David Yates's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Harry Potter is back for the first part of his final adventure in one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year. It's been a long trip to get to this point (the franchise started back in 2001) and we've come to know these characters quite well as we've watched them grow up. The previous film, "The Half-Blood Prince," ended in great tragedy with only a darker outlook ahead, but, of course, there's always hope, especially in a world of magic.
At the start of the film, we learn that the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has taken over the Ministry of Magic and is trying to determine when and where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is to be moved to a safe location. With the help of his friends, who put their lives on the line for him, Harry is able to get to a new safe house where he, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) can plan their next move.
You may recall from the previous film that Dumbledore left a very important mission in Harry's hands which involved locating and destroying the remaining horcruxes, items that contain pieces of Voldemort's soul. Early on, they figure out that one of the horcruxes is a locket which just happens to have been stolen by an acquaintance of theirs and will require some cunning to acquire. Dumbledore also left some very important items in his will to the wizard trio: a snitch from a quidditch game, a book with a strange marking inside, a device which absorbs and gives off light, and a missing sword which could possibly be the key to destroying the horcruxes, and Voldemort with them.
This particular Potter adventure had me torn right down the middle. On the one hand, there's not very much going on throughout the entire film, which runs well over two hours. As most people have already said, you get the sense that it's building up to something...something that it turns out is being saved for the second film, due out summer of next year.
It’s hard to tell if there was much justification in breaking this last book down into two films. Having never read any of the books, I couldn't tell you, but it seems like the important events of this particular film, of which there were only a couple, could have been distilled out and added to the final one to make a possible grand epic finale. I'd have no problem with sitting through such an epic, though I can't speak for everyone of course, but somehow I don't think Potter fans would have a problem with it either.
It'd be sad to think that the studio split the two films simply to make double the money, though it'd be amusing to imagine the conversation that took place regarding it. Several studio execs mention the prospect of making double the money by making two films. One exec mentions the possibility of splitting the two films in order to be more artistically creative and loyal to the massive novel that J.K. Rowling wrote and which millions of fans are waiting for a worthy adaptation of. The other execs simply stare and reply "Well, yeah. That too."
On the other hand, the characters are amusing to watch. As I mentioned before, we've gotten to know them quite well and have welcomed their presence for the past nine years. In a sense, it's like seeing what old friends are up to. While the films themselves have never really transcended into greatness, the characters, including all the supporting ones, have always been interesting. As usual, you can also add on the great production values that we've become used to seeing from this series.
Plot-wise, there are a few interesting events that occur in this one, such as the trio having to break into the Ministry of Magic in order to try and acquire the locket. Other events include the risky move of Potter to his safe house near the beginning of the film which involves some interesting magic and a thrilling chase. One particularly interesting scene doesn't come until near the end of this first part and is shown in the form of a short silhouette show that explains to us just what the "Deathly Hallows" is.
However, the entire middle of the film seems to have been taken up with scenes of the trio running around and trying to stay hidden from their enemies while trying to determine their next move. So when you add in the interesting events, this places it just slightly above "Order of the Phoenix," which was pretty much the weakest entry in terms of plot.
But it just seems unfair to chide the entire film for one sagging act, so in the end, this first part gets a slight recommendation for its characters, art direction, some thrills, and for setting up what will hopefully be a very memorable showdown between Potter and Voldemort. It's quite possible that the final film will be packed with wall-to-wall action what with having so many horcruxes left to find and destroy. Perhaps that's exactly what the filmmakers wanted: to send this franchise off with a bang. We'll just have to wait and see. 3/4 stars.
Nice review but I'd just like to note that the middle of the film, which you had a problem with, was mundane on purpose. That was the whole point. The trio were basically wandering around aimlessly, waiting for answers to come to them, while evading their enemies. It's the underlying reason that Ron had the meltdown and left, which sets up his heroic return in the nick of time. I can see how some would feel like it was dragging but I loved that they kept that aspect of the plot from the book.
Also, you mentioned that there wasn't much going on in this film but I'd argue that it's very heavy on exposition, which is essential for the finale coming out next year. Having read the book, I can say that the movie was very true to the source material and in no way could they have left out anything to squeeze both parts into one film.
One could accuse the studio of wanting the make more money by splitting it into two films but I personally think they respect the franchise so much that it was important to adapt the 7th book the correct way. I will note this is the same studio that gave up on 3D and potentially a lot more money when it was determined they couldn't do it correctly, because they did not want to present the films half-assed just to make a buck on the gimmick.
I have never considered myself a diehard Harry Potter fan but I have enjoyed watching the movies over the years. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" has always been my favorite, until now.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is the seventh movie in the series based on the novels by J.K. Rowling, with director David Yates returning for his third go round. This movie rekindles all the emotions and inspirations of the first movie. If you consider yourself a fan, it will further your devotion to the saga.
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