We have been muggling along for thirteen plus years now with the Harry Potter saga. It’s been an interesting and sometimes wild ride into the imagination of the good Ms. Rowling. Ms. Rowling readily admits her influences, most obviously Tolkien and Lewis, and says she is also a professing Christian. It is thus not surprising that in this final episode of the Potter saga, a ‘resurrection stone’ plays a key role in the revival and final triumph of Harry Potter over evil in the form of Voldemort and his buddies. We saw this film in IMAX 3D, something new for Harry Potter with a packed crowd in a theater in Durham N.C. Many of the young people had come dressed in costume, and were ready for a celebration. This movie however is not a party, it is a battle, full of action and intrigue, and I would say that on the whole it is the most satisfyingly dramatic of the entire series resolving as it does most of the major plot lines of these novels.
Unfortunately for the real fans who read the novels first, while the films are very enjoyable, there are always issues about the way they are adapted for the silver screen, and not just adapted, but changed. Our daughter Christy was ticked off with some of the changes. For example, there any destroying of the elder wand. The director missed entirely an opportunity to emphasis how it was Harry’s mother’s spell that was protecting him through life. And if you’ve got the resurrection stone and you want to come back to life, why would you drop it in the forest? The movie does not explain. I could go on and on with a list, but this brings up the issue of why movie makers think they know better than authors how the story should go and what makes for a good ending.
On the plus side, the three central characters are just as likeable as ever. We could use a little more humor in this episode, but humor was not entirely lacking. The visuals in IMAX 3D were spectacular, as was the interaction between the main characters. The music was also effective. When set beside Deathly Hallows I, this movie was all the way around a far better, more interesting, more dramatic, more satisfying film. The flash-forward at the end to 19 years later is a nice light touch to bring the series to a close. My favorite line in the film was that of Dumbledore when Harry is in the afterlife and asks, ‘is this all in my head, or is this real?’ Dumbledore replies “Well of course it is in your head, but why in the world would that make you think it isn’t real?’ Why indeed! The subjective world may be stimulated by and mirror the objective world.
Perhaps you will remember how, quite unnecessarily, there were lots of protests from very conservative Christians, about these novels and then movies. This sort of knee jerk reaction shows Christianity off at its obscurantist worst, especially when the essential elements in these novels are no different than what we find in Lewis and Tolkien. The issue of magic, both black and white magic, is an important issue for those who believe in the supernatural. Magic by definition is the attempt of humans to control forces larger than ordinary life, something humans have always been trying to do since Day One. Miracle by definition is a top down view of things, believing God is in control and will intervene and help, even in stupendous ways at times. The Harry Potter movies raise the same kinds of issues about miracle and magic as did Tolkien and Lewis. How we resolve those issues raises the right issues about what we believe about God, and trusting God with our lives.
Here’s to Harry and Hermione and Ron and friends. They have made us think and wonder, and when you lose your ability to have a sense of awe and wonder, you have lost your ability to ‘turn and become as a child, and so enter the Kingdom’.