Everything about this penultimate film is just as good as the previous onesóthe production value, the special effects, the score, and so on. Itís a brilliantly executed movie through and through, and David Yates deserves credit for that. The producers also get a check-plus for the amazing group of actors theyíve built up over the years, most of which return here for the final shebang. However, the main trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron are clearly the centerpiece of the film, especially since the entire second act is spent with them alone in the woods. (More on that in a bit.)
Itís pretty amazing watching Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up with these roles. The bond and friendship they share mirrors that of the characters and really adds a whole new level to their performances and connection with the audience, which is perfect with the emotional stakes in this story. The films have gotten progressively darker as the series goes on, but DEATHLY HALLOWS takes an even sadder and tragic turn, from Hermione wiping her parentís memory of her and Voldemort coldly murdering a Hogwarts teacher to the movieís big climactic death. You definitely feel the stakes and consequences at every turn, so much so that I donít know if I would even classify this as childrenís material anymore.
By separating the final novel in to two films, it provides an attention to detail that fans definitely crave before they say goodbye to the Potterverse. However, it also drags things down in a noticeable way. DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1 has its fair share of action (the chaotic opening chase is perfectly choreographed) and memorable sequences (the seven Harrys, infiltrating the Ministry, the amazing animated backstory), but the entire second actóabout an hour of screentimeóis just the kids hiding out in the woods. Iím sure in the 1000-page book the time spent in the wilderness had a lot of worthwhile introspective moments and didnít seem to take up as much time, but in a two hour movie it really alters the pacing substantially. I wasnít ever truly bored by any of it, but this time out I felt that I probably wouldíve been more enthralled by each minute detail had I read the novel, more so than the previous movies.
I know PART 2 of this story is going to be non-stop action, which makes Part 1 seem like a gigantic, drawn out set-up by comparison. But even if it does feel like half a movie rather than its own story, PART 1 definitely does its job in making me excited to see how it all endsóprobably more than Iíve anticipated any of the other films.
Maximum Movie Mode: This really does live up to its name, offering an amazing mix of behind the scenes footage and visual commentary by key crew and cast members. Hosted by Jason Issacs, who plays Lucius Malfoy and likes to summarize the plot a bit too much, the presentation clocks in at over 2 hours and offers reminders from previous movies (hugely helpful to casual fans like me), trivia and cool facts, deleted scenes in the correct spots, and appearances by producer David Heyman, production designer Stuart Craig, make up effects supervisor Nick Dudman (who discusses the digital work done on Ralph Fiennes), Tom Felton (who reads from Rowlings book and compares the source material and its close filmic translation) and much more. Though it interrupts too much for those interested in actually watching the movie itself, it does pause it so you technically donít miss too much.
If youíd rather watch the main Behind the Scenes segments separately from the MMM, you can through the Focus Points option, which includes six pieces on set decoration, stunt work, creature creation and more.
Behind the Story: These five featurettes add up to over half an hour and cover the more fun aspects of filming (and not filming) that was shown in the Maximum Movie features. You can see cast members sneaking in to the great hall at night, spend a day off at the golf course, engage in friendly races during the woods sequence and more.
Deleted Scenes: Choose from eight short additional scenes, which add up to a little over 10 minutes. Some, like a surprisingly nice bit with the Dursleys, are nice additions, but the majority are just extra dialogue or character moments that wouldíve bogged down the already-long second act.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Grand Opening: The main cast and author J.K. Rowling get a tour of the new Harry Potter theme park at the Universal Studios in Florida in this brief clip.
Behind the Soundtrack: Another quick segment, spending time with composer Alexandre Desplat and his score for the film.
DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 Sneak Peek: I couldnít find this on my review copy and Iím assuming itís because they didnít want the press leaking it to the internet. Sorry.
Extra Tidbit: Fans of Ron Weasley should check out Rupert Grint in the fart classic THUNDERPANTS.