[Note: This is not a typical movie review but an overview of the occult and otherwise objectionable themes in the movie. For more information on the story this movie is based on, please see the CANA article on the book.]
Much like the book by J. K. Rowling that this film is based on, the movie is quite bleak and violent. It opens with Hermione reading a newspaper headline, “Whole Family Murdered.” We can only be grateful that she is just reading this and we are not seeing it, because it only gets worse.
Violent and fearful images
Harry and his friends, Hermione and Ron, are under constant attacks throughout the movie. These attacks are very violent and involve explosions, a lot of spell-casting, torture, blood, maiming, death to both Harry’s friends and others, and frightening creatures and apparitions.
Early on, we are in a room with the villain Voldemort and his cronies where an unfortunate woman is suspended more or less upside-down from the ceiling. She was sympathetic to Muggles (non-magical humans; i.e., humans who are not witches). After several minutes of her being in this state, Voldemort casts a spell that kills her. This is depicted in a brief but very vivid manner. As if that is not enough, Voldemort summons his pet serpent (it is huge and looks quite real and scary) to eat the dead woman. Mercifully, we do not witness the consuming of the victim. At this point, we are still in the early portion of the film!
When Harry visits the town where he was born and his parents murdered, he has brief flashbacks of the murder. He stands at his parent’s grave. One reviewer said Harry weeps but I only heard him sniffle, though he looked sad. However, it’s hard to tell how Harry feels because the actor playing Harry usually has the same expression on his face all the time, in all the movies.
Later, Harry is violently attacked in a creepy old house by an aged woman who turns into a huge serpent. This is a terrifying scene for any child.
Harry and Ron are at a lake where they open a locket that is a Horcrux. A Horcrux is an object that has part of Voldemort’s soul; it is a way he is trying to keep from being killed. Harry and his companions are on a crusade to find all seven Horcruxes and destroy them. When this locket is opened, a huge wall of smoke-like stuff emerges. Ron sees a vision of Hermione and Harry kissing without any clothes on. This is a trick to arouse Ron’s jealousy (which he had recently expressed) but it is certainly rather a racy scene, though the nudity is only partial; however it is clear they are naked and the scene lasts several seconds.
Later in the story, Harry and his friends are captured by the Malfoy family (the Malfoys serve Voldemort). While Harry and Ron are in a cellar, Bellatrix, an ally of Voldemort’s, tortures Hermione. Harry and Ron can her shrieking. In the book, there are a total of ten references in eight consecutive pages to Hermione screaming in pain as she is being tortured. An earlier scene in the film also shows Ron in torturous pain.
Dobby the elf is injured from an attack and dies in Harry’s arms on a beach.
Spells and wands and more spells
The movie is full of people casting spells right and left. It almost never lets up.
Hermione casts a spell on her parents so that they forget her. This is supposed to be a touching scene, but it is in truth offensive and immoral. One of the principles of modern witchcraft is that one should not use one’s powers to control anyone. However, in this scene and others (and in the books), a lot of that goes on.
Later, Harry and his friends cast spells at the Ministry of Magic and almost every time they are confronted by their enemies. Both the heroes and villains are using magic, but of course, Harry is using magic “for good.” This is the philosophy of white magic, or white witchcraft. Casting spells “for good” is unknown to the Bible.
Harry, Hermione and Ron camp in the woods in part of the movie. Hermione walks about casting protective spells. Spells of protection are done in the occult; this is not fantasy.
Wands play such a central role in the plot, that one feels they should get their own credit line!
Harry is constantly being saved by spells and occult magic or by unexpected, fortuitous contrived events.
Death as an old friend
The climax of the movie, if one may call it that, comes when the term “deathly hallows” is explained. Harry and his companions had seen a symbol several places but did not know what it was. They discover that the symbol represents something called the deathly hallows. Hermione reads the story of the deathly hallows from a children’s book bequeathed to her by the deceased Dumbledore, Harry’s mentor (and one might say, the sorcerer of Harry’s apprenticeship).
Three brothers come to a river they cannot cross, so they cast a spell to make a bridge. Death is angry because he is used to people drowning when they try to cross. So he offers each of them a gift for their ingenuity. The older brother chooses to have the most powerful wand in the world; the second brother chooses the power to call up the dead; and the youngest brother asks for the ability to hide from death, and so he receives an invisibility cloak.
The story is depicted as a black and white animation, but it is not cheery or charming. The older brother vanquishes opponents but then his wand his stolen and his throat cut, so Death gets him sooner rather than later. The next brother calls up his dead lover, but, unable to abide in the mortal world, she dissolves. Wrenched by grief, this brother hangs himself (we see a black figure hanging). The youngest brother wears the cloak and thus lives to an old age. When he feels ready to leave life, he passes the cloak to his son and then greets Death “as an old friend.”
Harry and his pals are told that possessing the three hallows gives one the ability to “master death.” Keep in mind, in the film, this story is in a children’s book.
In the book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry discovers that the Invisibility cloak given him by his father is the cloak from the story, and that the deathly hallows are real (this undoubtedly will be included in the final part of the movie).
There are many messages about death in the books, especially in the last book, which are pagan views of death, not Christian ones. This information is given in detail in the CANA article on the book.
The Bible and spells
When Moses was leading God’s people from Egypt into the pagan lands, God warned them not to imitate the practices of the pagans. These practices originated from the worship of false gods.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.” Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 (Emphasis added).
There are many such denunciations of occult practices in the Old Testament. Additional passages in the New Testament condemn divination (Acts 16:16-18) and sorcery, which today is called (occult) magic and spell-casting (Acts 13:8-11, 19: 18-20; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 18:23).
This film is not only too scary for young children, but continues the Harry Potter message that casting spells and performing acts of occult magic is acceptable. The story is austere and cheerless, despite attempts at humor here and there.
Any book or movie that presents occult acts as central to the plot, and elevates to heroism a main character (or characters) who cast spells will ultimately and naturally turn dreary and desolate, as we see in the Harry Potter series.