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Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone

Now this is a piece of cinema history. It’s going to be the first-cinema-experience film for a generation. For my generation this was Disney’s animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I think I got the better deal.

True, the film I saw featured a pure innocent girl being tormented and abused by a wicked, thoroughly horrible queen, motivated by jealous rages. The poisoned apple looked good for food, and she was tempted, and she ate. How very Edenesque. Just proves that she represented supernatural evil. And the non-political-correctness of the seven vertically-challenged bearded chaps must also have affected a generation of children into thinking that dwarves are, at best, simple, and at worst, braindead. They live humdrum workaday lives in the lung-busting dusty and dangerous underground tunnels, rewarded with gruel and a house over-run with woodland creatures and no security system.

Enough! But Snow White has themes of redemption and forgiveness as well as destiny and good triumphing over evil.

HP, on the other hand, has been criticised (rightly, in my view) for being too closely tied to the script of the book, resulting in a form of storytelling which has no recourse to narrative, while remaining strictly chronological. This is a weakness. HP is a boy discovering a gift which means he can have his own way more or less whenever he wants it (watch out, Hermione!). He has no higher authority to whom he is accountable; he's the classic fiction character without accountability. He uses his gift for evil as well as good, and when he faces something more evil than the witchcraft he embraces, he finds an additional burst of power with which to defeat it.

It has to be admitted that Harry Potter is a young man with a destiny and he is merely following the rite of passage towards becoming what he will be. But I'm not convinced I am all that bothered to discover what he will be. Chronological filmplotting means we don't see the wizened old man looking back over adventures, having learned from them and discovered things about himself.

It’s my 7-year-old nephew's favourite film and his favourite book. And while I can see that witchcraft theme is a strong plot devise to give HP the opportunity to explore his destiny, I have to advise parents to discuss the issues with their kids.

Some Christian parents just say 'no!' (perhaps because they consider having a point to discuss in the playground is as dangerous as recreational drugs or going down to the woods with a stranger)…

Others seem to think that investigations into the supernatural are fine, since God is big enough and tough enough to fight his own corner. But my reservations are mostly on the grounds that this is a poor movie. I was disappointed that Quidditch was an individual-skill based game played high up with a miniscule crowd and apparently no team strategy, despite sounding very like netball. The bad guys are bad, and the neutral guys are bad sometimes. Most of the adults are bumbling fools or Satanists, while the Robbie Coltraine character is amusing and harmless. I was entertained by the way the characters continually named one another in their conversations, to help the young, non-filmgoing audience remember who was who.

Rating:

for film quality
for singlehandedly causing a generation to turn to devil-worship (in other words, I don't think it will achieve this, despite what some reactionary Christians may say)

for excellent opportunities for parents to discuss with children such issues as adventure, destiny, public schools, gamesmanship, respect for teachers (even if they make a mistake) and adoption

overall

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