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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I: Did It Deliver?

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Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., my friends and I arrived at the movie theater. We weren’t there for a 9:00 p.m. movie.

We wanted to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I,  and like countless other fans, we were willing to wait four or more hours to see it. One of my friends arrived at the theater at 6:00 p.m.

This was the first midnight opening I have ever attended. The setting was just as I expected: long lines of people stretching around the theater. Harry Potter fans with Hogwarts scarfs and sweaters sat on lawn chairs under blankets.

The hours went by as fans waved their toy wands, squealed excitedly, or read copies of the Deathly Hallows that they had brought to the theater. It was a party.

Finally, the movie began, and as an avid Harry Potter fan, I was entranced for over two hours. The movie entertained me, scared me, surprised me, saddened me, and made me laugh. I literally sat on the edge of my seat.

However, when I woke up this morning, I still couldn’t figure out whether I liked it or not. What’s not to like about the movie?

The acting in the movie was excellent. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint have become polished actors that can carry a film. They delivered in both heavy and lighthearted scenes.
The new actors did very well: Rhys Ifans and Bill Nighy did great jobs as Xenophilius Lovegood and Rufus Scrimgeour respectively.

The musical score was excellent. The special effects were excellent. The Weasley twins were (as always) excellent. The screenwriters had to pay their dues in this film by introducing Bill Weasley and reintroducing like Kreacher and Fleur:  characters neglected in the past few movies. However, they did what they could, and the results were acceptable.

I was even satisfied that the movie ended where I predicted it would end. However, the ending left me with a feeling of emptiness…and it wasn’t because of the cliffhanger.

However, a crucial scene at the end of the movie (Malfoy Mannor) largely failed. “Failed” is a harsh word, but I think it did.

In fact, I think that if David Yates would have delivered in this last, crucial moment, I would have “liked” the movie faster than a Facebook page.

I say the ending failed because, like the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which also failed), too much was changed from the book. Malfoy Manor lost both value and coherency with the changes.
I know that directors have a lot of things to consider when they translate a story from book to film. But there comes a point when the author just knows better than you.

In the case of the Half-Blood Prince, most of the tension and shock from Dumbledore’s death scene was lost because there was no Hogwarts battle. There was no fight between the Order of the Phoenix, no Dumbledore’s Army guarding the Room of Requirement, no Fenrir Greyback biting Bill Weasley. Nothing.

What happened instead of a colossal battle? The Death Eaters disarmed some Aurors and Bellatrix broke glass in the Great Hall.
Why?

Additionally, the key confrontation between Snape and Harry was almost emotionless. There were no agonized accusations of “Coward!”, no deranged Snape filled with anguish, no Hagrid or Fang howling in the distance. Alan Rickman could have delivered a phenomenal moment, but apparently he wasn’t given the chance.
Why not?

I felt cheated. The Half-Blood Prince was a wonderful movie up to the end. Dumbledore’s death scene, and the surrounding action, was changed so much that it lost emotional and dramatic value.

My Half-Blood Prince rant is relevant because I think David Yates did the same thing in the Deathly Hallows Part IFor the majority of the movie, I was satisfied. However, the crucial moment at Malfoy Manor did not deliver.

“Give me some specifics! Why was Malfoy Manor so bad?”

I’ll tell you:

1) Where was Wormtail’s dramatic death scene? A friend sitting next to me audibly gasped when it became evident that Wormtail’s death had been skipped. Wormtail got stupefied. That’s IT? No hesitation, no redemption for Wormtail?

How are you going to do away with Wormtail in Part II? Why would you want to do away with him in Part II? Either way, it’s too late. The moment is over, the drama has been lost.

2) Where the tension of Voldemort’s imminent arrival? I didn’t feel it. Instead of building up suspense, the movie slowed down as soon as Dobby dropped the chandelier on Bellatrix. Then, instead of a heart-stopping escape (like in Godric’s Hollow), Bellatrix whines that Dobby tried to hurt her. Harry and company stand still and wait until she’s done.

3) Finally, why drain the drama out of their escape with a protracted speech by Dobby? I love Dobby. Everybody loves Dobby. But Bellatrix’s antics and Dobby’s speech were not fitting for the time and place.

It was like we were back in The Chamber of Secrets again: Harry is confronting Lucius Malfoy with Tom Riddle’s Diary–only Harry is much older, the stakes are higher, Bellatrix has a knife, and Dobby is about to die.

And so the film ended as complaints formed in my throat. That is not where you want the audience to leave. The fact that the Half-Blood Prince and the Deathly Hallows Part I failed in their endings disappoints me all the more because I love the ending to the Order of the Phoenix.

The Order of the Phoenix ends with a perfect blend of action and heart-wrenching emotion. The Half-Blood Prince left me unfeeling when I should have been crying at Dumbledore’s death, and Part I of the Deathly Hallows left me disappointed.

I think David Yates has done some great work with the Harry Potter movies, but he has twice disappointed me right before the credits have rolled. I hope I can’t say the same when the Deathly Hallows Part II is over.

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About SteventheThorn

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I completely agree with your Half Blood Prince critiques. When you stated you were about to give reasons why the Malfoy Manor scene failed, I was ready to write a big disagreement with you… and then I read them, and realize that I cannot. I plan on writing my own full review tomorrow, but tonight, you have pointed out some things to be me I overlooked. Thank you for that. Excellent review.

  • SteventheThorn

    Thanks for the comment. I wish that I could write glowing reviews of the endings to both Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Part I, but I can’t.

    Both movies have enough redeemable parts to make them good, but they could have been phenomenal.