Potter Set to Make Movie History
- Tuesday, November 20, 2001
My assumption is that much of the audience has already read the books, so I don't believe I'll be giving too much away by warning parents about the different magical levels. If you want to be completely surprised, read no further.
There are numerous imaginative scenes (too many to mention) for all ages: a talking hat that selects where the students should live, a cat "shape-changes" into a woman, friendly (and funny) ghosts fly around the school and talk to the students, a game of ball is played on flying broomsticks, a mirror reflects what you want most in life, staircases switch in mid-air, dining tables are loaded with wonderful candy and scrumptious treats, owls who (no pun intended) deliver the mail, and my personal favorite, a cloak that makes you invisible.
But there are scenes that go beyond "kid-friendly" in their intensity: a bank is filled with evil-looking goblin tellers, a giant grotesque troll corners a girl in a bathroom and tries to kill her, a giant three-headed dog guards a secret in a forbidden room, black snake-looking vines try to choke Harry and his friends, a dark forest contains a friendly but ugly half-man, a half-horse creature warns Harry, and a giant chess game uses pieces that kill the players.
Some dark scenes are necessary to convey the evil force Harry has to battle: a shadowy figure in a huge dark cloak drinks the blood of a dead unicorn and exposes its sharp fangs to Harry, the back of a man's head contains an evil creature, and Harry touches a man who turns to stone and explodes.
There is a long-standing debate among Christians about seeing this movie, or even reading the books. Many would argue that the influence of witchcraft wrapped in such an appealing package (a magical school that teaches spells and incantations to children who perceive these as fun and powerful) might, in fact, entice children, teenagers or perhaps even adults to explore or embrace elements of that religion. The fact that the characters are removed from parents (the only parents shown are silly, bullying or cruel) and told that their classmates and professors are their new "family" only adds to the subliminal message.
Others see the books as an example of literary genius, and they are grateful their children are enthusiastic about reading the books. Avid fans who are eagerly anticipating the movie will find it phenomenally entertaining.
Offensive language: Since the story is set in England, the accents make some of the dialogue difficult to understand and could frustrate younger children (even a few adults) who can't comprehend or understand the words. A few crude words are sprinkled throughout.
Sexual situations: None
Violence: The darker scenes are listed above, but I might add that the final scene of Harry battling Voldemort is extremely intense. In a couple of scenes, wizards and witches use incantations or magic to harm or play a trick on several characters.
Parental advisory: If you are going to let your child or adolescent see this movie, attend the film with them. Afterward, you can discuss the darker elements of the story and answer any questions he or she might have. Also, this movie delivers entertainment on a multitude of levels, but don't blindly trust the PG rating. Consider this before letting young, impressionable children (even older kids) who are prone to nightmares see this movie.
My concern goes well beyond this movie or Rowling's first book, to the overall influence and acceptance of witchcraft as it becomes more and more embraced and accepted by our culture. This movie undoubtedly will cast the same enchanting spell as Rowling's first book. The impact of seeing the characters and magic come alive on screen will have a powerful and lasting effect on impressionable young minds. I liken it to a modern-day pied piper playing his captivating tune to charm children away from their religious beliefs and parental authority.
The subliminal influences and enticement of this film series could lead curious, initiated seekers, down the path of dabbling in the occult. This first movie is only an introduction. The other films that will follow will, like the books, only get darker. Director Chris Columbus has admitted as much. And for those who try to argue that there is a "difference between what witches and Satanists believe in" and that "witchcraft (white or black) is not dark or demonic because witches don't believe in Satan" - spare me your rhetoric. The truth is, all of it leads to the same end.
That said, the bottom line is, parents, it's really up to you. How you have raised your child to separate fantasy entertainment that they view in a movie from real-life beliefs and behavior and the level of maturity (both spiritually and culturally) of your child is something only you can judge. Your parenting decisions are between you and God.
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