I have to start with a disclaimer. I am not a Harry Potter fan. I do however, believe that the books are well written and that the films are on the whole a good adaptation of the story to the cinematic medium.
With that in mind, let us dive right into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Right off the bat, I am bothered by the fact that it is a part 1. What, they couldn’t do a single film based on a single book? The book was rather long, so maybe they didn’t think they could do it justice in the 2 – 3 hours that a typical American film generally lasts. Regardless, I feel that the breaking up of the book into 2 films is a cashing in of sorts that I do not approve of.
The movie starts off with a bang as we are reminded of just how low things are in Harry Potter’s world. Harry’s uncle is seen leaving his home (in fear of his life one is lead to assume) and Hermione is seen erasing herself from her parents’ minds and from every picture in their home. We are the presented with a delightful ensemble scene where Harry is supposed to be getting moved to a more secure location. Lots of funny British wit and that typical Harry Potter quirkiness fill this scene and it is one of my favorite in the entire film.
And then the movie kicks it straight into top gear and roars off. Flying motorbikes and brooms dueling over England, wizards blasting spells at each other in pitch mid-air battles and a quick duel between Harry and Voldemort. I looked down at my watch and realized that we weren’t even very far into the film, but I was already back in Harry Potter’s world. That is what makes this movie great, the world just feels like it actually is there. Locations are revisited and for someone who has seen all of the other films, the evolution of the world feels realistic (although magical).
This organic feel of the world is also one of the film’s greatest weaknesses. It functions well as part of a series of 8 films, but as a standalone film it would fall flat on its proverbial face. Who are all of these people? Why is Harry running for his life? Yes, you get the basic idea that he’s the good guy and the snake looking fellow who likes to torture and kill people is the bad guy, but this isn’t exactly an Indiana Jones movie. I may be asking for too much, but one of my favorite things from the books was the little asides thrown in here and there where JK Rowling reminded the reader of how this thing or that person fits in. In this film, those asides do not exist and as such when you first watch the film, some of the elements are not clear. I may be nitpicking, but that is simply because this film does so much well that all we are left with are nits to pick.
The rest of the film is a roller coaster of action, interspersed with surprisingly well acted scenes of Harry, Ron and Hermione while they are off trying to destroy the Horcruxes (if you don’t know what those are, watch the previous film). I say surprisingly well acted, because of how young the three actors are. The oldest of the three is currently 22. Personally, I hope these three will find more great roles to play in the future as I enjoy their on-screen presence and find it refreshing that young actors can in fact act and not just fill in to horror and comedy roles.
The pacing of the film can at points feel slow, but frankly that’s just the story. These kids are out there trying to fulfill their mission for a long time. Maybe a little Eye of the Tiger montage could have sped things up, but aside from that there’s really no way to visually say: A long time passed.
The final sequence where the protagonists get captured and fight their way out trying to make a daring escape is awesome. I remember reading the book and you know what? The movie hit this particular nail on the head. The entire sequence just felt right. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I will say that again, you have a very well acted sequence and the set up for what should be a very good finale for the series of films.
My recommendation: Watch this on a really big screen. If you can’t make it to the theaters in the next few months, then sit really close to your screen at home when you do end up watching this. Also, the special effects in this film, in my opinion, are the best I have ever seen. Yes, that includes Iron Man and Avatar. They just feel more natural and part of the action (Avatar’s “ooh how pretty” was a bit much for me).
Overall: 5 stars and 2 big thumbs up (unless you haven’t seen the rest of the films, in which case, only one thumb up).