Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part I)
By Gary Murray
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grunt
Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
MPAA Rating PG-13
Running time 2 hr 20 min
Selig Film Rating Matinee
It seems that we have been in the world of Harry Potter for decades. The continuing story of the boy wizard and his epic battle between "he who must not be named" has been going on for quite a while. While I can appreciate the unusual directors who have taken the helm of the franchise, my favorite director of the series was Chris Columbus, the man behind the first two adventures. His vision was just a bit more magical. As the adventures have gone along, they have become much more serious. The last one has been set up in two parts and is entitled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The story picks up not too far from the last adventure. There is an upcoming war and our three heroes, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) Hermonie (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grunt) are preparing. In a touching scene, Hermonie erases herself from the memories of her parents, hoping to shield them. The rest of the wizards and witches are in protection mode, shielding Harry from Voldemort.
With the death of Dumbledore, Voldemort has all the pieces he needs to ascend to power, gaining total control over the Ministry of Magic.
After a daring escape scene where there are a multitude of Harry Potters, it is learned what they must do. There are magic charms called Horcruxes that are the key to Voldemort's power. Our trio must find them and destroy them using the Sword of Godric Gryffindor. The problem is that no one knows the the location of the objects. Dumbledore has left Ron, Hermonie and Harry items from his will, items that are clues to finding all the missing pieces. Before one can say 'road trip' our young adventurers are on a quest.
The path leads them to the Ministry of Magic where they infiltrate using a potion. It becomes a tale of daring-do being in the newly enemy camp. We also get battles with other wizards and the giant snake of Voldemort. Of course there are also the teenage difficulties between friends and lovers, with complications and resolutions between our three leads. This part of the film feels more like Wizardly Twilight. The exercise climaxes with a cliff hanger, letting the audience be filled with anticipation for Deathly Hallows II due next summer.
To be honest, I hate films where one knows going in the theater that the entire film experience will not be shown. Back to the Future Part II and The Empire Strikes Back are two most notable examples. I understand that the makers of this work knew that there would have to be major cuts in order to make one movie from Deathly Hallows but it still feels like an unfulfilled experience.
The bigger problem with Deathly Hallows is that it is deathly slow. There are some long passages where very little happens. On the building of the relationships between Harry and Hermonie, the film loses its sense of urgency. In the two plus hours it takes to unspool, there is little feeling about the impending doom fated for both mankind and the half-blood wizards. By the unwilling nature to cut out parts that slow the action, the pace of the entire film is choppy at best.
The performances in Deathly Hallows make up for the pace issues. Our three leads have been doing this for years and know their characters. One has to wonder if they will have much success in their post Harry Potter careers. The transition from child actor to adult actor is an uphill battle with a ton of luggage. If they can divorce themselves from these roles and create new screen personas, they might make it.
The adult actors are given little to do here. Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman all have parts that are almost cameos. While they all get a line here and there, their use in Deathly Hallows is almost for naught. Of the newer characters Rhys Ifans stands out as Xeonphilius Lovegod. He plays the scatterbrained wizard with a solid freshness that the movie needs to keep the pace going.
Ralph Fiennes just oozes blackness as Voldemort. This is a seriously evil person and he captures every wicked element needed for the part. One believes that this truly nasty demon could exist. Knowing that a battle between him and our young hero has been seven episodes in the making and the final battle promises to just be the climax one imagines.
The special effects are all top rate, from the explosions to the flying death eaters. The world of Harry Potter that was started by Chris Columbus stays much the same but it has grown darker with every chapter. With all the scares and deadly deeds, this episode is definitely not a kiddie flick.
Director David Yates tried to keep the film afloat while being anchored down by the Steve Kloves screenplay. While the mixture of action and drama comes across as too lopsided, the promise of an epic ending shines in every scene.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a film made for the fans and not the casual movie fan. Those who haven't seen the other movies or read the books will definitely be confused. If you haven't seen the other works, it is best to go an catch-up on all the films before attempting this outing. But for those who know Dobby from Dumbledore, this will be a magical appetizer to the final course due in six months.