Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Plot: As the Wizarding World is entrenched in war, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is left with the secret task of destroying Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) Horcruxes, pieces of his fragmented soul.  Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) join Harry as they seek out these powerful and dark objects as they are the key for destroying Voldemort himself.

Warner Brothers is one movie (or half movie) away from completing a legendary saga.  This part I of the final book adaptation is the best one by far.  It’s not often you see a big budget Hollywood franchise done with so much care and thought.  This is a Harry Potter movie unlike any other as it’s set away from the innocent school of Hogwarts and into our own world as the tagline suggests.  The days of happy little magical portraits floating around are long behind us.  And it doesn’t even have the lighthearted moments from Half-Blood Prince, the previous entry.  Director David Yates could not have set a better tone in the first montage.  You know right away we aren’t messing around.

What I always loved about Yates’ contribution to the Potter series is his subtle touch on the emotional moments.  And the opening montage in which Hermione is erasing her parents’ memories and Harry watches as the Dursleys leave for protection catapults you right into the current state of the Wizarding World.  Things pretty much suck for Harry right now.  Voldemort almost has complete control of the Wizarding Government and Harry is left with the task of destroying fragments of his soul, a vague mission that Dumbledore had about two seconds to explain to Harry in the last film.  There is so much uncertainly and unease, and it all falls on poor Harry’s shoulders.

And just as the first montage with our three heroes sets up their story, the next scene with Voldemort and his minions show us their rise to power.  And props to Ralph Fiennes and Jason Isaacs as their acting is through the roof in this scene.  Ralph Fiennes just makes you feel uncomfortable and uneasy as Isaacs’ trembling voice and tattered nature as Voldemort asks for his wand for a special favor had me terrified for him.

Now a lot of the criticism you will hear for this movie is that the pace is too slow, which it is. Now this would be a problem if the acting of the three main stars wasn’t so phenomenal.  They have to carry the entire middle of this two and a half hour film, and they do so with flying colors.  I’ve always liked Daniel Radcliffe, and he stepped up his game once again.  But the one who stole the show was surprisingly Emma Watson.  I’ve always thought she was a mixed bag in these movies as she’s constantly over acting.  Now I’m not going to say this was an Oscar worthy performance, but she’s in the ball park.

I’m also not going to forget about Rupert Grint, who’s been kind of forgotten in these films, especially the fifth.  But in Deathly Hallows, Grint has some pretty dark and serious moments.  I would love to see this guy grow up and get some big roles.  He’s got the chops.  There is one scene in particular involving him and one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes that just floors you.

And another note on the slow pace is that it actually works for the film.  The middle part is just the three characters wandering around aimlessly and frustrated.  The audience is too, but I think that’s what the director intended.  You can really see it in Grint’s performance.  Ron is frustrated with Harry’s lack of leadership and knowledge of the situation.  Ron is representing what the audience feels.  I guess this means that if Ron were watching Deathly Hallows Part I, he’d get upset at the film’s slow pace as well.

One criticism I do have is that if you’re just an average moviegoer that has read none of the books, this will be very confusing and difficult to follow.  It’s hard for me to write from this perspective because I’ve read the books and know all the little details that come across as convoluted to others.  I will say this though – Yes, it’s hard to follow at times, but you know what, this is the sixth sequel.  It’s part of a continuing series.  If you’re an average moviegoer, make sure you remember or review what happened before and deal with it.  The only thing that they really explained terribly was a broken mirror that pops up from time to time.  Everything else you can piece together from just watching the past movies.

What I really admire about Deathly Hallows is that it’s about the characters.  Yes, there are battles and big complex special effect sequences, but they are background material.  We care about Harry, Ron and Hermione.

The last scene of this film gives you that OMFG moment, leaving you salivating for next summer’s finale.  Although the ending doesn’t wrap anything up, we have to remember this is part I and not a complete film.  This is all set up for what is sure to be a masterful ending.  I’m terrified for the producers of this franchise.  They have made seven great movies, some better than others.  But if this last one doesn’t live up to the hype, many will see it as a giant failure.  I pray the finale can deliver, but I have no reason to believe it won’t.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)   

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