Dr. Ted Baehr is the founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, and a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He also is the author of several books, including "The Culture-Wise Family" with legendary entertainer Pat Boone. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to the MOVIEGUIDE website.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: Tom Snyder contributed to this column and is the editor of MOVIEGUIDE?.
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” is the most entertaining book of the series so far, but it’s not the most entertaining movie. As usual, however, both the book and the movie promote an abhorrent, evil, occult worldview that is dangerous to both children and adults. In fact, the occult worldview in this movie may be worse, because, at a high point in the first act, the hero exclaims, “I love magic!”
On the other hand, the lying and deceit of the children protagonists are not as strong as the first three movies. In fact, the headmaster of his school publicly commends Harry for his strong moral fiber when he saves the life of two people at risk to his own. Thus, even people with an evil worldview such as witchcraft cannot escape the need for moral virtue.
The movie opens with 14-year-old Harry beset by nightmares about the evil Voldemort, leader of a power-mad band of nasty sorcerers, commanding two henchmen, including a younger man Harry doesn’t recognize. Harry is only too happy escaping these disturbing dreams by attending the Quidditch World Cup with his friends Ron and Hermoine, and Ron’s father.
After the big game, which is held in a huge, visually stunning stadium crowded with sorcerers, a sinister group of Voldemort’s followers, called the Death Eaters, makes their first public appearance, destroying the campsite full of quidditch fans.
Back at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Professor Dumbledore announces that Hogwarts will host the Triwizard Tournament, an exciting but dangerous competition involving three magical tests. Hogwarts will be one of three schools sending a contestant. Although the three contestants are limited to students 17 and older, someone puts Harry’s name in the mysterious Goblet of Fire, which picks the contestants.
Against his better judgment, Dumbledore allows Harry to be the fourth contestant. Apparently, the Goblet’s decision is binding. The new teacher of the Defense Against the Dark Arts, Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody, encourages Harry in the competition, but it eventually becomes clear that something more sinister is afoot when someone is murdered on the school grounds.
There is an exciting dragon fight in the new Potter movie. And, lots of laughs are provided when Harry and Ron have to find dates for the Yule Ball. Ron can’t deal with his newfound feelings for Hermoine. She gets tired of waiting for Ron to ask her to the ball and accepts a date with Viktor Krum, one of the three other contestants who was also the star of the Quidditch World Cup.
The fourth movie is strongly faithful to the book, but the final scary confrontation between Harry and Voldemort is not as emotionally powerful as in the book, which provided a harrowing, poignant glimpse into Harry’s state of mind during the battle. Also, the explanation of how Harry gets out of trouble in his duel with Voldemort is hard to follow at one point, as are some of the other important plot points earlier in the movie. People who haven’t read the book may get lost, and people who have read the book already may be disappointed. Finally, the filmmakers should have heightened the tension and jeopardy in the story by bringing in Voldemort and his henchmen into the Triwizard Tournament more directly.
This is a structural problem in perhaps all of the Harry Potter books. The author fails to provide a single antagonist for Harry and his friends throughout each story. She keeps pushing Voldemort and his henchmen into the background. That problem aside, the Harry Potter stories follow archetypal story and fairytale patterns with a villain committing an act against the hero’s family, the hero undergoing a series of tests where he gets help from others, the hero eventually confronting his nemesis, and the hero undergoing a final surprise test that adds new depth to his heroic journey.
Unlike the first two Harry Potter movies, this movie is not really designed for children 12 and under. It’s even darker than the book, though not by a whole lot. The filmmakers also seem to have put in more foul language than the book. Ron’s character often says bloody he–, for instance. MOVIEGUIDE? doesn’t recommend Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to any audience, however, because of its evil, abhorrent pagan and occult worldview.
Although it may be argued that the Harry Potter books and movies are just fantasy stories having nothing to do with reality, they still entice impressionable young children, teenagers and even adults with an elitist worldview full of occultism and paganism. This fact is clearly demonstrated by the movie’s story, where Harry not only uses witchcraft to defeat evil and to gain happiness, but also consults with the ghosts of his dead parents. This fact is further demonstrated by the publisher and film studio websites for young fans of the series, where children can experiment with witchcraft and even worship pagan Gods. If Harry Potter is so innocent, why do these evil, heretical websites exist?
What may be even worse than Harry Potter itself is the fact that some Christians encourage other Christians to read the books and see the movies. There are even some Christian publishers promoting books written by self-proclaimed Christians that promote Harry Potter and, by implication, the occult, pagan worldview in Harry Potter. By doing this, these people are turning their backs on Jesus Christ. They are promoting heresy and rebellion against God, which is the Bible’s definition of witchcraft and sorcery. They are also promoting the worship of false gods. These people have become dangerous wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The Good News is, however, that there is, in the words of the great Christian sage C.S. Lewis, a “deeper magic” than witchcraft. That “deeper magic” is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which saves people’s souls from sin and grants them eternal life by the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, through the redemptive, baptismal power of the Holy Spirit.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only incarnated Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall have not perish but have eternal life