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.