"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth movie in the series, sets the stage for the end of the franchise, which has only two more installments.
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. (Warner Bros.)
At the end of the last one, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," we saw Cedric Diggory die at the hands of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), whose return is a large concern in "Order of the Phoenix."
The Ministry of Magic, and specifically Minister Fudge (Robert Hardy), does not believe in Voldemort's return. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) knows it to be true because he saw Voldemort firsthand. This places Harry at odds with the leadership of the society he inhabits and thus makes him an outcast. This also makes the Ministry of Magic move against Hogwarts School and specifically Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). The Ministry appoints Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Stauton) as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for the school.
Umbridge slowly takes over the school and emphasizes there is no need for students to practice magic—only know its theory. Harry knows the threat of Voldemort is real, and he organizes a clandestine group of students who practice magic to prepare for Voldemort's attack. When the students are found out, Harry tries to take the blame, but Dumbledore claims responsibility. Umbridge attempts to send Dumbledore to Azkaban (the prison for wizards and witches), but he disappears—leaving Hogwarts under the complete control of Umbridge.
In his dreams, Harry discovers that Voldemort is attempting to steal something from the Ministry of Mystery: a prophecy he did not have in his first attack, which killed Harry's parents. Harry and his fellow students go to the Ministry in hopes of getting the prophecy first, and therein lies the showdown with Voldemort's followers.
The strength of this movie is the cast. The three primary actors—Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson—are wonderful together, but the small parts really make this movie so wonderful. James and Oliver Phelps, who play the Weasley twins, nearly steal the show as fearless free spirits. Matthew Lewis as the awkward Neville Longbottom is a revelation. His ability to project true shyness and woundedness makes us take notice.
As the series began, my first review offered that Harry Potter is the Moses of his people. He came forth to lead his people from something to something. Now, as the series moves to conclusion, Harry becomes more and more Messianic. In one scene, Harry is forced to write, "I will not tell lies," for Umbridge. This happens because Harry tells the truth of Voldemort's return. While he writes those words, "I will not tell lies" become wounds written into his skin. My thoughts turned to Isaiah 53:5, where it is written that "with his stripes we are healed." Harry endures the pain of knowing the truth.
Harry faces his temptation to become like Voldemort in this movie. He must navigate through that temptation—killing a person who has killed a friend—in order to emerge stronger and better than Voldemort.
The release of the (alleged) final Harry Potter book is only days away, and many have wondered if Harry will die at the story's conclusion. With no knowledge of how this will end—and without having read a single book in the series—it is easy to get that impression from this movie. Harry Potter seems to be faced with the possibility that his life may have to be sacrificed in order for others to live.
And again, that turns my thoughts to Scripture …
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.
Director: David Yates
Writer: Michael Goldenberg (based on the novel by J. K. Rowling)
Cast: Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe; Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint; Hermione Granger: Emma Watson; Lord Voldemort: Ralph Fiennes; Albus Dumbledore: Michael Gambon; Delores Umbridge: Imelda Stauton; Sirius Black: Gary Oldman.
The movie's official Web site is here.
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
Movies Spark Healthy Debate
Pastor Takes on Potter-Bashers