Sunday, November 21, 2010

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Release Date: November 19, 2010 (conventional theaters and IMAX) 
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures 
Director: David Yates 
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves 
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Imelda Staunton, Jason Isaacs, Miranda Richardson, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Brendan Gleeson, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Tom Felton, Bonnie Wright, Jamie Campbell Bower, Richard Griffiths, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Fiona Shaw, Helen McCrory, David O'Hara, Natalia Tena 
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy 
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images) 
Official Website:

So Here’s What The Film Is About…
This is the penultimate, cinematic excursion for all Harry Potter fans as it begins the terrifying mission of Harry, Hermione, and Ron to destroy the secret of Voldemort’s immortality: The dreaded horcruxes.  But what are the objects and how do they find them?  The clues are not easy to find and the young magical trifecta must go on this search without an ounce of help from their wizarding mentors.

While the three continue on this search, the wizarding world has become an exceptionally dangerous place to live as Voldemort and his Death Eaters have taken over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts.  Bringing torment and death to all muggle-borns and “traitors” to the magical world, Voldemort still seeks he’s ultimate prize; the boy who lived, Harry Potter.  And with the discovery of a very powerful piece of magic called the Deathly Hallows, Harry and his friends must hurry to find all three pieces of this magic before Voldemort does or this could be the end of Mr. Potter and the wizarding world as we know it.

And Here’s What I Thought About It…
I wonder how many young readers who bought The Sorcerer’s Stone over 10 years ago are calling back on their childhood memories while waiting in the massively long lines at their local movie theater with great anticipation and nostalgic reminiscing?  In the literary landscape of great novels, the Harry Potter Series has been one of the most successful franchises in not only compelling young men and women to read, but adults too.  What I’m sure seems like a lifetime away for the young readers, and probably only yesterday for their parents, the memories of those first books have come back for fans everywhere.  And as I waited (first in line I might add) to enter the theater, I could hear both young and old fans talking about their experiences reading the books and how it changed their viewpoints about what children’s literature is.

So here we are, the premier is over and thousands of nostalgic viewers have walked out of the theater, and likely to bring in many other like-minded people.  And with David Yates, who directed both this and the previous film, taking charge of the this final, two-part installment of the Harry Potter film franchise, they are likely to be satisfied, but with a bitter taste in their mouths.

This is the filmatic chapter (yes, I made up a word.  My blog, my rules…deal with it!) embraces the independence that is forcibly pushed onto Harry, Ron and Hermione as they venture on alone with no supervision or mutual friends to help them.  Even with the consistent humor floating all throughout this film, the dark and scary tone of the story, with the added flavor of isolation thrown into the mix takes central focus, leaving you with very little hope that the three of them will succeed.  However, David Yates, intelligently using the characterizations created by J.K. Rowling of Harry, Ron and Hermione, give us a ray of hope that the ability to rely on one another will pay off in the end.  But make no doubt, these three are truly on their own.

And let’s face it, the loneliness extends further than the pact these three have created as friends; individual loneliness exists as well.  Ron, while obviously the moodiest one of the three, feels very neglected in his often bumbling ways and begins to take it out on his friends.  Likewise, Hermione finds herself in a somber state when she truly has no one to fall back on, especially after obliviated her parents’ memories as a means of keeping them safe from the muggle-born hunters.  But or course there is Harry, whose sense of alienation is the most predominant.  Not only does he hate risking the lives of those he loves, constantly dealing with his friends complete misunderstanding of his condition, and having never met his parents, he must also live with a consistent, yet random barrage of images burrowing into his brain of Voldemort torturing and killing people with whom he has, or did have, a deep connection with.  The last connection to the magical world is the one he wants nothing to do with.

I think most people would agree that this is not your typical children’s film.  Unlike the first four films, which maintained a very hollywoodish feel of happy endings and gumdrop smiles, this film is quite slow and depressing.  At the very least, five major players in the story either die or are tortured, with no censorship on the creepy and sinister feel which comes along with it.  The idea that Children’s literature should be uplifting and happy is debunked with this 7th film as the ending shows the bad guys winning and the good guys loosing.  Parents who wish to alienate their children from all things unhappy and sad should be wary of the Deathly Hallows.  It’s not going to make you smile, nor will it uphold anything that you’ve probably been trying to teach your kids.  (good triumphs over evil, witchcraft is a bad thing, etc.  You get the idea.)  However, if you want your kids to be damn sure that being on their own will be tough and exceptionally scary and that they should rely on you and never leave home again, please, pay the ticket price and show them the light.  But do keep in mind that this is the first part, and the second will come in July.  And most likely your fears will be relinquished with the story’s resolution.

Speaking of scary, if you’re easily startled by dark and horrific films, then pack an extra skin suit because your skeleton might just jump away from you during a few scenes.  One in particular, Nagini vs. Harry Potter.  The fight was scary enough, but tension was built up to an all time high as the terrifying Bagshot disguised snake made me want to shut my eyes and hold my wife until it was over!

Very disappointing is the lack of familiar faces such as Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton and Michael Gambon, but clearly the film’s ownership was with the story’s protagonists.  David Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have shown their acting maturity in their masterful performances in this 7th film.  Even at such a young age, they have proven themselves to be masters at their craft. 

The film has the overbearing task of explaining everything in preparation for the second half of the story without making itself 10 hours long.  Many worries were a float amongst fans as to how exactly Yates and company were going to accomplish this.  While there’s still a lot of craziness thrown at us with all the Horcrux and Voldemort jargon, Yates still finds an opportunity to give us a vividly imaginative animated scene explaining the back story behind the Deathly Hallows.  In and of itself, it’s an amazing experience and didn’t have a disconnected feel from the story itself.  Likewise, the entire film, while being a slower paced film as a way of delving into the whiney and moping emotions of the characters, presents many exciting and fun scenes that keep the film moving and enjoyable to watch.  The action is incredible and never wavers, but isn’t overwhelming. 

In comparison with the book, I honestly didn’t feel as though I was missing something.  Sure, we don’t get the touching moment of “fond farewell” with the Dursleys, and none of the extensive conversations between numerous characters are given full attention, but everything important was hit upon without sacrificing the story’s meaning or forgetting the characters personalities.  I will always consider the book immensely better, but the film’s quality should never be in question. 

I enjoyed this film very much and consider it to be the best of the Harry Potter cinematic franchise.  Does it match up with the book?  Of course not.  But in and of itself, it is an incredibly executed film that doesn’t revert to Hollywood stupidity of dumbing down the story purely to satisfy the needs of those who haven’t read the books.  I suspect that the majority of film goers who embark on this Potter journey will leave happy and anxious for the final part.
Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

1 comment:

  1. So I was finally able to see this movie yesterday. I was so bummed because this was the first midnight showing of Harry Potter that I missed.

    Anyways. I like this review. I was very happy with this movie. I realized how much of the book I had forgotten. David Yates has certainly been the best director out of all of the Harry Potter Directors. I was happy that he wasn't afraid to keep the movie it is in the book. Some people thought it was boring...I totally disagree. I'm so excited for Part II!!

    Also, I cried when Dobby died in the book and when he died in the movie. That's one of the saddest death in movie and literary history!! :)