Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint
Directed By: David Yates
Written By: Steve Kloves
Admittedly, I’m rather late to the world of Harry Potter. I read the books prior to the theatrical release of The Order of the Phoenix, which would be the first Potter movie I would see on the big screen (having a little DVD marathon beforehand). Once becoming familiar to the universe that Harry, Hermione, and Ron all live in, I couldn’t help but to be taken with it. It’s just a fun story. Unfortunately with 2009’s The Half Blood Prince, one of my favorites in the book series, David Yates (after a solid Order of the Phoenix) took a major step back. So much was missing from the story it was ridiculous. This isn’t me being nitpicky, either: the most important and interesting parts were the ones left off in favor of teen angst, which is certainly a part of the Harry Potter story, but this just made for a very underwhelming movie, the worst of the series. It’s in this light that The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is released. I’m happy to report that this is a huge improvement to Half Blood Prince.
When we left Harry (Radcliffe) last, his burgeoning love with Ginny (Bonnie Wright) is put on hold and his mentor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has been struck down. Harry along with Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) are given the task of destroying a series of Horcruxes, pieces of soul attached to inanimate objects, of the very evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). It’s only after doing so that Voldemort could be defeated once and for all. Unfortunately for our threesome, Dumbledore neglected to give them any idea of what these Horcruxes might be. A minor detail. Whoops.
Now that we’re all up to date, this movie opens with the emotional departure of Hermione from her parents (along the not-so emotional one from Harry with his aunt and uncle) and the Battle of Little Whinging, where the Order of the Phoenix arrives to take Harry from his childhood home (which never felt like home to begin with) to a safe place and are forced to fight Death Eaters (followers of Voldemort) along the way. There will be casualties. After a wedding which not only is attacked by Death Eaters (who have also taken over Hogwarts, led by the traitorous Severus Snape [Alan Rickman]), it’s also revealed that the Ministry of Magic has fallen and is now in direct control of Voldemort’s minions, the trio is off to try to find the mysterious Horocruxes. That’s the plot in a nutshell.
As they often do, our favorite wizards tend to stumble upon things by chance or take a long time to figure out things that seem easy in hindsight, but of course, with vague instructions the simplest tasks are daunting. This is nothing new to the series, so it should be very much expected. Most of the book does remain intact, there are some changes. The biggest one is that we don’t get to see a rather heartfelt moment between Harry and his cousin Dudley before they part ways for seemingly good. That would have been a nice touch.
Yates has done a great job in creating the mood for the movie and it resembles Order of the Phoenix in that regard. It’s very bleak and dark. I have to mention the Godric’s Hollow scene which borderlines as a horror scene. It’s extremely dark and could be considered scary for smaller kids. In this installment, the stakes never seem higher. In the initial battle, there are those who get killed or wounded (and they won’t be the only ones in the course of the movie). This really shows that no one is safe. Anyone can and will get hurt or even die at any moment. It’s a war out there, after all. They have come a long way from battling a troll in the girl’s bathroom. That said, that movie doesn’t feel helpless, either. The three work out enough so that some progress is made to give us some hope as we watch.
While supporting characters are largely absent, it would be a disservices to not talk about them. Rickman makes what is largely an extended cameo and is great as usual. Look for him in the next movie. Ifans makes a good turn as Luna’s father and it’s always great to see him in anything. The same can be said about Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix Lestrange and Jason Isaac’s Lucius Malfoy. However, the character with the biggest impact is, of course, Dobby the computer generated house elf (the very same elf that Harry help to free in Chamber of Secrets). His return, despite him being rather annoying in the second movie, is very much welcome.
While the movies have always leaned heavily on the young wizards, this one is definitely belongs to Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint. Obviously, this was going to be the tougher one to make. There is a lot of dead time in the first part of the story (most of which was glossed over, thankfully), but it’s from sheer will of the three main actors that it remains interesting. Radcliffe has always been the least heralded of the three, but I’ve always looked at him as the rock of the movies. He’s very consistent and is very solid here. Watson is great once again. The scene in which she erases herself from her Muggle family is completely heartbreaking and filmed in such a way that we see all of her pain. Grint always has to burden most of the angst as his Ron has always been Harry’s friend, inadequate feeling and always wants to be noticed. He’s always been the strongest of the three, in my opinion, and that continues here. However, we shouldn’t judge them singularly but as a whole. They have absolutely incredible chemistry together. They have many years of practice, but they really seem like close friends. More importantly, they really are Harry, Hermione, and Ron (for better or worse in regards to their young careers).
Bottom Line: Despite the colossal failure that was The Half Blood Prince, David Yates rebounded fantastically. The Deathly Hallows is the best Harry Potter movie since The Prisoner of Azkaban. The tone is perfect and the performances are strong. The book largely intact with some minor exceptions, so fans of the book will be happy. In what could have been a boring, camping trip of a movie, the movie gives us enough meat to get us prepared for the the final chapter of the Potter saga. While it’s not quite on par with Prisoner of Azkaban, this should prove to be very enjoyable for any Potter fan.
8/10 (Highly Recommended).