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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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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, please fill my heart and soul with the confidence that you will always provide what I need, when I need it, and let me be obedient to you.

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