Review: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 1
PLOT: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), now hunted by the minions of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) embarks on a quest to destroy the evil sorcerer's remaining Horcruxes, in order to finally put an end to his reign of terror. He's joined in his task by Ron Weasely (Rupert Grint), and Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson), but the trio soon discovers that this quest will be a dark, and dangerous one.
REVIEW: Wow. That's the only word I can use to describe HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART ONE. For me, the end credits of this film signified the moment where I truly became a Harry Potter fan, as up to now the franchise has mostly been something I only followed on and off.
I mentioned in my review of HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE that I'm not overly familiar with the Harry Potter world. Although I'm a fairly avid reader, the J.K Rowling books probably came out a little too late in my teens to really capture my imagination. I only really gave the franchise a try with the first few films. While they were charming, I still wasn't all that taken with them. I actually skipped GOBLET OF FIRE, and ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, and only saw the last one because I had to review it for the site.
Still, I quite enjoyed HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, as I was impressed by director David Yates' darker take on the material, and the way Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint had grown as actors. DEATHLY HALLOWS is an even bigger leap in quality. If you though the last film was dark, wait until you get a load of this- which handily earns it's PG-13 rating. Within the first five minutes a couple of beloved characters bite the dust, while another suffers a grisly wound. This first action scene- an extended chase where Hagrid, and Harry are pursued by dozens of Voldemort's minions, is frenetic, and wildly creative.
From there, the film only gets better. There's a fantastic sequence where Harry, Ron and Hermoine don disguises to enter the Ministry of Magic, which is brilliantly decorated in a way that's highly suggestive of George Orwell's 1984. Once this obstacle is cleared, the film slows down a tad, but an intriguing subplot involving Ron's growing frustrations and insecurity has a nifty payoff. At one point we even get a risqué sequence where Ron imagines Harry and Hermoine having sex, which, although tamely shot, is still pretty steamy for a Potter flick.
However, this just goes to prove how the series has matured along with it's audience. By now, a lot of the core Potter audience is in their late teens/early twenties, so they're more than ready for Yates' darker take on the material (although the desaturated look of the last film is mostly absent). Going along with the darker material is a more ominous score by Alexandre Desplat, which eschews a lot of the John Williams themes used in the series up to now. The score is very effective, and appropriately makes this feel like a more sombre affair.
The performances by the newly adult Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are uniformly excellent with Grint in particular having a lot of quality material to chew on. For her part, Watson's growing into a beautiful young woman, and a nuanced actress. As for Radcliffe, he's been excellent since the first film, and he's even better here (although I found it amusing how often the filmmakers find an excuse for Harry to get his shift off, in order to show of Radcliffe's newly cut physique).
Sure enough, the supporting cast remains outstanding as well. As seemingly every good British actor is required to put in a Harry Potter appearance, Rhys Ifans, Bill Nighy, and Peter Mullan join the cast. For the most part their roles are brief, but Nighy gets a few good scenes (although his voice is a latter scene seemed to be somewhat strange, making me wonder whether he was looped for some reason).
Funny enough, the supporting character who gets the most development here is Dobby the elf. While I've always thought of Dobby as a low-rent Gollum, I was wildly impressed by the way he's used here. Don't be surprised if by his climactic scene you're shedding a few tears for the little guy.
Of course, this is only PART ONE of the DEATHLY HOLLOWS with PART TWO following this summer. That said, it still felt at least as complete as the other installments. It runs a lengthy 140 minutes, which I suppose is actually short for the Potter-verse but it whizzes by. For once, I'm anxiously awaiting the next Harry Potter, and this is probably the only film series I can think of where each film is better than the last.
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