hit with adults is its handsome framing of this age-old question, which echoes Greek myth (Zeus and Cronos), Celtic romance (Arthur and Uther), and even the pesky gnostic take on Christianity. But I've always suspected it's the resemblance to the pop-cult myth of our day, the Star Wars saga, that has sealed the deal for its legions of thirtysomething fans. The richly imaginative details of Rowling's magic prep-school universe notwithstanding, surrogate pa Albus Dumbledore has a lot in common with Ben Kenobi, Harry screams Luke Skywalker, and you-know-who is Darth Vader's obvious next of kin. Now, on the eve of Phoenix's long-awaited publication, Rowling faces the hurdle that brought down Attack of the Clones: how to bring big, bad dad center stage without disappointing. If the four books comprising the series so far can be considered roughly equivalent to the first Star Wars trilogy, Rowling's already avoided some of troubling father-figure Lucas's mistakes--Goblet of Fire didn't blow, as even the Ewok-free edit of Return of the Jedi kinda did. So despite the book's daunting 900 pages I give her a sporting chance. Almost every bookstore in the city has some late-night event involving games, costume contests, or giveaways lined up this Friday, June 20, for the midnight release of the tome, which, thanks to its similarly intergenerational appeal, will likely set records on the order of those set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Call your local bookstore for information.

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