Movie Review

"Harry Potter" and the Danger Within

Artistic Rating:
Comments: Not quite as "magical" as the book upon which it's based. A faithful adaptation, which should please Potter fans.
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman
Written By: Steve Kloves
Rated: PG for some scary moments and mild language
Running Time: 2 hr: 22 min
Scripture References: Deuteronomy, Chronicles 33:6, Leviticus 20:6

The wait is over. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone finally arrives at the multiplexes in one of the most faithful screen adaptations of a popular novel made in recent memory.

For the uninitiated minority, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is a British orphan being raised poorly by a family of Muggles (non-magic folk). Those Muggles, the Dursleys, lavish their attention upon their spoiled and sniveling son, Dudley, much to the neglect of Harry. Sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs; never getting gifts on his birthday; Harry hasn't really known what it is like to be part of a family. Now, on his 11th birthday, all that is going to change.

It turns out that Harry's parents were wizards and now that he's old enough, he's been invited to attend Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a boarding school for the magically inclined. There, Harry truly becomes part of a family and has the adventure of his life.

All of the major events and most of the characters of the novel, the first in a series by author J.K. Rowling, are present. From the Quidditch match (a sporting event played on flying broomsticks) to the three-headed beast named Fluffy, the film tells the story of the book with exacting accuracy but alas, only with a part of the flair.

The problem is certainly not in the casting. Having read the book, I have to say that all characters were well represented by the human actors depicting them. Daniel Radcliffe is a spot-on perfect Harry. His costars are equally matched: Rupert Grint as the redheaded Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as the know-it-all Hermione Granger. Robbie Coltrane is also a standout as the mountainous Hagrid.

Columbus translates Rowling's vision to the screen with both loving care and sharp awareness of the qualities that have made the Potter stories so immensely popular. What he couldn't imitate was Rowling's incredible ability to stimulate her readers' imagination through her writing. Having it presented to us on screen just isn't the same as reading it on paper and imagining it for ourselves. I suppose the film does succeed as well as any film could and those who liked/loved the book will undoubtedly have the same reaction to this filmed rendition.

Those who opposed the book on spiritual grounds will have every reason to oppose the film for the same reasons. Columbus kept the dark elements of the book intact. Although the conflict between good and evil is still very evident throughout the story, it remains ensconced in a world where wizardry and witchcraft are desired skills to learn and employ. Although the film be fantasy, this is an extremely dangerous message to send to eager young minds.

"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee." Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (KJV)

Yes, there are positive messages within Harry Potter: the struggle between good and evil, the importance of friendship, self-sacrifice and discipline are all elements that are clearly exhibited. It is just that they are contained within a framework of supernatural lies and spiritual error. What then should our response be? Forbidding our children to see the film will not protect them from the influence exerted upon them from this cultural phenomenon. The only defense against wrong doctrine is right doctrine. We must therefore be open and honest with our children regarding the negative attributes of the wizardry, which the Harry Potter world depicts as being so appealing. We need not fear the darkness when the light is so near at hand.