Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I


MOVIE REVIEW
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
Rating: PG-13
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Released: Nov 19, 2010

Somber Deathly Hallows the Beginning of the End

The end has finally come. On the eve of his eighteenth birthday a group has arrived at Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) muggle abode to whisk him away to safety and away from Voldermort’s (Ralph Fiennes) ever-watchful eye. Hermione (Emma Watson) is there, so is Ron (Rupert Grint) with pretty much the rest of the Weasley clan, all determined to make sure their friend stays alive and will be able to go forth on an adventure none of them envy him for having to endure.


Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I © Warner Bros

Thus begins the final chapter of J.K. Rowling’s massively popular literary tale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I a somber, introspective and at times exceedingly depressing descent into a darkness before a potential dawn some might not enjoy near as much as they’re anticipating. The third entry in a row to be directed by David Yates, this one is by far the most mature of the entire series, and while moments of action and adventure do occur they aren’t nearly as frequent as they were in earlier chapters.

All of which is fine by me. Steve Kloves’ literate and complicated script is rich in dialogue, the conversations Harry, Hermione and Ron engage in ones I felt compelled to listen to. But he also fills his narrative with astonishing moments of uniqueness and quiet, an eloquent moment of dance speaking poignantly to an innocent childhood now lost and shadowy adulthood still yet to be determined.

The movie is also visually stunning. The production design is the best of the entire series, the leaving of Hogwarts for the real word freeing the cinematic technicians in a way that kept me amazed. The look, feel and sound of this first half of the final face-off between good and evil is tactile and grounded, and there were times it was as if I could feel the bark of trees rub against my hand or the sand of a lonely beach mingle between my toes.

But as mesmerizing as much of this is that doesn’t make me completely satisfied. The film obviously ends in a cliffhanger, a dour and depressing one at that. Yates and company didn’t send me out of the theatre feeling anything close to euphoria, leaving me in a place of wreckage and devastation almost akin to the one the characters themselves are going through.

Not that I would have a problem with this if I were watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II tomorrow and not in July 2011. Where the picture leaves off is completely viable, but just because that’s so that doesn’t mean I like it. The maelstrom of emotions this one put me through only to leave me hanging just didn't seem fair, the whole thing nothing more than a somber 150-minute coming attraction for a subsequent adventure I have to wait eight-plus months to see.

A case I guess could also be made that the subtitle for this one could be something akin to, “Harry and Hermione Go Camping,” a great deal of the narrative involving the pair (sometimes with Ron, for a long period without) tromping through the woods talking about how to destroy Horcruxes, deciphering symbols and discussing the merits of returning to Potter’s childhood home. But this was okay by me, the richness of the dialogue and the simplicity behind the drama keeping me enthralled. This portion works, and by the time Ron heroically returns I was more than willing to spend as much time in the woods with the trio as Yates and Kloves felt necessary.


Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I © Warner Bros.

I’m not sure what general audiences will think of all of this. While the tone of the series has been evolving ever since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the sudden shift from fantasy-adventure to dark and disturbing coming-of-age melodrama is still rather startling. This is a movie where moments of levity are hard to come by, and even the action or suspense sequences are filled with a sinisterly unsettling uncertainty that can make viewers uncomfortable.

Issues with the climax (or lack thereof) aside, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is still well worth a person’s time. There is so much of value going on almost all reservations can be dismissed with relative ease. All three of the young actors have grown into their respective roles beautifully, while Yates has become so confident behind the camera it’s almost as if he can do no wrong. Without question, this is the movie he wanted to make and as such I find myself applauding him more than anything else. There is magic left in this series, maybe even a ton of it, and as much as the cliffhanger annoyed me I’ll still be first in line when the final installment hits theatres next July.

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