4 Stars – Powerful
The Harry Potter films end where they began: Love, which lays down one’s own life for another, is more powerful than evil that takes life. But in this final film, additional spiritual truths are accentuated: Evil may seek a way to find eternal life, but such a life is only possible through love and sacrifice, not through scheming or sorcery; Power that forces servitude is to be rejected outright and even the temptation to do so has to be destroyed; and ultimate meaning in life is found not in magical adventure but in the rewards of friendship, love and family.
In this seventh and final film based on the books by J.K. Rowling, David Yates is once more the director. Having directed the final four films in the series, Yates creates a powerful visual presentation of Steve Kloves’ screenplays. With Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) all having come of age, the feel of the film is not so much that of a high school as much as a cosmic struggle between good and evil only incidentally centered on Hogwarts. But that would be to misunderstand the centrality of the school within the spiritual battle.
Hogwarts is not only a school for witchcraft and wizardry, but it is also in fact the place where the black arts are housed in “forbidden” portions of their library. This dual nature of the school is seen as well in its various houses whose students are chosen in part by their tendencies toward good or evil. But even those tendencies can be resisted or even reversed as seen in such students as Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton).
This is the genius of the books and the films. Good and evil reside closely in all of us. It would have seemed prudent for Hogwarts’ headmasters to have removed the dark arts from their library because Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) would never have known how to use such dark magic to attempt to live forever through the murder of others. But understanding evil is part of the educational process, for evil has been present throughout human history and its study is found not only in universities but also in seminaries and even in Scripture itself. However dangerous it might be that there are those who would misuse such knowledge, evil must be understood in order to be defeated.
We won’t spoil the intrigue of this final battle between these two wizards whose lives are intertwined, but it is well done and full of truths that resonate with both mind and soul. Though the darkness portrayed in these films is not appropriate to be viewed by children, it would be unfortunate for the mature person to not allow the fantasy of such fiction to enlighten them about the reality of this very true struggle between good and evil. On that topic, J.K. Rowling has offered us a powerful narrative.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. It is difficult to underestimate how strong the desire is in all of us to live forever. Where do you receive guidance on this desire in your own life? Is this guidance based on the sacrificial love of God or some human scheme? Why do you answer as you do?
2. When Ron and Hermione finally express their true feelings, it is in a moment of danger and victory. Did you find that expression of their love believable? Why or why not?
3. Nineteen years after the struggle, Rowling suggests that there is now another generation taking their place at Hogwarts. Do you believe the saga will continue, or is the fantasy series finished? Why do you answer as you do?
UPDATE [April, 2019]: for further discussion related to “Christ figures” + “Cinema In Focus”, see the following posts in The Journal of Religion and Film -