Part One

With Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Brendan Gleeson, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by David Yates
Reviewed by JB

Don't know who I am? See the bloody movie!

Quick, 'arry - to the Bat Cave!     HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 is  unique in the series. More than any previous Potter film, it is much more of a direct sequel to the film that came before it, and because it only covers half of J. K. Rowling's final book, it, in essence, begins and ends in mid-story.  It breaks the formula (as does the book) in that it doesn't take place at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, but instead follows the adventures of the main trio as they search all over the countryside for the elusive horcruxes - objects which contain bits of Lord Voldemort's soul.  Although the cast of characters include many faces from past films, the film is completely dominated by its three main characters to the extent where even Professor Snape and Voldemort himself get only limited screen time.

    For anyone just coming to the Potter series, this is not the film to start with.  Ever since GOBLET OF FIRE, the films themselves have become more reliant on the audiences knowing what happened in the film that came before it, and this one goes all the way back to the second film, CHAMBER OF SECRETS, for one of its main characters.  Old characters, new characters, wizarding terms and references to past events fill the film, and (once again, as in the book), in the middle of Harry's search for the remaining horcruxes, a fellow wizard mentions three other lost objects (the Deathly Hallows) that he might be interested in finding! Jeez, give this kid a break, will ya?

     The core trio  - Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, and Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger - are so comfortable in their roles, and so attuned to each other by now, they nearly carry the film all by themselves.  It is amazing when you think how little acting experience they had when they were first picked for the roles, and now they can completely hold their own against some of the greatest actors of all time.  Not for a moment did I think to myself "That was a good bit by Dan" or "Emma's improved a lot" as I had in previous films.  Instead I found myself thinking things like "I hope Harry finds the sword", "Ron's being a real jerk" and "They really would be lost without Hermione",  a testament to how much they own the parts by now.  

Sgt. Hermione's Bloody Hands Club Band    The story is often talky (lots of info to share with the audience), but several exciting action sequences help to keep things moving, and although there is not much comedy, there are a few scenes that are ripe with humor, such as when the three magically disguise themselves to break into the Ministry of Magic and retrieve one of the horcruxes.  As usual, Rupert Grint, the most natural comedian of the three, is in his element in the comedy scenes.  Meanwhile, Radcliffe and Watson share many quiet scenes together without Grint, who is out of the story for a half hour or so.  In the earlier films, it was Radcliffe and Grint who had a great onscreen chemistry, and they still do, but in the David Yates films, Radcliffe and Watson work wonderfully together.

     In the book, Rowling seemed to take some joy in killing off some well-loved characters, and Part 1 of the film has it's share of fallen heroes.  I won't say who dies, but several do, on screen and off.  There's also a funeral, a wedding that gets interrupted by Death Eaters, Hermione gets tortured, Ron almost goes mad, an old woman dissolves before our eyes, a snake eats an entire person (not shown, thank God) and Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange seem to end every sentence with the Killing Curse "Avada Cadavra".  Fun for the whole family.

    Director David Yates deserves much credit for the sense of continuity he's brought to the Potter films.  I love Chris Colombo's colorful, faithful adaptations of the first two books, and I thought that Alfonso Cuaron's PRISONER OF AZKABAN was the best overall "film" of the series, but after HALF-BLOOD PRINCE and DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1, I may have to rethink things.  All three of Yates' films, but especially these last two, feel all of one piece, rather than individual films.  It might be just coincidence and timing that when he came on board, the performances of Radcliffe and Watson suddenly improved, but aside from that, Yates has made three good-looking, interesting movies.  Now that he's done with the series (Part 2 has been filmed already), he should really look for a great horror or mystery script to direct - he's got a real eye for shadowy film noir creepiness.

"And Snape will get New Jersey, and there will be the peace"      Even though the film only covers half a story, there should be enough major highlights to keep most Potter fans happy, such as a scary visit to an old witch living in Godric's Hollow, Harry's birthplace, and a beautifully animated sequence that unfolds on screen as Hermione reads an old wizard fairytale called "The Tale of the Three Brothers" that makes me wish they would make similarly animated versions of the rest of the tales in the book, which Rowling wrote after the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  

    Overlong by at least a half an hour, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is not an easy one to rate.  It is, after all, only half a movie, and will be more satisfying next year when it will fall into its proper place as the first half of a five hour finale.  The best compliment I can pay to the film is that the morning after I saw it, I wanted to see it again.  4 - JB

Harry Potter   Previous Film: The Half-Blood Prince    Next Film: The Deatly Hallows Part 2
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