On an entertainment/story-telling/aesthetic level the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 gets an A+. Spiritually speaking, it gets a C+. I’m reflecting on some of those spiritual themes of the final book… and how they were changed for the film.
If you don’t want the ending of either the book or the movie spoiled it’s probably a good idea to stop reading here.
It seems to me that this last book in the series was where J.K. Rowling sort-of came out of the closet. It was growing increasingly clear that the books were quite spiritual. But it’s not until the last third of the last book that things become quite specifically and inarguably Christian.
Most generally of course is the surprising idea that Dumbledore, who appears as a God-The-Father figure has been orchestrating the sacrifice of Harry to save everybody else from the incarnation of evil. Further, Voldermort is identified with a snake. Harry essentially comes back from the dead after going to “King’s Cross.” And in the book, Voldemort has no power over Harry when he returns.
The movie was different on this count. And a bit disapointingly so.
When Harry comes back from the dead Voldermort continues to have power over Harry. It was visually exciting but theologically disapointing.
A profound truth that is difficult to put into words but was well-captured by the book: In yeilding, in weakness, we aquire this great strength. Evil loses its ability to impact us when we submit in this way.
The movie redeemed itself somewhat on this count when Voldemort more or less disinigrated. If Harry had used the groovy ultimate-power wand this action would have cared a profound implication. The movie further redeemed itself when Harry broke the wand… but I still wish they’d kept these features of the book.
A similiar theologically disapointing change was the scenes right before Harry’s death.
In the book a great spectacle is made out of kicking the crap out of Harry. He is beaten bloody. Theologically this was disapointing because I thought that the scene in the book was a really powerful paralell to the Jesus story, a bit like the scene in the Narnia movie where they shave Aslan before killing him.
I don’t think you can even make the case that this change made for a better movie if you disregard theology. Watching Harry got trashed would have heightened the drama. And scenes like that one, where the antagonist trounces the protagnoist in such a public, humiliating, and flamboyant way heightens our hatred of the bad guy: it makes it clear that the villian is a sadist, doing the deed merely for the enjoyment.
Finally, the film seemed in some ways more reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Stand” than the book it was based on. In “The Stand” the Satan figure has appeared omnipotent through out the whole book. Yet as the climax nears he begins to fall apart. Stephen King has spoken some about how he wanted to potray the idea that evil can seem so powerful and yet is something of a paper tiger.
I respect this view. But I also disagree. And I don’t think the idea wpowas really in the book at all. But in the whole second half of the movie we see Voldermort doubting himself and looking like he’s on the verge of falling apart. While I believe that Good is inherently more powerful than evil, I also believe that Evil is way more powerful than me under my own power.
However, the movie was great fun. And spiritually challenging. I can’t ask for too much more than that.