Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Anyone who loves Harry Potter will have seen the fifth movie by now, but I figured I'd go ahead and write something about it. Only, that something turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be. So, enjoy.

I only just got to see it last Sunday on IMAX. "The Order of the Phoenix" does not contain very many special sets or scenes that make it worth watching on IMAX, but it's still a great experience. What I did not understand was why the 3-D part of the film lasted for a mere 20 minutes. If the entire film had been in 3-D it would have been more spectacular. I'm glad they did decide to use it at least a little bit, and for the best part of the entire movie: the Ministry of Magic scene where the battle between good and evil hits its peak. Using visions of a tortured Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, Voldemort lures Harry to the Hall of Prophecies at the Ministry of Magic because He desires to possess a prophecy only Harry can take out of its holding place. Harry brings his closest friends with him, Hermione, Ron, Neville, and new to the series Luna Lovegood. Voldemort and Dumbledore have an ultimate dual during this scene and (spoiler alert) Bellatrix Lestrange kills Sirius. Sirius falls back into an archway in the middle of the room and disappears from site. Harry still hears voices coming from the archway, however. This climactic scene is the only real plot point in the entire film. The rest of the film leads up to this moment where Harry must choose good over evil in order to prevent Voldemort from taking over him.

The film has less of a plot to it and very little mystery. The book builds more on Harry's visions that lead him to go to the Hall of Prophecies, but the movie, with very little time, must choose what is most important to the film. I am happy with what writers and directors chose to keep. In this film you see very little of Harry's friends and professors and lots of Harry. You will find that the development of Harry's character in this film will become very important in the sixth movie. While the fifth installment lacks mystery, it lays the foundation for future installments. Harry deals with his dark side and must choose whether to give in or stand up to evil.

Part of Harry learning to stand up for himself comes from his experience with Dolores Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic. Too proud to admit Voldemart has returned, the Ministry turns to lies and deception to keep up their reputation. They take over Hogwarts in the form of Professor Dolores Umbridge, who tidies things up by enforcing harsh rules, firing some questionable professors, and preventing the students from practicing spells. In response, students form their own secret society where Harry teaches them how to defend themselves against the Death Eaters, or Voldemort's followers. Harry grows as he teaches them, but still struggles with teenage hormones. He gains his first kiss with Cho Chang. On top of this, he still does not know what to do about his violent emotions. He says he's angry all the time and isolates himself from his friends. Luna Lovegood reminds him of the importance of community in fending off our foes. By the end of the film, Harry has a better idea of who he is as a person and of what his purpose is in life. Although it has been mentioned in past films, (spoiler alert) he finally understands that he has something Voldemort will never have: love and friendship. He chooses the good and pushes Voldemort out of his mind. Voldemort leans over Harry and whispers, "You will lose." The Ministry walks in and there's no denying the truth any longer.

David Yates directs the film for his first Harry Potter flick and I have to say I really enjoyed it. While the third film was my favorite, I did not like the direction of "The Prisoner of Azkaban." I would not mind the original director of the Potter films returning, but I also dislike the director of the fourth film. The sixth film should be interesting. I did not like the fifth book much, but loved the movie. I love the fourth book, but hated the fourth movie. I wonder what my impression will be of the sixth movie. The sixth movie is the beginning of the end of the series and cleans off looses ends from the fifth film. It will be important that it is done well and that parts of the book left out are tastefully chosen. One thing's for sure, I hope they bring back Nicholas Hooper as the composer. "Order" has the most beautiful and fulfilling soundtrack out of all the films. It builds off the original soundtrack in small amounts, but contains mostly new material that really connects with characters and events in the film. I highly recommend it. The acting in the film is also worth mentioning. Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson have grown so much in their abilities; it's hard not to like them. Newbie’s also do not disappoint. Imelda Staunton is ironically wicked as the cat loving, pink wearing Dolores Umbridge and Evanna Lynch's calm, strangely pitched voice adds character to the role of Luna Lovegood. It really is the best Potter film yet. Helena Bonham Carter also joins the cast as Bellatrix Lestrange. Considering how few lines she has she portrays a lot about her character just by body language and costume.

I found extra meaning in this film because I recently read a book called "Looking for God in Harry Potter" by John Granger. Reading this book and thinking more about the plot lines I found three main Christian elements in the story of this film:

1. Community. Harry tries to go it on his own, but finds he can't. Luna Lovegood reminds him that his friends provide support and loving care to him, encouraging him in his fight against evil, not to mention his fights against his own hormones. In the end, it is the memory of this love and friendship that enables Harry to say no to Voldemort. Likewise, we as Christians have many battles to face. We find support in community. We pray for each other and treat each other as we wish to be treated. We find that we all have a part to play in the building up of the church and no individual God-given gift can accomplish anything on its own. We also find community in the Order of the Phoenix, which bands together to fight Voldemort, as well as in Dumbledore's Army, the group of students Harry secretly teaches when Umbridge forbids the practice of magic. Interestingly enough, throughout history the phoenix has been a symbol used for Christ. Dumbledore also stands as a God-like father figure.

2. Life after death. Harry hears voices coming from the archway that Sirius disappears into at death. From this we gather that there is life after death and we always have something to hope for. Luna Lovegood tells Harry at the end of the film that things have a way of coming back to us in unexpected ways.

3. Good vs. Evil. Like many today, the Ministry of Magic is too proud to admit to its statesments are false and fight evil. Instead, they let evil take over and become evil themselves. Throughout the film, Harry struggles with the possibility that he could become just like Voldemort. A dark side in Harry begins to rise. He questions Sirius, asking why he feels so angry and what exactly the implications of his anger are. Both Sirius and Dumbledore indicate to Harry that everyone has both good and evil in them, it is which side they choose to act upon that matters. As Christians, we find the same thing true with our hearts. We all have a sinful nature that came with the fall. We can't get rid of our fleshly tendencies, but we can choose to say no to the temptation when it comes. It won't stop coming, we can still say no. Satan will try to attack our minds telling us that we, too, will "lose" (and I certainly am prepared to lose everything for God because I know God will provide and that there are more important things than the things of this world and that I have a better life to look forward to in Heaven), but with God's help we can do anything. Once you decide to accept Christ, you belong to Him and Satan cannot take your soul. All he can do is try his best to keep you from bringing others to Christ. We all have the potential to do evil, but it is our choices that matter because God gave us free will.

So, I am a huge Harry Potter fan and I am a Christian. No that is not redundant or contradictory. Harry Potter is a great story that we all can learn from. You'll find that the fifth Harry Potter film will fill you up with a lot to digest. Not just the great special effects (I especially like the transitions, dueling scene, and newspaper headlines) and great acting, but the morals and the continuation of a great story worth watching over and over again.

1 comment:

Scott Ryan said...

wow what a movie the picturisation is also awesome i am big fan of harry potter