I admit that “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is the first of the films based on author J.K. Rowling’s fantastically successful book series that I have seen.

Disconcerted by a plot line heavy in witchcraft and sorcery, I have been hesitant to take the plunge into Harry Potter’s world of wizards, muggles and magic.

In one sense, this put me at a disadvantage in watching the movie, as I surely missed the fulfilling of foreshadows and the affinity for characters built by the franchise’s previous films.

In another sense, it put me at an advantage, for I had no book (I haven’t read the series either) or previous film clouding my evaluation of this movie, enabling me to appreciate the film for what it was and nothing more.

The theme of “Half-Blood Prince” is easily and quickly discerned: It’s all about “snogging,” otherwise known in American high schools as kissing or making out.

In Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, hormones flow as fast and furious as magic potions, sometimes even aided by the aforementioned brews. In between fighting evil wizards wherever they may lurk and trying not to blow themselves up with their fantastical power, the students at Hogwarts are fairly “normal” adolescents, consumed with crushes and obsessed with who is “snogging” whom.

But shadowing o’er the yearning, smooching, pining and abracadabra of “Half-Blood Prince” is a dark storyline about betrayal. Viewers learn from a new professor at the school how the evil Voldemort betrayed the teacher’s trust; one student, we learn, has turned to Judas against the school’s headmaster and opened the door for Voldemort’s henchmen; and Harry Potter himself battles a snake of a teacher who turns on the school and commits the worst betrayal of all.

Yet “Half-Blood Prince” holds another lesson about betrayal, a suitable message given its witchcraft setting, about the danger of wielding power when you know not from whence it came.

The Bible makes it clear that supernatural power comes in two forms: either the gifts of God’s Spirit, or the black arts of the Evil One. This should serve a warning for children and teens, who are often captivated by fantasy and allured by the “magical” powers of Wicca or Ouija.

But even in the make-believe world of Harry Potter, where magic simply exists like water, wind or wealth – neither good nor evil in and of itself, but rather a matter of how it is used – young Harry gets burned by a seemingly fabulous source of magical wisdom from an unknown author.

Potter discovers that his textbook for potions class was used before, by an unknown student who called himself the “Half-Blood Prince.”

The book’s margin is filled with notations, including alterations to common potion recipes that prove to be better than the originals, granting Potter a secret source of good grades. Mesmerized by its words and seeming wisdom, Potter devours the book, reading it at all hours and never allowing it to leave his side.

Potter, however, never stops to ponder the motive or the character of the one who has granted him this power, drinking up the benefits without weighing the costs.

In a heightened moment of battle with another student, Potter incants a spell from the pages of the Half-Blood Prince’s book that was written “for enemies.”

The book, however, betrays Potter, for the new spell unleashes a diabolical effect he never intended. Even worse, at the end of the film, Potter discovers that the foulest of the snakes and betrayers, the fiend who pierces his heart to the core, is none other than the Half-Blood Prince himself.

I wonder if Eve recognized the betrayal of a similar snake? What, after all, did the serpent offer but the power to know good from evil?

I wonder how many youth have been similarly seduced by the allure of real witchcraft: promised power to protect themselves from the very snake that seeks to destroy them?

I wonder how many politicians were offered power by PACs and cronies, only to find that paying the piper cost more than they bargained for?

Scripture tells us that God gives believers a spirit of power (2 Timothy 1:7) and that through Christ we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). We had best be cautious of other sources of power, however, be they relational, political or even magical, for the source of that power … might just be a snake.

Content advisory

  • “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” despite all its on-screen smooching, has very little sexual content beyond teens making out in a restaurant booth and a brief play on the phrase “do it.”
  • The film’s violence comes in the form of magic blasts being hurled back and forth, rather than fists or bullets. The “death eater” characters, however, do wreak havoc on the streets of London, imperil people on a walking bridge and intentionally destroy, break and burn things, including torching a house.
  • The film is unusually frightening at points for a PG movie, including a scene where zombie-like creatures rise up on all sides and pull Potter underwater in an attempt to drown him.
  • Magic abounds in the movie, as well as potentially occult scenes, including spoken magical incantations, a demonic “vow” ceremony, witches, potions, spells and the intentional shedding of blood to open a magic passageway.
  • Some may criticize the use of alcohol in the film, which is served to minors frequently in the movie.

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