Review by: Ryan Oliver
Before I dive into the pros and cons of the latest Harry Potter film, I want to take this paragraph to share my admiration of this impressive franchise. The series has seven films in the bank, all of them ranging from good to excellent, and no actor or actress has been replaced due to wanting “too much money” or scheduling conflict (the only replacement being Michael Gambon, filling in for the late Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore). I’ve grown up with both J.K. Rowling’s books (though I have to confess I haven’t read the last two) and this franchise that Warner Bros. has put together and has carefully cradled from the beginning, and now it’s the beginning of the end for this franchise, so let’s get to it. Take note that I will be explaining plot elements from previous films, so if you’ve missed one at some point – especially The Half-Blood Prince – then I would stop reading.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are now on the run. With Dumbledore gone and the Death Eaters quickly taking control of the Ministry of Magic, Harry and his friends must race to find the remaining Horcruxes, the items which contain parts of the soul of the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), who has almost reached full strength and is setting out to finish what he left behind seventeen years ago: kill Harry Potter.
You can discover the rest on your own. This is probably the darkest, most emotionally charged Potter yet. Characters are starting to step into their identities. Bottled-up emotions are starting to uncork. Characters – at this point minor, but still with a name – are being killed. Some have criticized the film for the “magic” being gone, but how can there be magic with such tragedies arising?
Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson have truly grown into their roles. They have been able to shift their tones to the mood of whatever story is being told and execute it perfectly. Ten years ago they were young unknowns. Now we know that they were gifted with real acting chops. And all praise to director David Yates – who came into the series on Order of the Phoenix (my personal favorite Potter film) and will guide the series to the finish line – for being the perfect fit to shift gears as the series plunged into darkness.
Does it seem like I’m coming across as a little reserved? Well, I hate to say it, but this film isn’t without it’s flaws. This is essentially only half a film, and it runs for two-and-a-half hours. There’s a whole midsection that takes place in the woods, and while there are some great scenes of our heroes getting their feelings out in the open and facing their demons (Ron especially), most of it could have been cut out. Of course I don’t have the attention span of a newt. I would rather watch a four-hour movie of the entire Deathly Hallows than wait for Part 2 next July. Speaking of the title, the idea of the “Deathly Hallows” isn’t even introduced until nearly two hours into the film. Are you starting to catch my drift yet?
And what royally bothered me is that a few of my personal favorite characters are hardly in the film at all. To be fair, I understand that it’s probably how J.K. Rowling wrote it, but should Severus Snape – played flawlessly as always by the great Alan Rickman – really only be in one scene? He’s the best thing in every film. And what about Draco Malfoy, played by Tom Felton who had such a juicy, emotionally invested part in The Half-Blood Prince? He hardly spoke a word in this film. Let us not forget evil himself Lord Voldemort. Ralph Fiennes has proven a master of villainy each time he’s played this role, but it always seems short. I’m really pulling for Fiennes to just let it rip in Part 2.
But for all of its flaws, Deathly Hallows Part 1 is still a good movie with some good performances all displayed with excellent cinematography by Eduardo Serra. Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson are still the core of the series, and they do show it here. But what could have been just two hours runs a half-hour longer. Maybe my feelings for how these events turned out will change after I see Part 2 (which I essentially see as one movie anyway), but it left me just a little unsatisfied and yearning for more.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves; based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality
*** (out of four)