Film Review
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Reviewed by Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin
Cinema in Focus


Vol. 6, No. 1 April 2002

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

[1] The appeal of J.K. Rowling's fiction lies in her ability to create a world in which children are the heroes and evil disintegrates at the touch of love. Joining the ranks of such writers as C.S. Lewis, Madeline L'Engle and J.R.R. Tolkien, Rowling addresses the primal fears and universal longings of young souls and provides a way for children to experience courage, loyalty, morality, identity, and evil's temptation in a world that ignores their size. Rowling's fiction recognizes children's true identity and deeper ability to succeed.

[2] Rather than limiting life to only the physical realm with all its many disappointments and struggles, the story of Harry Potter tells of a world in which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has power that has come to him not only because of his heritage but also by his mother's sacrificial death out of her love for him. Like the Star Wars' fiction where Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrifices his life so that young Luke Skywalker can escape, or the Chronicles of Narnia where Aslan allows the wicked witch to sacrifice his life in the place of a young traitor, the Christ-figure in Harry Potter's life is his own mother. In a murderous rampage, the evil Valdemort kills his father, but Harry's mother sacrifices her life to save her baby. Parasitically living off the lives of others, Valdemort is unable to kill Harry because the power of sacrificial love given him by his mother's choice has a far greater power.

[3] Now an orphan and forced to live in the cupboard under the stairs in the home of his unloving uncle and aunt, Harry does not realize his true lineage or abilities. But on his 11th birthday Harry is retrieved from their home and taken into his parents' world. This world reveals to him his true identity and value and begins to educate him in the struggle between good and evil. This universal spiritual awareness, that life is a spiritual struggle and we are beings far more important and powerful than our physical circumstances indicate, is the primal theme of the film. Harry soon discovers that the struggle with evil is not only an outward experience, but an inner one as well, as he comes face to face with his own mirrored desires and entangling fears.

[4] Some Christians have struggled with Rowling's choice to make Harry a wizard and to place him within a school of witchcraft and wizardry, where one of his friends uses spells to help him. But magical spells and mythical characters have captivated children's literature from the Brothers Grimm to Disney, and it is interesting that Harry uses no such spells, nor does he need to. His father's athletic gifts and his mother's sacrificial love, along with his own pure motives and courage, empower Harry to achieve greatness without the use of witchcraft. At Hogwart's School, as well as in Christian theology, sacrificial love is the ultimate power.

[5] The final temptation occurs when Harry is invited by the parasitic Valdemort to join forces since "there is no such thing as good or evil, there is only power." This portrays the final temptation in all our lives. In the real world beyond the powers of government and commerce, there is a spiritual struggle between good and evil. Though we often try to ignore its reality or redefine the truth, we must also decide whether we will take the side of power and evil or have the courage to uphold truth and good. May we all choose as wisely as Harry Potter.

JR & F

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