[This is an evaluation of a movie, not a review, and is done for the purpose of pointing out anything in the movie that could be problematic for children from a moral and/or biblical viewpoint, and it is written primarily to inform parents. Therefore, not all aspects of the movie are discussed, and the plot is not covered. Please read any of the CANA articles on the Harry Potter books for further information. Thank you.]
The tenor of the movie throughout is very dark; except for a few scenes, it even looks like it is twilight most of the time. This matches the dark mood of the story. The movie initiates the viewer into this darkness right at the beginning when hordes of creatures called Death Eaters (who look like scary black ghostly streaks) attack crowds of people in a city and cause a footbridge to fall into the river.
Other frightening scenes include a Hogwarts student, Katy, who is put under an evil and life-threatening spell. Harry and his friends come upon her lying in the snow. As they try to rouse her, she is suddenly lifted into the air with an agonized look on her face, and then is dropped abruptly and sickeningly to the ground. This is a scene that would actually be disturbing to an adult, much less a child.
At another point, Ron mistakenly drinks some poisoned mead. He collapses, groaning with foam at the mouth. This incident brings Ron close to death, but he recovers. Harry also casts a spell from a spell book on Draco, the student who opposes Harry and later tries to kill Dumbledore. This spell causes Draco to fall in pain, bleeding all over his body. Prof. Snape appears and performs magic to heal Draco. There are other scenes when Harry, his friends, and others are in danger, such as the scene at the Weasley’s house when villainess Bellatrix Lestrange and cohorts attack, setting fire to the Weasley home.
There is discussion of Horcruxes. A Horcrux is an object that holds part of someone’s soul. A wizard can split his soul, putting it in objects. Voldemort has split his soul into 7 pieces, which he has hidden in Horcruxes. In order to split the soul, Harry is told, the person doing so is required to commit murder.
In one scene, Harry must make Dumbledore drink a potion that causes great pain and suffering to Dumbledore. Even when Dumbledore pleads that he cannot drink anymore, Harry must continue to give it to him (in the book, this scene is actually longer and more excruciating). Not long after this, horrifying-looking skeletal creatures in a lake surrounding Dumbledore and Harry climb from the water and begin to attack, pulling Harry under the water. Dumbledore performs a spell to save Harry and get rid of the creatures (these attacks in the book are more drawn out and more distressing). These repulsive creatures are called Inferi (plural; singular is Inferius) and are actually corpses controlled through dark magic. Inferi is the Latin word to refer to the underworld of the dead or to those who are dead or in the place of the dead.
This movie is based on the book that recounts Dumbledore’s death, which is shown very dramatically. Prof. Snape points his wand at Dumbledore and gives the death curse, causing Dumbledore to fall to his doom. Harry is not far away and witnesses this. This is probably the most horrific scene because of the emotional impact on the young fans who admire Dumbledore.
There is spell-casting, of course. Early in the movie, Harry performs a spell to foil a Quidditch player so that his friend Ron makes a good play. Casting spells is shown throughout the movie as though it is as ordinary as having a snack or answering a phone. True to his history of lying and cheating (this is more evident in the books than the movies), Harry cheats by using a spell book for his Potions class that was used previously, and contains answers and advanced magical spells from the previous owner (who later turns out to be Prof. Snape). Having this book causes Harry to win the first challenge in the class, and allows him (albeit immorally) to do well in the course until he’s persuaded by Ginny to not use the book any more. But Ginny only persuades Harry to do this because of the severe injury Harry caused to Draco when he cast a spell on him taken from the book.
I would not recommend this movie to anyone, especially to children. Even the rather liberal Family Filmgoer in the Washington Post wrote that this movie is “iffy” for those under age 10. Any positive values in the movie, such as Harry’s loyalty to his friends, his bravery, or the desire to fight the villains, is sullied by scenes of violence, spell casting (including by the “good” characters), and sorrow. The ending is not uplifting at all. The movie closes with Harry, Ron, and Hermione deciding to seek out the remaining Horcruxes in which Voldemort has hidden bits of his split soul.
The overall tone of the movie is mournful and dark.