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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson star in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."
The Hogwarts gang is on the run in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (Warner Bros.), the penultimate film in the wildly successful franchise based on J.K. Rowling's fantasy novels. As in Rowling's final volume, the tone here is darker, the action more intense, and the violence intended to shock as the forces of good and evil are set on their inevitable collision course.

"These are dark times, there's no denying," intones Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy) as the film opens. And how. The Ministry has been taken over by Death Eaters, loyal to the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Their mission is twofold: Rid the world of Half-bloods (part witch, part nonwitch or "Muggle") and their supporters, and find Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, of course), the "Chosen One."

No one is safe, not even a kindly Hogwarts teacher fond of Muggles. She is brutally tortured, then murdered by Voldemort and fed to a giant snake in one of the many intense moments that would have younger viewers diving under their seats.

But the main focus is Harry, and his loyal pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), who rally to his side.

Casting spells that enable them to travel instantaneously from place to place, Harry, Hermione and Ron jump all over the real world, from Piccadilly Circus in London to the Scottish Highlands. Director David Yates offers a picturesque travelogue of the British Isles that is a soothing respite from the film's clashes.

The film offers lessons about perseverance, loyalty, friendship, and self-sacrifice as it builds to a cliffhanger climax.

Rowling's novels are famously irreligious, yet "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" has some welcome, pseudo-Christian moments. Returning to Harry's birthplace in search of clues, Harry and Hermione find themselves outside a church on Christmas Eve. They listen wistfully to the hymns sung within, thinking of happy family moments of long ago.

Similarly, Ron finds his way back to his friends on Christmas Day, when a mysterious light appears, directing him to the source of all good.

Less welcome is an incident that sees one of Harry's friends and protectors wounded by a Death Eater, who leaves a gaping hole in his head. The victim exclaims, with a grin, "I'm a saint. I'm hole-y. Get it?"

The magical elements in the script are benign, serving to support the plot, not endorse the evils of sorcery. The romantic tension of earlier films takes a back seat to the action this time, with a few exceptions: stolen kisses, close dancing, and a peculiar fantasy scene, invented by Voldemort, showing Harry and Hermione implicitly nude and about to have sex—all designed to enrage Ron, which it does.

The film contains much action violence with frequent peril, brief partial nudity in a sexual context, scenes of murder and torture and a few vaguely sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.




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Martyrdom of John the Baptist: The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life? 
<p>This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.</p> American Catholic Blog Just as my children become members of my family when I bring them into the world, so too our baptism incorporates us into the family of the Church. This supernatural membership prevents us from being orphans who have to fend for themselves in the spiritual wilderness.

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