What does the world, and this site, need more than another review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1? Am I right? Ok, of course I know I’m the fifth writer to tackle the film on this site alone. But each person has a different perspective, and as a long time fan of both the books and the movies, I’d like to toss my hat into the ring as well.
We’ll start at the beginning, and probably my biggest (and one of very few) disappointment with the film: The Dursley’s departure. The family that (poorly) raised Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has often been dropped or shortened in the film versions. I understand that with limited time and at an effort to keep strong pacing, this may have been necessary. However, we barely got glimpses of Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and Petunia (Fiona Shaw), and though he is listed on IMDB as being in the film, I don’t think I even saw Dudley’s (Harry Melling) face. Being that this is the last time these pivotal character appear, couldn’t we have gotten sixty seconds with them? That touching goodbye between Harry and his cousin for the book? It would not have hurt the movie at all, and been a nice payoff for fans.
However, the Dursley scenes were split with something awesome and unexpected. The extra moments not explicitly shown in the books with Hermione’s (Emma Watson) parents were heartbreaking. It really informed the audience just what Hermione was losing, and colored her fabulous performance for the rest of the movie. What a brilliant addition. It was so good, it didn’t occur to me that the Dursleys were so cheated until much later.
The opening battle was stunning. Again, a few things I wish had been handled slightly differently. I would have liked to see Mad-Eye (Brendan Gleeson) go down, just because his death was unclear immediately to non-fans of the book series. I also remembered being terrified that Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) was dead when reading, but although he was slumped over in the film, it didn’t have that same sense of dread. That being said, it was still an intensely exciting scene, beautifully stage, and full of action and danger.
From there we move onto the Burrow, which thankfully was rebuilt a bit different, paying homage to the fact that the Weasley house was firebombed in the sixth movie. The inclusion of Bill (Domhnall Gleeson – yes, Brendan’s son) and Fleur (Clémence Poésy) was necessary, both to plant seeds of doubts about Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) into Harry’s head, and to hurry the three leads on their journey. I don’t fault the films for not including Bill and his bride before now, as it was an expendable subplot. I do wish, though, that scars on Bill’s face were a bit more pronounced, and that the battle in which Bill received them at the end of the sixth film had not been axed. But that is one of my many complaints about The Half Blood Prince, that could fill up a whole different article.
The Weasley plot I really, really wanted to see was Percy’s (Chris Rankin). He did not appear in this movie at all. He had one of the best plots in the book series, but it became apparent long ago that it was not be make it off the pages. His break from his family was hinted at in The Goblet of Fire, and the sharp eye noticed him in Order of the Phoenix. I was hoping for a few words before the wedding about him, so that perhaps a hint of the story would make it in. Sadly, this was not to be, though Rankin is listed in the credits for The Deathly Hallows Part 2. I doubt he will be seen much, but at least he will be there.
I read a couple of early reviews that said The Deathly Hallows grew boring after the wedding, as Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione searched high and low for the Horcruxes. In fact, although I adore the final book, it was more meandering in that format, as the Hallows began to take precedence. In this recent movie, the Hallows are introduced, but not until near the end, so they never become a front-and-center mission. Even Ron’s absence seemed shorter, as the move rushed ahead and kept the twists coming. As such, I completely disagree with those early reviews, and found the two and half hour runtime flew by, and was over much too soon.
Some criticism has also been heaped on that nude make-out session between Harry and Hermione in Ron’s dark vision. I admit, it was a tad adult, however, none of their naughty bits were actually shown. I think the way it was done was artistic, a bit sexy, and a perfect representation for the doubts that had surely been plaguing Ron’s mind during his separation from them. Plus, it allowed some justifiable rage that Ron needed to destroy the Horcrux.
More essential was the awkward dance between the two that happened in reality. In the books, Ron and Hermione were always an inevitable couple. I am always baffled by my movie-only friends, who root for Harry and Hermione, even after the Harry – Ginny (Bonnie Wright) romance finally blossomed. The dance, as well as Hermione’s obvious grief over Ron made it very clear where Hermione’s heart stood, and was a nice payoff to those who had been sidetracked by the on-screen chemistry of Radcliffe and Watson. Nicely done.
The Malfoy Manor scene provides the few other complaints that I have. Certainly not about the Malfoys themselves, as Jason Isaacs wonderfully portrayed the desperate cad Lucius, and Tom Felton’s tortured Draco is superb. I really believed that he was not going to give the (too) slightly disfigured Harry away on purpose, although his awkward non-answer did it for him. Draco is a boy, and unlike Harry, has not looked death in the face. He doesn’t possess the same heroic traits that Harry does, and I loved how Draco, who started as a series villain, was shown to be just a kid.
No, my complaints stem for the two pivotal deaths. Well, one, since Wormtail (Timothy Spall) was never killed, and his name appears in the credits for Part 2. The film Dobby (Toby Jones) was annoying from the beginning; the Jar Jar Binks of the Harry Potter world. It is no surprise that all of his subplot had been removed from movies 3 through 6. However, this has made his death mean so much less, as movie goers have not invested in him. Instead, what I argue was the single most tragic loss in a book filled with loss came across as noble, but not all that important. The exchange between Dobby and Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) only worsened it, as it felt out of place.
However, the scene immediately following where Harry mourns Dobby was splendid, even if movie-only fans were probably confused at the level of emotion shown. The mourning of the main characters drove home that Dobby’s death meant something, and was not just a bow to popular opinion.
Over all, the movie lived up to expectations quite well. As expected, the cuts were less than in previous installments, since two films allow a more expansive story. While it did not exactly stand on its own, it certainly will have fans chomping at the bit for eight months for the capper. Eight months is far too long. I wish it would come sooner. If you are a fan of the series, both movie and / or books, it should satisfy fairly completely, even in wanting more.
A number of new actors joined at this late time in the series, including the always flawless Bill Nighy as the new Minister of Magic, Peter Mullan as the evil henchman Yaxley, David Ryall as Elphias Doge, Andy Linden as Mundungus Fletcher, and Rhys Ifans as Luna’s eccentric dad, Xenophilius Lovegood. Each delivered outstanding, but brief performances. As most characters in the movie series, I only wished the got more screen time. Similarly, familiar favorites such as John Hurt as Ollivander, Frances de la Tour as Madame Maxine, and especially Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge were welcome returns, but barely got anything to do. This final film belongs to Ron, Hermione, and especially Harry, and while they own it, as they should, that does give less time for the deserving others.
A note, for any parents considering taking children to see it. Please don’t. If you’ve followed the last few films, it’s obvious that Harry Potter may have started as a children’s series, but was never intended to stay that way, hence it’s huge range in popularity among many age groups. But these final two installments are much more adult than any before, featuring multiple deaths, as mentioned above. In fact, the second part should have more than double the kills than this first one. The PG-13 rating is well deserved.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is playing in theaters everywhere now. I suggest you see it as quickly as possible, and multiple showings is not out of the question.