Higher Movies: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by The Rev. Matthew Ruesch

During most summers the release of a new Harry Potter movie would cause Potter fans to get very excited. With Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opening in theaters just ten days before the release of the final book, Deathly Hallows, it would be easy to relegate the movie to the back burner. I would still recommend taking the time to see the movie, if for no other reason than to start priming your minds for Deathly Hallows. Order of the Phoenix diverges from the book quite a bit more than its four predecessor movies, yet still maintains an adequate degree of faithfulness to the original. Significant editing should be expected when 800+ pages is compressed into 2 hours and 25 minutes. And unlike the first four movies, there is very little comic relief. The mood is dark and sad, but it serves to highlight the times witches and wizards are living within, once “You-Know-Who” has returned.

“Year 5” of the Potter series finds Harry struggling against the public’s refusal to accept his claims of Voldemort’s return, at the same time that he struggles with the personal connection he and the dark wizard had forged between them when he was only a year old. His godfather, Sirius Black, poignantly reminds him, “The world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters (Voldemort’s followers),” but that there is “light and dark” within each of us. Harry’s internal struggle is actually reminiscent of the “saint and sinner” battle that a Christian faces in her own earthly life. Just as Satan seeks to bend us towards his will through our Old Adam, Harry must deal with Voldemort’s attempts to steer him towards his own selfish will.

Despite the number of renowned British actors appearing in Order of the Phoenix, the acting from the younger actors seems awkward at times. Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint seem up to task as Harry, Hermione, and Ron — but many of the other characters seem forced. And of course, the debate continues as to whether Michael Gambon even read the books before taking on the role of Albus Dumbledore. The calm, collected Dumbledore of the books appears gruff and harsh in the movie version. Fans will especially enjoy the fireworks scene involving Ron’s brothers, Fred and George — especially after all the torment students have endured at the hands of Dolores Umbridge. Imelda Staunton plays the Ministry of Magic plant on the Hogwarts faculty to perfection. You’ll find she’s just as nasty and toxic as her print counterpart!

Perhaps the most enjoyable on-screen addition to the story is Luna Lovegood, played by Evanna Lynch. Her character comes across even more airy and peculiar than in the book. In addition, she provides what I see as the key line of the movie. To a grieving Harry she remarks, “Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end.” How true for us as Christians! The perfect image of God lost during the fall comes back to each of us at the end of time when our Lord Jesus returns in glory. When we grieve the loss of loved ones in death, we look with joy and hope to the resurrection when “death is swallowed up in victory.” (Isaiah 25:8, 1 Corinthians 15:54)

We still have one more book and two more movies to find out how those whom Harry has lost will come back to him. That’s an important reminder for Christians as well. Often Christians make the honest mistake of saying that we look forward to dying and “going to heaven.” That’s only part of the story! The end doesn’t come when we die. The end comes when our Lord comes on the clouds with the sound of the trumpet! The writers of the New Testament placed their hope in the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead (Especially see Paul in Philippians 3). On that glorious day, what you and I have lost will come back to us as well!

The Rev. Matthew Ruesch is pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, Garrison, MN, and a recent attendee of FOR YOU in Minneapolis, MN.

Created: August 2nd, 2007