When news broke that the last installment of Harry Potter was to be released as two separate films, cynical groans echoed around the world. Plus it was going to be in 3D, but Warner Bros thankfully pulled the plug on the much-maligned post-shoot conversion to deliver it in glorious 2D instead – for Part 1 anyway.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 picks up at the very end of The Half Blood Prince with Harry still ravaged by guilt over the death of Professor Dumbledore. Ron and Hermione join Harry to find the last remaining Horcruxes in order to destroy Lord Voldermort’s (Ralph Fiennes) immortality. Meanwhile, Voldermort and the Dark Arts are murdering mudbloods so as to create an Aryan-style wizard nation within the Ministry of Magic. Got that? No, well never mind.
This is a film for confirmed Potter fans – books or films. If you decide to join in fresh now, good luck. As we move towards the end of the franchise, moviegoers will appreciate the depth of author JK Rowling’s work. She has worked hard to create a coherent conclusion within her sprawling world. Those ideas, once seemingly so random, begin to make sense. The Horcruxes in particular now demonstrate their importance to the story.
At its core this is a road movie, as Harry and chums travel through various scenic landscapes to complete their quest. Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 indulges in plenty of epic sweeps, yet plays out more as a crisis character drama.
Perhaps predictably this the bleakest Harry Potter outing yet. The travelling trio are put through psychological hell as temptations and latent emotions threaten their friendship. There is palpable sense of dread via Voldermort, his snake Nagini and Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), including a haunting scene when murdered mudblood victims are pronounced over the radio.
Costume design by Jany Termine is lavish but believable within the Potter reality. Emma Watson as Hermione is most visible within the core young cast, taking a break from Gap-esque cotton duds for a ‘His Girl Friday’ striped coat and feminine, all-grown-up red dress. Nonetheless, their attire is generally more functional than memorable. These are everyday people with extraordinary powers.
Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 essentially feels like one long prologue to the big finish, and at 146 minutes this is a considerable chunk of set-up. Frustration ensues as characters recap the entire plot for the umpteenth time. Plus when the physical action does arrive, there is a sense that director David Yates is still less comfortable than with the more talky drama moments.
Definitely this is essential viewing, assuming of course that you are already an established fan or have just watched the entire franchise so far back to back. We should be grateful the filmmakers did not try to cram the entire book into a single four hour slogathon. Though really only time will tell if splitting one into two was the right choice or just an even longer way to prolong the inevitable.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was released in the UK and U.S. on 19th November. Part 2 is due for release on 15th July 2011.
© 2010 – 2012, Christopher Laverty.