Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
The Penultimate Journey
There’s no denying that the Harry Potter film series is one of the most impressive cinematic feats in movie history. Not only has each movie been a commercial and critical success, but for the most part the series has gotten better with each film. It has also grown with its audience. While the first two films were brighter and more kid-friendly, the films have since become darker and more adult. Despite its success to date, however, the franchise’s legacy will be defined largely by its finale, an epic finale that was so big that it had to be split into two movies. Now that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has arrived, that legacy can begin to take shape.
When we left Harry and his friends, dark times had fallen on Hogwarts. Dumbledore was dead and Voldemort’s ascension to power was nearly complete. As the new film begins, things have only gotten worse. Those who would stand against Voldemort have been forced into hiding while some must even perform devastating acts of selflessness in order to protect those they love. Voldemort’s underlings have taken over the Ministry of Magic, which now resembles Nazi Germany as it produces propaganda attempting to reduce Muggles to something less than human. The fact that Voldemort is played by Ralph Fiennes only strengthens this correlation as his dark lord tortures and murders his “guests” much like his Amon Goeth did in Schindler’s List.
In order to stop Voldemort, Harry sees no choice but to continue Dumbledore’s mission to find and destroy the Horcruxes that contain parts of the dark lord’s soul. Harry sets out to complete this mission on his own, but he should have known better. Ron and Hermione won’t take no for an answer and most of the movie follows the three of them as they… well, they do a lot of camping. The first Horcrux they find is the real locket that was replaced by the fake one Harry and Dumbledore found in the last film. The problem now is to find a way to destroy it before the locket, much like the “one ring to rule them all,” destroys the relationship of these battle-tested friends.
After taking over the series for good in 2007, director David Yates has really helped the Harry Potter series turn the corner and become more than just a popular novelty. His good work continues here as Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is visually impressive and much more adult in tone than any of its predecessors. What gets lost a little bit is the idea that magic is fun. There’s no Quidditch matches, moving stairways or love potions here. The magic in Deathly Hallows is used mostly to kill or to avoid being killed, although the Weasley twins are always good for a laugh or two.
It is difficult to judge Part 1 on its own merits as it really feels more like the setup for the ultimate payoff that will come in Part 2. A number of new characters are introduced, while a few old ones are brought back, sometimes with big payoffs. One has to wonder if Harry Potter and the Return of Dobby was ever considered for the title. There are a few characters that seem conspicuously absent. Maggie Smith’s Professor McGonagall does not appear for the first time in the series, while Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape follows up his big moment at the end of Half-Blood Prince with only one scene.
At times, Part 1 felt as if the filmmakers were stretching things out a bit in order to fill two two-and-a-half hour films out of the final book. This is especially noticeable in the sometimes redundant camping scenes. Although fans of the books may know exactly where the movie is heading, those of us judging it merely on the film alone may wonder why in the entire first film only one of the Horcruxes is found, leaving four (by my count, three according to Ron Weasley) for the second half of the finale. When the movie does move, however, it does not disappoint. From an early chase scene to a snake attack, the action scenes are all very well done. The special effects, again, are top-notch.
At about the two-hour mark the movie finally explains its title using an animated sequence that is quite impressive and, although a somewhat risky choice, manages to blend well with the rest of the movie.
Although I left the theater feeling slightly underwhelmed and hoping that most of the exciting stuff was being saved for Part 2, the way Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 ended did nothing but put me on the edge of my seat gleefully anticipating the big finish that it appears we are all in for.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is rated PG-13 for “some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality.” This is an intense, dark and frightening film that does contain a rather shocking scene of sensuality, but nothing that seems overly inappropriate for a Potter film.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1e0f