REVIEW: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”
SHULL: “Potter” doesn’t disappoint
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is the seventh film in the popular series and David Yates’ third Potter film as director. The story surrounds Harry Potter, obviously, and his best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, as the trio find themselves away from Hogwarts School and on their own in the height of the war against Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters. For some of you who haven’t read the books and wish to see this film without any knowledge of what is to come, you may want to stop reading here. I will avoid any major spoilers but will be writing about some plot points.
“The Deathly Hallows” begins with an immediately dark and desperate tone as The Minister of Magic (Bill Nighy), discusses to the press, the severity of the threat that Voldemort is about to bring the world. From here we keep a steady and ominous pace as we see citizens being displaced by this threat and find characters we have come to know and love (especially Hermione) making great sacrifices for their cause. We also witness a meeting with Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters as they discuss the imminent attack. Voldemort understands that he has been unable to kill Harry Potter because their wands share the same core (magical object that helps power them). Voldemort plans to fix this and successfully kill Potter.
Cutting now to the Potter group, Harry and many of the major players for good, are having a meeting themselves. There is finally some humor as six of the friends drink “Polly juice” to transform themselves into doppelgangers of Harry. This will confuse the Dark Eaters and help protect Harry as the rescue team takes him to safety. The humor is short-lived though as a betrayal has compromised the rescue effort and the group quickly find themselves under heavy attack. They flee to safety and unfortunately not all of them make it.
Harry’s plan of attack involves objects known as “Horcruxes.” These are objects Lord Voldemort has used to safely hide parts of his soul. As long as these objects exist, Voldemort cannot be killed. Their existence guarantees his immortality. Only after every Horcrux is found and destroyed can Harry Potter and his friends have a chance at victory.
This film finds our three leads alone in a dark and violent world. The source material has been slowly maturing with our characters throughout the years to this final crescendo, with the last book containing enough story to fill two full movies. We have also been taken away from Hogwarts and given much more location shooting. There are still plenty of beautiful effects that also seem to get better and better with each movie. In fact, there are over a thousand.* These effects seamlessly hold the movie together and meld the unfamiliar locations with familiar magical effects. A good example of this is a scene in a lonely café where our characters find themselves in a fight, shooting power bolts from their wands. This is given a beautiful and gritty effect that ends up as more of a realistic shootout than a magical battle.
It’s not all gloom and doom though. There are some beautifully light-hearted moments of levity that brought real laughter from the audience. Also, some friends from the past films will be returning. Dobby is back and appears completely lifelike and real. There is also an amazing animation sequence that I found to be a highlight of the film. This presents itself beautifully over Hermione’s narration of the significance and meaning of “The Deathly Hallows.”
Once we realize this significance, we have a greater understanding of what is ahead. Unfortunately, Voldemort seems to have figured it out also.
I really appreciated the “Cat and Mouse” theme running throughout the film. It takes our heroes everything they have to stay one step ahead of the villains. Whether they are transporting, running, fighting or becoming middle-aged characters for a few scenes in order to deter the Death Eaters, they will keep you on your toes and completely entertained. It is beautifully shot and wonderfully directed. In my opinion it is the best Potter film yet.
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint give mature and exhilarating performances as our leads. They show imperfect heroes fighting passionately against impossible odds. They are the light in a dark world where Dumbledore has been killed and Hogwarts is no longer a safe haven for them. The reality is that Harry, Hermione and Ron have only each other. They must rely on the training they have received up to this point. They will need their friendship, conviction and their resourcefulness to survive.
School is out. The stakes are high. And all of the years we have followed them from lesson to lesson has led to this, the beginning of their final and most difficult journey.
* “POST” Magazine. November, 2010 issue.
WIEGENSTEIN: New Potter full of pleasure
As a member of that group able to claim that the “Harry Potter” series accompanied them through childhood and past adolescence, the mania surrounding the final film seemed unsurprising to me. The ultimate and final moment of the series — the debut of “Deathly Hallows,” book version — has come and gone, and JK Rowling recently confirmed that there are no other installments forthcoming.
So I wasn’t too shocked to find a Sunday morning screening of “Deathly Hallows” three-quarters full. (Though I was unhappily greeted with the sight of people choosing to eat their lunch early — nachos? At 10 am?) But when I heard people around me humming along to John Williams’ opening theme tune, the strangely separate nature of the films’ popularity hit home. Yes, viewers need the final battle between Harry Potter and Voldemort (sorry, You-Know-Who) for narrative closure. Wanting to see that duel as interpreted by these particular people, on the other hand, is what makes the seventh addition to the canon so important to so many.
The first installment of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” plants itself firmly in the “Empire Strikes Back” camp of gloom – Harry (Dan Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are cut off from all other beloved characters by the first 30 minutes. From there it seems inevitable that stress will soon come from within as well as from the numerous groups threatening their survival.
While all the true glory of HP 7 is being saved for next summer’s section, it seems this first half is intended as a showpiece for a variety of acting performances, lest they be forgotten in the coming melee. From Ralph Fiennes’ continued dominance of his role as He Who Shall Not Be Named to some fantastic work by several unknowns brought on the scene by the use of Polyjuice Potion, the need to bring A-game talent clearly wasn’t neglected.
The hurry-up-and-wait pace of “Deathly Hallows” was criticized by many after the book’s initial release, so the similar stop and start of action here can be frustrating at times. What’s truly a pleasant surprise is the amount of building dread the film is able to create, even for prepared fans. While it’s difficult for those who know what’s in store not to react to particular characters or plot points, there are many sequences here just as tense and horrifying as they might be when watching without foreknowledge.
After several films of testing wildly different directors (a fan of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Prisoner Of Azkaban” isn’t likely to dig the first two Chris Columbus — helmed installments), the franchise has settled in comfortably with David Yates, whose influence seems most apparent in the upswing in acting ability from the center trio.
The magic in all of Yates’ movies has a lived-in, ordinary sort of wonder to it — a far cry from earlier chapters where one could almost see the filmmakers screaming “Look, a troll! We made you a troll!” off to one side. He’s a confident handler, and that well-orchestrated feel makes a film full of lead-up a pleasure in its own right.
|Print article||This entry was posted by jmartin on November 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm, and is filed under Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|