Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: A Deliciously Dark Set-Up For An Epic Finale

19 11 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is, obviously, the first installment of the two-part series finale. It’s expected this film will push the Harry Potter franchise above Star Wars as the highest grossing film-series of all time (that is, until Lucas releases all six films in 3D starting in 2012). Regardless of box office projections and the like, fans are nearing the end of this ten year cinematic journey with bittersweet emotions. Here’s the breakdown:

Harry embarks on his quest to destroy Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes, the various vessels where pieces of the Dark Lord’s soul reside. Loyal friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley join Harry on this perilous adventure. The three embark on a lonely race against time, as the wizarding world falls into chaos and darkness: Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic both are overrun by Death Eaters and loyal supporters of Harry and the recently deceased Dumbledore find themselves facing imprisonment and death. But Harry will need more than just luck to defeat Voldemort: he’ll need three of the most powerful magical artifacts…the Deathly Hallows.

The Weasel: This is a Harry Potter film like no other. Over the course of six films, Harry’s world has been sufficiently established. This leaves director David Yates free to explore the intricacies of the character relationships, while moving the film toward its epic finale in Part 2. Gone are the warm fires of the Three Broomsticks Inn, gone are the exciting Quidditch matches, gone are the familiar halls of Hogwarts: this movie is deliciously dark and fans will love how the movie stays true to the mood of the book.

Aside from the movie’s exciting opening sequence (where Harry and Co. are ambushed mid-broomstick flight by Death Eaters), Part 1 is very ponderous. And while some may see this as a weakness, I found it not only refreshing, but necessary. If cast and crew are to be believed, and if Part 2 remains as true to the book as Part 1, the final installment will be a flurry of wand spells and magical carnage, leaving little room for character development and emotional investment. Yates makes sure to set up the finale’s emotional anchor in Part 1, reminding audiences why we love these characters and why we want to see them succeed…and survive.

Part 1 is essentially a road movie. The wide camera shots of bleak, fog-laced bridges, burned-out trailer parks and abandoned buildings, mixed with the crackle of a monotonous radio announcer listing the names of recently killed wizards and witches was chilling and reminiscent of World War II and post-apocalyptic fare. People are dying, evil is taking over and hope is tenuous.

I applaud Yates for tackling the dark themes of Book Seven head-on, unabashedly. The film’s important deaths (no spoilers here) are handled wonderfully and with enough respect to please fans. And even a particularly troubling torture scene involving Hermione and the demented Bellatrix (played absolutely perfectly by Helena Bonham Carter) was kept in the final cut of the film and proves Harry’s swan song will hold nothing back – the stakes are high, for Harry and fans both. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Part 1 has its humorous moments, moments that are welcome, helping break up the oppressive mood. The return of the House-Elves and the ever-comedic Polyjuice Potion gives audiences a chance to smile.

The visuals have really been taken to the next level: from Voldemort’s over-sized snake Nagini to thrilling wand fights high above London’s skyline, Death Hallows Part 1 gives audiences a taste of the visual feast in store come Part 2’s July release. I’m glad the filmmakers decided to kill any half-assed attempts at 3D conversion for this installment; the last thing fans want is a Clash of the Titans debacle.

One last note: the introduction of the Deathly Hallows was presented to audiences in such a clever and artful way, it was almost my favorite part of the whole movie. Hermione reads “The Tale of the Three Brothers” while a beautifully animated sequence plays out on the screen. The animation was gorgeous and the decision to include this in the film was brilliant.

The Weasel: Deathly Hallows Part 1 is definitely a set-up movie. Sure, it stands respectably on its own, but it is most definitely in need of its final act. Those who don’t know how the series ends might be left confused and unsure of converging events. With so many new plot points thrown in at the last minute (and this was a frustration I had even with the novels), un-indoctrinated viewers might find Part 1 a mish-mash of plot threads and set-up material. The movie’s efforts to please purists results in some plodding moments, but, at this point, fans would much rather have a complete representation of the story, slow pacing and all, than a truncated action piece.

A stellar installment in the franchise, one that sets itself apart by its dark tone and unapologetic storytelling, Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the perfect set-up to Part 2, but will likely never fully stand alone without its final counterpart.

4.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did you enjoy the darker tone of the movie? Were you pleased with the book-to-screen translation? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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4 responses

20 11 2010
Aaron Shively

I completely agree that this was pretty amazing. However, am I the only one who felt that the chase scene was just a bit TOO jumpy? I could barely tell what was going on for the most part! If the final epic battle scenes are like that, I’ll be super pissed!

20 11 2010

I think they’ll do us proud with the battle scenes in Part 2…I agree, I think the chase scene was a bit jumpy, but it was supposed to be a confusing battle…they were ambushed after all…but since it was pretty much the only major action piece in the movie, I can see where a bit more cohesion could have helped it stand out…can’t wait for Part 2 in July! 🙂

22 11 2010

You are 110% correct about those who don’t know much about Harry Potter being confused with all the sub-plots that find their way into the film. I was left confused quite often. But I can definitely see the films allure to HP fans all over! All I can say is that the I hope and trust that fans will not be let down when part 2 releases! Nice review, Dustin!

22 11 2010

Thanks for the comment! I think Part 2 will be quite epic! 🙂

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