Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
2 hr. 22 min.
Year of Release:
November 16, 2001 (wide)
It is difficult to argue against success…almost impossible. J.K. Rowling’s four books have grossed over $100 million in sales. There are more than 700 tie-in products. The film has set and broken several records: it opened in a record 3,672 theaters, shown on a record 8,000 screens, breaking the record (once held by “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”) for one-day sales at $32.9 million. It smashed the total weekend sales (once held by “Jurassic Park: Lost World”) at $93.5 million. I am sure it will reach $100 million in four days (beating the record now held by “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”—which reached $100 mil in 5 days). Now Christian parents will have to decide if they can resist this new tidal wave of media pressure.
There is an on going literary debate surrounding the content of the stories. Christians are even divided on this very controversial issue. I know that I wrote a brief article for my weekly parents guide to the movies (which is published in a local paper) and I received a 4-page letter from a local clergy. Pat Robertson’s CBN News has been very outspoken regarding the content of the Harry Potter books as “evil and occultic”. Charles Colson on his radio show “Breakpoint” described the witchcraft in Harry Potter as “not real-life witchcraft that the Bible condemns”. He also said “the practices in the book are purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic.”
Jeremiah Films has described the series as “making evil look innocent”. Focus on the Family has posted an article in their Plugged-In magazine by Lindy Beam. She contends that adults can use the themes of the Harry Potter series as a tool for evangelism. Christianity Today and World Magazine has also given the book series recommendations and suggests that the themes of fantasy should not be taken literally. You can find an opinion to support whatever view you have on the subject.
I enjoy reading Fantasy and Science Fiction Literature. (In fact, I’m writing a series of Christian sci-fi spiritual warfare books called “The Hologram Investigator”). I’m well aware of the debate over children’s ability to separate fantasy from reality. The books, after all, have received an enthusiastic endorsement from the American Psychiatric Association. But I still struggle with the themes in the books and, now that I have seen the film, the straining seems even more intense.
First of all, I want to make one point very clear. Reading or watching Harry Potter will not send you to Hell. I just think that parents should use wise and well-founded discernment regarding the content of this product. I believe there is a vast difference between a story where the main character goes to a school for witches and wizards vs. the use of a wizard in The Hobbit and a witch in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. I also think that the emphasis on magic is different than its use in the book “A Wrinkle in Time”. If you found those themes objectionable in the Harry Potter books—they are very convincing in the film.
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is the story of an orphan boy that lives in the cupboard under the stairs. He is being raised by his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys (Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw). They pamper their own son and abuse their nephew. Harry, however, is destined for greater things and has been selected to attend Hogwarts (a renowned school for wizards and witches). There Harry’s gifts begin to flourish and he finds out that he is especially good at Quidditch (a game involving flying brooms and four balls). Harry also begins to build friendships with Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). They are shown studying and practicing the occult like real students. The movie covers his first year in school. Harry has to learn how to separate his friends and his enemies, which is not always an easy task. The primary plot point surrounds a faculty member who is trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry also learns that a character named Voldemort murdered his parents and left the scar on his forehead.
There is plenty of suspense in this well-written story. This film succeeds in every possible way. I am sure it will walk away with no less than six Oscars. Director Chris Columbus did an outstanding job translating the story to the big screen. He set aside his ego and allowed Rowling to have a great deal of input in the project (a courtesy that many writers do not enjoy). Rowling even got to select many of the cast members. She also worked closely with Steven Kloves on the script. From the set design to the finished product, everyone wanted to satisfy Rowling’s reluctance to have her stories made into films. John Williams also conducted an outstanding musical score. His music brilliantly captured the personality of the characters and the mood of every scene. The special effects were well placed and not over-done.
My primary objection to the film and the story is the very strong and central theme of witchcraft. This is condemned clearly in Deuteronomy 18:10-12. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” I plead with parents to use strong discernment regarding this film. Matt. 18:6 “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” My cautions are underscored by the fact that we are living in a day different than “The Wizard of Oz”. We are technologically “not in Kansas” anymore.
The Internet (which has numerous fan sites hyper-linked to Wiccan and Witchcraft sites) and this compelling visual film experience could be powerful enough to engage young minds to ponder “the dark side”. Many of the toy tie-ins promote spells (55 mentioned so far in the series) and witchcraft. Parents may want to wisely choose their “potter”.
What could be the consequences of placing the clay of young minds on Harry Potter’s wheel of fantasy? I do know that Warner Brothers is enjoying two gifts this Christmas. One, for the box office success and two, for a PG rating in a film that is extremely violent. I recommend that you resist this “Pied Piper” and skip it altogether. Alternately, I highly recommend the “Redwall” series by author Brian Jacques. I have suggested it as a reading alternative to several parents and they and their children have thanked me. If you can avoid the Harry Potter hype—you too may one day thank me.
Harry Potter series reviews
A warning… “I respect the opinions of all those here, however! My experience comes from being an ex Wizard/warlock/satanist myself and now serving the Lord without any spells or so called magic. Witchcraft is very real, and anything that points to witchcraft being good or acceptable is against the Bible.
Please note that the opinions expressed in viewer comments below do not accurately reflect an appropriate cross-section of the Christian community because many Christians chose not to view this film.