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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One (November, 2010)

Director: David Yates
Screenplay: Steve Kloves
Release Date: November 19, website 2010
Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, this Emma Watson, try Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton, Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Peter Mullan, Imelda Staunton, Jason Isaacs, Helen McCrory, Timothy Spall, Brendan Gleeson, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Mark Williams, Rhys Ifans
Based on the book of the same name by J.K. Rowling

*There may be spoilers in this review for the previous movies if you have not seen them. I write this review having seen all previous movies and read the books.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One starts where every Harry Potter book and movie begins – at the end of the summer, when Harry is preparing to go back to school. This time though, it’s different. Hogwarts is no longer safe, the Ministry of Magic has been infiltrated by Death Eaters, Voldemorte is quickly gaining more power, and the world is looking very bleak in the world of muggles, wizards and witches alike. It is not safe for Harry and his friends to return to school after the death of Dumbledore and Snape now being the headmaster of Hogwarts.

After the Order of the Phoenix safely gets Harry to the Burrows by creative means, Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic delivers a few items of importance from Dumbledore’s will to Hermione, Ron and Harry which become pertinent to their journey. After a disastrous disturbance by Death Eaters at Bill Weasley and Fleur’s wedding, the three set off to find and destroy the remaining four horcruxes alone, including the locket that Dumbledore and Harry had set out to retrieve in the ‘Half Blood Prince’ that was found to be a fake.

The tone of this Harry Potter film is completely different than the previous, from the very first frame to the very last. Comparing the first Harry Potter film – full of gorgeous bright colors to the Deathly Hallows Part One’s subdued muted hues of blue, green and black colors, we are immediately aware that things are now very serious in this film. Even those scenes of grandeur where we see Harry, Hermione and Ron footing it through beautiful hills and mountains are somewhat poignant, giving a feel of how just dire things seem to be, and how small they really are.

The acting is terrific this time around. Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe do some of their best performances in this part of Deathly Hallows, along with the long laundry list of excellent actors who fill the screen, as small as the roles may be, but characters that we have all come to love and come to love to hate. Emma Watson particularly I believe, has come a long way from her days of heaving on the screen whenever she delivered a line and has become much better at expressing her emotion through the simple use of her eyes. Snape, Voldemort, Bellatrix, Mad Eye Moody, Draco, and our beloved Dobby all make an appearance in this film.

I do find that even though the Deathly Hallows part one felt dark, it wasn’t dark enough. (I think I must be the only one who thinks this, along with one of my friends who saw it with me.) Some scenes were modified from the book to make more visual and thematic sense, that I thought was even more intense in the book due to the enormity of the danger it gave off. An example was in the Ministry of Magic where mudbloods go to get interviewed. I remembered many more wizards and witches waiting outside to be interviewed, as opposed to the one that arrived by appointment. I understand why it was done, but the intensity is thus lost.

I admit I am one of those people who have a hard time separating the emotions I may get from reading a really good book and the emotions I get while watching the story unfold on screen. Watching the Deathly Hallows part one, I still feel like “soul” was missing, much what I felt from watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Perhaps this is David Yates’ direction, I cannot seem to pinpoint the reasons for this. Largely, the movie is very accurate, plot-wise, to the book. I think book fans will be really happy with the direction of the new film as almost everything important is included (save Dumbledore’s background). The scene between Harry and Hermione in the tent dancing (which was not included in the book), was especially moving, as was the scene in the beginning of the movie when Hermione performs a spell to remove memories of herself from her parents’ memories. The explanation of the Deathly Hallows was really well done and would allow those not familiar with the books get up to speed about the importance of the Deathly Hallows (crucial to the second part). It stood out as an animated wonder and could have stood by itself if taken out of the film.

It was an interesting experience, having read the books and also going to see the movie with those who have not read the books. They felt the pacing was a bit slow, which I would agree with. I would even venture to say that the pacing was a bit erratic. Slow during the camping scenes, rushed during those that involved a bit of action. However, the end of part one sets up the second part of the film beautifully. I think it was the best place to end part one, because part two is where the real fun begins, and part one gives us enough background information to take in part two. No doubt however, this makes those who are not familiar with the story frustrated because they want a resolution and they want to know what the rest of the horcruxes are and what will happen. The ending may even seem abrupt, but seeing that this is just part one, I think it works to its advantage as viewers will only want more.

There is much to take in here – characters that were seen in earlier films are back, and it would be hard for anyone who does not know the series well to remember who they are in the current film, especially given that they played a more important role in earlier books (only to be forgotten in later films) such that of Dobby. I think it is a bit of a disservice, because instead of the shock I felt while reading the book, I was left more with a pang instead. As with the previous film, I feel the series lack heart (excluding the three leads). However, having said that, Deathly Hallows part one does an excellent job of telling the story and getting through the plot – letting the most important key points remain while keeping a nice flow.

All in all, part one does an excellent job of standing on its own and a part from the rest of the series and if it doesn’t make the viewer wish they could have part two in their hands the minute it ends, I’m not sure what more one could expect. Harry Potter book fans will definitely not be disappointed and will be sure to watch this at least a couple of times! I would highly recommend it for those fans. As for the rest – I caution that it might feel a bit slow and long, since the movie comes in right under the two and half hour mark, but is still sure to be entertaining and at the very least, enjoyable, with its many moments of comic relief and build up to the grand finale.

Faithful to the book. Recommended! 3.5 Elder Wands / 5 Elder Wands

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