There are two sets of folks who will be seeing this film: the huge fans, who have read all the books and seen all the previous movies, and the casual acquaintances, who perhaps are being introduced to this series for the first time. Either group will enjoy the experience, but in different ways.
Those who are very familiar with the scriptures will always approach a bible movie with mixed feelings: the film, no matter how likeable, is never going to be completely faithful to scripture, without risking a literal woodenness, but if it takes liberties with the story, it risks the ire of those who would have preferred more authenticity. So it is with the avid Harry Potter devotees: the movie is good as far as it goes, but leaves out a significant amount of material (how could it not?), and takes a few (minor) liberties with the story.
That being said, there is much to enjoy about the 5th Harry Potter movie, even for the first-time viewer. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is now an older teenager, still living with his aunt and uncle, who are not exactly evil, but are self-indulgent (read “fat”), vindictive, and unappreciative of Harry’s great talent, which is as a wizard-in-training. Hogwarts, the special “boarding school of magic” which Harry has been attending for the last several years, along with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), is suffering crises both internal and external. It seems the revered Headmaster, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), is under siege from the district, and they’ve sent a smiling shrew appropriately named Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) to “restore order,” which she attempts to do by instituting a blizzard of new rules. Meanwhile, the sort of “Dark Side” of the magic underworld is trying to gain control, too, particularly of Harry Potter, because of his great skill (and they’re making headway with him because of his inner rage). Here, it’s beginning to sound a lot like the Star Wars series, where Anakin Skywalker, though enormously gifted with The Force, must struggle with the Dark Side over whether he will utilize his power for selfish ambition or doing good for others. (Jesus, of course, faced the same temptation, Luke 4.)
Suffice it to say that Harry Potter shows us a human side, and yet does not betray his internal integrity, or jeopardize his personal destiny. He does, however, feel increasingly isolated, as his good friends seem to be bonding with each other (a hint of romance to come?), and everyone else is either jealous of his talent or afraid of his anger or put off by his self-imposed isolation. Gone is the cute little impish child trying to learn to ride a broom, and in his place is a conflicted, angst-filled, hormonal teenage boy who enjoys teaching others, but also needs a lot of personal space.
From a believer’s point of view, getting past the wizardry and witchcraft stuff (Leviticus 19:31), there is still the main point about striving against the principalities of the world (Ephesians 6:12), as well as the importance of utilizing one’s gifts for the benefit of all (I Corinthians 12:4-7). In a world of tradition, mystery, and the supernatural, mentors are extraordinarily important, and are in a position both to do much good and much harm to their protégées (I Timothy 1: 3-7). There is plenty of interpretation of ancient writing as well as application of individual personality to the task at hand. There’s always more to learn, and sometimes immaturity and compulsiveness will hinder the fulfilling of lofty expectations. In the end, friendship means a lot, as does the sense of affirmation and belonging that derives from meaningful relationships. Oh, and banding together in a caring community is much better than struggling against the world all by yourself. All these principles, of course, could be easily applied to the Church, but, sad to say, the Church seems completely irrelevant here. God is never mentioned. Prayer is never offered. But then, it’s never too late to introduce faith to a mystical mind-set, which needs it more than it thinks.
Questions For Discussion:
1) When have your friends helped see you through a difficult situation? When have you felt that you had to face your personal crisis alone? (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)
2) Do you believe that the world is beset with the invisible forces of evil? (I Peter 5: 8-9)
3) Do you believe that you will live to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? (Psalm 27:13)
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas