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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

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Six movies after young wizard Harry Potter first enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry we have Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the two-part epic finale of what is now the most financially successful film franchise of all time.

The decision to split the last Harry Potter into two – a tactic studios are employing more and more these days, with the last of The Twilight Saga, to name just one, following suit – is both a good and bad thing for fans. It’s good because it means more of the mammoth Deathly Hallows book can be transferred to the big-screen over the space of two movies. But while this may please fans, the fact that we’ll have to wait until next summer to see Part 2 will surely be frustrating, even if it does help build up anticipation.

So is Deathly Hallows Part 1 as epic as it has been made out to be? Does it start off a fitting conclusion to the franchise? Well, yes and no.

Firstly, most things fans retun to the Harry Potter films time and time again for are to be found here. Plenty of magical spells, exciting set pieces, extraordinary situations for our young trio of heroes face up against once more and just generally getting to spend time with these beloved characters.

The main trouble with Deathly Hallows Part 1 is that it doesn’t feel entirely like its own film. It’s extremely evident that this is just one part of a bigger story broken off and displayed on its own. Most of the time it feels less occupied with making itself standalone and more like “Wait till you see Part 2!” It feels very much like a precursor to the hopefully epic conclusion and although that may work fine when that conclusion has still to be released but in the long-term it’s going to hurt the movie’s own sense of identity, or lack thereof.

Another problem Part 1 of Deathly Hallows has is that there’s a long stretch in the middle of the film where little actually happens, at least in terms of the usual magical, spectacle-filled set pieces we’ve come to know and love about the franchise. For a long stretch of time we follow Harry, Ron and Hermione on the run, hiding in the woods from Lord Voldemort and his legion of followers, out of the safe and familiar confines of Hogwarts (we never actually visit the school in the entire film). Although this allows for certain issues and themes that have been bubbling under the surface for a long time to finally rear their heads – not to mention give the three main actors a chance to actually act - it does make it a lot less engaging than a few of the others films. “Oh, just get on with it!” was a thought that crossed my mind on more than one occasion. 

One of the great things about the Harry Potter franchise is the fact that we get to see a whole slew of great British show off their seasoned acting talent in a fantasy franchise you wouldn’t otherwise expect to find them. Joining the franchise for its last leg of the journey are the likes of Rhys Ifans as the strange Luna Lovegood’s father, Bill Nighy as the new head of the Ministry of Magic and Peter Mullen who puts in a fantastic, if short-lived, performance as Yaxley, one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters. The franchise really is a who’s who of great British actors and I imagine the British film industry will be severely worse off once the series bids its final farewell next summer.

One of the problems with the last Potter film, Half-Blood Prince, was the lack of attention given to just exactly who the Half-Blood Prince of the title was. It wasn’t written into the story (script) all that well and became almost like an afterthought that the film only really attempted to explain, in a rather rushed fashion, towards the end of the film. Thankfully that isn’t the case with Deathly Hallows. The titular Deathly Hallows play an absolutely integral part in the film and is explained at just the right moment via a fantastic film-within-film animation that feels strangely appropriate when it so easily could have felt out of place.

So while I didn’t like Deathly Hallows Part 1 anywhere near as much as some of the other instalments (Prisoner of Azkaban and Half-Blood Prince stand out as highlights), it’s still worth checking out. Not that you’re going to be persuaded, mind you, by what you read – you’ll either want to see it or you won’t.  It does what it does rather well but it’s not entirely what I wanted and expected from the franchise. I can only keep my fingers crossed that Part 2 will feel much more like its own film and finish off the franchise with a bang.

 

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About Ross Miller

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

    There are only two things I find I disagree with you in this review: I thought it was fine that was treated as a half-story, instead of a stand alone film, as it has been billed that way from the beginning. And I still think Order of the Phoenix is the best Potter movie thus far. It was a great movie, and you did a great job reviewing a film that is hard to review. Thank you for the effort!

  • JGF

    The new Harry Potter film could more appropriately be called “Camping with Harry Potter & Friends.” It was awful to the point of ridiculousness. Two people in the row in front of me were texting through the interminable series of camping-out scenes. The young Potter fan next to me was almost asleep due to lack of action on the screen. It took three hours to do almost nothing to move the plot forward! None of us will be going to see Part II, so good for them that they made a bundle on the first part :-(

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “None of us will be going to see Part II”

    I don’t believe you.

  • Ereithil

    “The new Harry Potter film could more appropriately be called “Camping with Harry Potter & Friends.” It was awful to the point of ridiculousness. Two people in the row in front of me were texting through the interminable series of camping-out scenes. The young Potter fan next to me was almost asleep due to lack of action on the screen. It took three hours to do almost nothing to move the plot forward! None of us will be going to see Part II, so good for them that they made a bundle on the first part :-(”

    You obviously didnt read the book… neither did I but even I knew there was a lot of hiding and travelling for awhile.

  • a

    This movie was amazing! I absolutely loved every minute of it. I think it did a great job displaying the ragged emotions and building tension and uncertainty felt by the main trio. The camping scenes were supposed to be there, you can’t fault it for that. So many movies have the hero marching off in complete certainty to save the world – this was more realistic. Dumbledore’s death left more questions than answers, and Harry and co were left to pick up the pieces of the haphazard trail and follow it the best they could. This movie is potent, raw, and with its characteristic humorous moments it comes out a real winner. If you haven’t read the books or seen the majority of the other movies, don’t comment on this one because its obviously not going to be clear to you whats happening. all in all, ill probably see this again and am incredibly excited for the last movie in the series. oh btw, pretty good review. this was just my rant to all the haters :P

  • Laura

    I have read every book, and many times, I might add. I’m sad to say that the movie was awful. I know that the book can’t entirely be displayed on the beeg screen as JK wrote it, but come on! There were so any made up things, usless made up things, places…dances! Polyjuice potion, Mad-Eyes eye, patronuses, Dumbledore’s tomb…so many changes…
    The “tension” was toooooo much…I think there is at least half an hour of silence in the movie, it’s just waiting for something to happen…and then it doesn’t.
    I loved the last book so I was even more disappointed when I saw the movie.