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

When viewing and considering any of the Harry Potter films, seven so far with an eighth on its way next July, it’s not only difficult to separate from the source material, but also difficult to know whether to view each one as an individual stand alone movie…. or view it as one piece of a much larger story arc. In the films, as in the novels, we have become accustomed over the course of the previous six installments to a very particular pattern… Harry has some misadventure at the Dursley’s, his friends come and get him, they all totter off to Hogwarts and over the course of the school year they deal with some mystery or problem and Scooby and the gang are heroes, yet one step closer to their ultimate fate… now being played out the latest, and penultimate movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

The situation has changed though. This is not the same pattern we have grown used to. When the film makers made the decision to split the film into two parts, they also made the decision to alter what we had come to expect. I believe very much for the better. One complaint I may have had with the novel was how it seemed to adhere to the same structure. Even though our intrepid trio were no longer enrolled in Hogwarts, the book took its time in unspooling the tale as if it were still taking place over a school year. In the movie, much of the wandering around for weeks in the forest and tent are mercifully shortened. In splitting the book into two parts I also believe they allowed themselves the ability to let the story breathe a bit more and not feel so rushed.

I can imagine how someone who hadn’t read the books might not enjoy a slower paced fantasy movie with sporadic action interspersed with some mumbling teens and a bunch of exposition about magical goings on…. but I can’t imagine someone who hasn’t seen the previous six movies or hasn’t read the books even going to see this. I would have to say that when contemplating Deathly Hallows, Part 1, I can only do so as not only the seventh part of eight, but also very much part one of two. As much as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince the book and movie felt like little more than a set up for the final novel and film, this movie felt even more so.

The cinematography was stunning. Being away from the Hogwarts set allowed for expansive natural scenes and some wonderful sets like the Ministry of Magic. Thanks also to the slower pace, so much of the book is included I can’t imagine even the most hard core of fans feeling like their favorite scene is missing… even though quite a few are and for some reason an awkward dance between Harry and Hermoine to a Nick Cave song is added.

Each of the principal actors; Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were precisely what we’ve come to expect after having known them over the course of the last decade or so that we’ve watch them grow. Perfectly adequate performances from the boys and an ever increasing ability from the lovely Emma Watson. Of these three, she is by far the stand out in terms of natural grace and emotional resonance. Pity she is considering not acting in the future. The remainder of the cast appear in very small doses. Some far more effective than others. The Malfoys are as greasy and miserable as ever, if not a bit worse for wear. Mr. He Who Must Not Be Named is as creeptacular as we would like him to be. Bill Nighy shows up for a brief but welcome appearance. And Tim Burton’s girlfriend is back in full wack job mode as Bellatrix.

I feel the film very much captures the spirit of the novel and is very much in keeping with its tonal arc. Having had the same director, David Yates, for the last three and then the final installment has allowed what could have been eight very disjointed films into a very cohesive tale. Would this film work very well on it’s own if you weren’t a fan… probably not. Does it work in all the other way it could… seventh of eight and one of two? Yes, I enjoyed it very much. The two and a half hour run time flew right by for me and ended in a place that left me aching for the final chapter.

Expecto…. to be kicked if you knew what I was going to say next,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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