Home > Movies, Review > Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

The Jist: Harry, Ron and Hermione set off in search of the 7 Horcruxes in the hope of destroying them and finishing Lord Voldemort for good.  What’s a Horcrux? Have you been living under a rock or something?

4.5 Golden Snitches /5
 
Picking up where we left off in The Half-Blood Prince, Lord Voldemort and his loyal “Death-Eater” followers have succeeded in killing Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, the last true obstacle in Voldemort’s rise to power, leaving the wizarding world without its greatest defender and Harry without a mentor and guide in his quest to find and destroy the remaining five of seven Horcruxes – seven objects in which Lord Voldemort enshrined portions of his soul, making him nearly immortal.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows begins with a very sombre tone as we see our three heroes, Harry, Ron and Hermione, preparing for the journey ahead. Though each scene demonstrates the gravity of what’s to come, Hermione’s tear-filled use of a spell on her parents, wiping all of their memories of her is particularly effective, shown by her image slowly dissolving from all of their family photos, setting the general tone of the film.

Some of the early scenes, particularly a chase scene where Harry and Hagrid flee Death Eaters on a flying motorcycle, seem tailor-made for 3D, with shots from camera angles that don’t make much sense in regular filming.  But honestly, it didn’t need it.  3D wouldn’t have added anything to overall experience of the general movie-goer or Potter fan; actually if anything it’d have detracted from the film’s emotional depth, which was its surprising strength.  One can only hope that Warner Bros. will come to their senses and keep part II off of 3D screens as well.

There's nothing conspicuous about a flying motorcycle!

David Yates (Who picked up the franchise at The Order of the Phoenix) does an excellent job towing the fine line between telling the story that readers will remember from the books, while using enough artistic licence to keep the story fresh.  Particularly effective is the use of the main character’s voices while other actors appear on screen, mouthing the lines, when “polyjuice potion” (a potion that gives you the appearance of another person) is in effect.  While a bit monochrome for my own tastes,  Yates also effectively uses of the natural almost perpetual grey of the British sky along with soft colour to keep the feel of the film reflective of the seriousness of the narrative.

The best part of the film, especially as someone who’s read the books, is the take on the “Tale of the Three Brothers” a children’s story that describes how the Deathly Hallows – The Elder Wand, The Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility – came to be.  The story is told by Hermione, however her telling is used as voice-over while the audience is treated to a Guillermo Del Toro-esque cartoon of the events described.  It was an exceptionally creative and original way of conveying the story and one that will hopefully be similarly used in other films in the place of flashbacks or words on screen.

Ever-present in the books and films, the comic relief in The Deathly Hallows is true to form with the oddball Lovegoods, Doby the house-elf and of course the Weasley twins Fred and George.  However, Yates uses the comedy more effectively in the 7th Potter instalment, relieving the audience, but never taking away from the serious gravity of the circumstances engulfing the wizarding world.  The scenes and jokes are funny, but there’s not a lot of time to dwell on them before you’re brought right back into the seriousness of the story.  The result is a much more natural comedic flow – the punch lines more believable than contrived.
 
The films three stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all deliver their best performances in the franchise, each showing solid range and familiarity of the characters they’ve grown up with.  Daniel Radcliffe delivers another solid performance as Harry Potter.  It’s almost hard to see the 12 year old boy that began the franchise in The Philosopher’s Stone; the growth in Radcliff’s acting over the seven films is undeniable.  He demonstrates Harry’s quiet confidence and fierce bravery exactly the way it’s read in the novels.  At the risk of further type-casting, which after this performance I’m convinced he can shed, in every way Radcliff has grown into the on-screen representation of Harry Potter that readers had been imagining from the books.  Ruppert Grint, normally performing as lovable comic relief, portrays an as of yet unseen side of Ron Weasley.  Amplified by the Horcrux in the form of a pendant worn around his neck, Ron develops dark jealousy of Hermione’s relationship with Harry that peaks when he takes the light from where Harry and Hermione are sitting and darkly mutters “Yeah, I’m still here” with perfect lack of emotion.  A scene like that makes me think that Grint just may have an acting career post-Potter after all.  Emma Watson, whose star is easily the brightest coming out of the Potter franchise, nearly stole the show with a strong, and yet perfectly understated performance, making the story as much about Hermione as it was about Harry without challenging for screen-time.  Really, she was brilliant.  She plays every scene, every line, and every facial expression exactly how Hermione Granger is written to perfection.  I’ve little doubt that Watson will become an A-list star, and odds are there’s more than a little bit of gold in her future.

Also deserving of praise is Ray Finnes’ Voldemort – the man could be my villain any day.  His Voldemort is perfection, particularly his airy voice that relates Voldemort’s fragmented soul.
 
The music, originally composed by John Williams, has often taken centre stage the in Harry Potter films; however, the only time I actually noticed music at all was a violin solo near the end of the film. Even when I saw the film for the second time in 16 hours (yeah, I know) and was looking for the music I couldn’t find it.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing; most of Williams’ score was very bright and The Deathly Hallows was undeniably dark. However, it’s another factor that labels the seventh instalment as markedly different from the first six.
 
Final Verdict:  The best film of the franchise, The Deathly Hallows Part I is very enjoyable for those well-versed in the books as well as the casual movie goer.  However it won’t make much sense if you haven’t seen the previous films/read the books or aren’t somewhat familiar with the story to this point.  Is somewhat unsatisfying, but that’s expected given it’s part I of II.

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  1. November 23, 2010 at 6:51 pm

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