Reviewed by: Robbye Fielden
Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer
What is the Occult? Answer
THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer
FALSE PROPHETS—Nostradamus, did he predict the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York? Answer
Is there valid prophetic evidence that the Bible is God’s Word? Answer
|Featuring:||Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), Michael Gambon, more »|
|Director:||David Yates (feature debut)|
|Producer:||David Barron, David Heyman, Tim Lewis, Lionel Wigram|
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“The rebellion begins”
The fifth installment of the Harry Potter films finds the wizarding world divided over the tragic events surrounding the close of the previous school year. After Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returned from the portkey during the Tri-Wizard Tournament claiming that the Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) had returned to bodily form, the Ministry of Magic began to promote the idea that Harry and anyone who believed his story were liars. Meanwhile, a small contingent of witches and wizards revived an alliance that had opposed Lord Voldemort fourteen years before: The Order of the Phoenix.
In the midst of all of this, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) return to Hogwarts only to find that the conflict is intergenerational. Already grief-stricken from witnessing the death of classmate Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) and the return of Lord Voldemort, Harry is met with tremendous suspicion by the other students at Hogwarts. He finds himself isolated both by the lack of support from his peers as well as the grief he’s struggling to work through. To complicate matters, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position has been filled by Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) whose sickeningly sweet appearance and public behavior masks a harsh disciplinarian with a vendetta against Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts, and all those who maintain the belief that Lord Voldemort has returned. Since Professor Umbridge will only teach a ministry-approved curriculum, which does not include the use of magic in defense, a group of students turn to Harry, the only student with any real experience, to teach them to defend themselves. The group calls themselves “Dumbledore’s Army,” and begins to meet in secret in spite of the many decrees put in place by Umbridge. Together they prepare for whatever battle their future may hold.
The return of Lord Voldemort at the end of “The Goblet of Fire” marks a turn in the mood of the overall storyline. While there have been many dangerous moments for Harry in previous years, the wizarding world is now facing a real and living enemy so evil that most wizards refuse to speak his name aloud. As a result, the fifth book and movie are darker than those that have preceded it. A battle of enormous proportions between good and evil has begun. The gravity of the situation is a tremendous weight for The Order of the Phoenix to carry, and the stress is evident in their interactions and on their faces.
As with the previous Harry Potter books and movies, it is increasingly difficult to capture the level of detail in J.K. Rowling’s writing in a 138-minute film. While an avid Harry Potter reader may find that the movie manages to capture the overall events of the book, a viewer with no knowledge of the book is likely to be a bit lost in the plot. Additionally, detailed-oriented readers may find themselves frustrated with minor changes to the plot as it appears on-screen. Sadly, the limited time of the movie also allowed for little character and relationship development, so viewers must rely on very little information or their pre-existing knowledge of the story. Fans will likely find, regardless, that the directors have accurately captured the newcomers to the story, both human and non-human, from our imaginations and placed them before our eyes. Harry Potter fans will certainly consider this a must-see. As with most series, knowledge of the story and previous movies is a prerequisite for other viewers.
The Harry Potter books and movies have been controversial within the Christian community since they first became so widely popular. The primary objections to this series are without a doubt still present. (The previous four Harry Potter movie reviews cover these objections in great detail.) Harry and his friends are still wizards and witches, and they still have a tendency to knowingly defy the rules in the name of the greater good, often without direct consequences. If it is this sort of material that offends, then know that it is definitively present in typical Harry Potter fashion. There are still bad witches and wizards who will perform the “unforgivable” curses, there are more battles with magic, and Fred and George Weasley (James and Oliver Phelps) are as unruly as usual. Additionally, Harry receives his first kiss (which is rather extended for a first kiss), and the introduction of Dolores Umbridge brings up new issues of being under the authority of someone who is quite cruel in her punishments.
On the other hand, this movie creates multiple opportunities for later discussions of some deep moral issues. For instance, in one discussion with Harry, Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) reminds Harry that he’s not alone in his struggles, but that Lord Voldemort would like Harry to believe that he is isolated because he’s not much of a threat alone. For a Christian, the greatest enemy, Satan, often works in the same way. By isolating a believer and convincing him that he is alone in the battle, Satan leaves him weak and defenseless. Thankfully, we can be confident as believers that Christ never leaves nor forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6), and we have the fellowship of other believers to encourage us as we battle against the Evil One.
Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), also raises a very theological issue during a conversation in which Harry worries that he’s becoming evil. Sirius’s advice to Harry is to recognize that each person has both good and evil in him, but what matters is which he chooses to act on. While the characters of Harry and Sirius apparently do not know God, this capacity for good or evil that Sirius refers to is a Biblical concept. Though a Christian is forgiven of his sins, he still has the freedom to choose to sin again in the future. Fortunately, the Bible tells us that “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:5-7; see also Ephesians 4:22-24). We can rest assured that we are not slaves to sin, and therefore we are free to choose to act in a godly way in all that we do.
[SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS PARAGRAPH] One topic with spiritual implications that is especially apparent in this film is that of death. Throughout the movie many of the characters, Harry most specifically, are struggling with the murder of Cedric Diggory. Then, merely a year later, Harry again witnesses another murder, only this time it hits closer to home. Harry loses the only family he’s ever known when Sirius is killed by Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). This murder takes place within the Ministry of Magic. The room contains an archway which appears empty and quiet to Hermione, who has not experienced a death in her life, yet Harry can hear voices coming from the archway. When Sirius is murdered, he steps through this archway and disappears. While it’s not perfectly clear what the archway represents, there is an implication that an afterlife exists for those in the wizarding world.
This portion of the story provides excellent fodder for a discussion of the certainty Christians have regarding spending eternity in Heaven after death. We know that a place has been prepared for us in Heaven (John 14:1-3), and that by believing in Christ we “will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Undoubtedly there are many more spiritual issues within the plot of this movie, including even an overarching discussion of the battle between good and evil. Despite the usual objections that accompany fantasy involving witches and wizards, there was surprisingly little crude language in the movie. The PG-13 rating is well deserved, however, as there are numerous scary images and an intense wizard battle. Please be aware of this for young and sensitive children; this is not a family film.
The bottom-line is that fans of the Harry Potter books and movies will likely enjoy this latest installment. Those who have not seen the first four movies or have not read the books will find little enjoyment in this film. Additionally, those who previously avoided and boycotted Harry Potter for the associations with witchcraft and the occult should continue to avoid the movie because those premises have not changed. If you choose to see this movie with children, it will be important to take the opportunity to discuss the spiritual matters afterward. There is certainly ample material to create a “teachable moment.”
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.