This review was first published in Evangelicals Now (August 2009)
Harry, Hermione and Ron have grown up a great deal in the last few years. So have the films. The sixth Harry Potter film is a far cry from the stiff acting, shoddy effects and inferior direction of the first two films. While the quality has improved, each instalment is darker than the one before as J.K. Rowling’s epic story builds towards its incredible climax.
Storm clouds loom over the film, both literally and figuratively. So many scenes are gloomily monochrome that the few bright ones come as welcome relief. Many of these revolve around the adolescent romantic turmoil of Harry and his friends. The combination of raging hormones and powerful love-potions provides much-needed humour to lighten the chilling central plot line. But there’s a little too much of it, resulting in an uneven, episodic feel, although the teenage target market will enjoy this subplot as much as the rest.
The darkness keeps reminding viewers of the pervading sense of menace facing the wizarding world, caused by the resurgence of the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. Harry’s life is in particular danger, but everything good is under threat from this unspeakable evil. Those who align themselves with virtue, truth and freedom endure the destruction of their homes, physical attacks and even death.
Nevertheless, Professor Dumbledore and his allies are resolute in their determination to fight evil, whatever the personal cost. It increasingly seems that they face insurmountable odds, yet Dumbledore in particular is driven on by a deep conviction that good will ultimately triumph over evil. This assurance springs from his belief that there is, as in Lewis’s Narnia, a deeper, good magic that powers of evil cannot comprehend or conquer.
Some Christians criticised Rowling for writing about wizards and witches. But, whatever her personal faith, she explicitly writes out of a Christian worldview. The denouement of the final book makes this crystal clear. It’s impossible not to watch this film in that light, as a reminder that we live in a dark world, with evil powers which must be resisted, regardless of the personal cost, knowing that one day they will be finally destroyed.