Has Harry Potter finally run his race?
The media preview for the latest installment in the boy wizard's film franchise took place in Sydney's Imax theatre. For an hour before hand a long line of critics - critics mind you, those nefarious creatures that demand the best seat in the cinema but always choose to sit on the film - snaked its way across the Darling Harbour plaza. The edging and subtle crowding that took place was worthy of a ski-lift line, as these hardened professionals maneuvered to get the best possible seat. Even as I waited I was approached by a curious British tourist, a middle-aged woman who wondered what all the fuss was about?
"Harry Potter?? Could I pleeeease be your new best friend?"
Has Harry Potter finally run his race? No, not as far as the public is concerned. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince is likely to play as well as the previous five films, and with two more films to come (the final novel has been split into two productions), the obsession isn't likely to end any time soon. And obsession is the right word where the new film is concerned.
The cinematic version of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince revolves around the fixations we allow to rule our lives. The Half-blood Prince tells the story of the rising power of the dark Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter's attempts to oppose him as the prophetic 'Chosen One'. But the passions that drive the plot are all personal. We return to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to find Harry's friend Ron Weasley obsessed with the physical side of a new-found relationship. His other schoolmates are obsessed with courting Harry Potter's popularity. Draco Malfoy, Harry's schoolboy rival, is obsessed with revenge for hurts done his family. And Harry himself is at times obsessed with a dark but useful textbook he has discovered, at others with a personal vendetta to prove that Malfoy is in league with the enemy.
The way Harry Potter's passions propel him through the story will prove useful for Christian parents seeking to teach their progeny restraint. As the Bible puts it,
Like a city whose walls are broken down
is a man who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28 )
In The Half-blood Prince Harry opens himself up to all manner of foolishness and evil because he cannot get outside of his own fervour. Harry abandons his friends to spy on Malfoy and ends up in need of rescue. He lies awake at night watching his rival's movements around the school via his magical 'Marauder's Map', and when something evil occurs he is the first to insist that ‘It must be Malfoy!’ Harry rejects a mentor's suggestion that he is ". blinded by hatred." However his obsession eventually leads him to use some very dark magic to seriously injure Malfoy - and momentarily transform himself into the very thing he hoped to stop.
Now Harry's behaviour at this point has a lesson for older minds as well. It doesn't give much away to reveal that Malfoy is in fact mixed up in Voldemort's dark plots, but Harry's obsession with discovering his culpability blinds our hero to the fact that Malfoy is actually an unwilling accomplice. This son of a servant of Voldemort would actually give anything to be free of the dark wizard's influence, but Harry never gets close enough to see the tears and the wringing hands. There is a parallel here with how many Christians see the unsaved world. They are so busy rejecting the sin that characterizes much of modern life that they cannot believe that unbelievers may have similar longings, or see the potential for good in anyone or anything that isn't capital-C-christian. Harry acts as if Malfoy is altogether evil and untrustworthy at every point. When pressed for his reasoning he responds with nothing but blind faith in his convictions. He earns Professor Snape's scathing observation:
"It must be soooo nice to be the 'chosen one'"
On a practical front, though, parents should be wary of taking their kids to see this latest installment. It has been quite rightly rated M and there are some seriously disturbing visuals that would be guaranteed nightmare material for primary school aged children. It's also not worth breaking a leg to see the '3D' version; the effects only account for the opening 15 minutes of the film and rate little higher than a novelty. Over all, though, the film provides a good reminder that we have to be very careful of any fanaticism that we allow to control our lives, however righteous its credentials. Hogwarts principal Albus Dumbledore's advice to his beleaguered students is appropriate for anyone seeking to advance the Kingdom of God:
"Dark forces seek to penetrate this castle. But in the end their greatest weapon is you."