The Harry Potter Franchise continues with THE DEATHLY HALLOWS
Harry Potter is back on the screen again
HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Part 1 (3 & a half star out of 5)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (THREE & a HALF STARS out of 5)
Even before the ominous opening scene begins, we get the sense that this will not a typical entry in the Harry Potter franchise. The Warner Brothers logo appears in a dingy gray hue, which reflects the darker tone of the latest installment. The film starts with the minister of magic making a fearful announcement about the increasingly dire peril the world faces at gnarled hands of the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Not long after that, Voldemort takes control of the wizard world and his only fear is “the Chosen one”, who must be eliminated. Welcome back to the intricate world of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is billed as “the beginning of the end” because it is the first half of a story that will be concluded in the franchise’s final entry next spring. Recent installments in the franchise have made fans of the books wonder whether the film medium can do justice to the increasingly complex plots of the later Potter stories by J. K. Rowling. There was a great deal of skepticism about whether this film could ever encapsulate the amount of detail and events in The Deathly Hallows book, hence, it was split into halves, which was a wise decision by director David Yates.
The film is very different from its predecessors, not only is it grimmer tone but also in content. Hogwarts is nowhere to be seen here and most of the regular cast of supporting characters get only fleeting appearances. The film is firmly carried on the shoulders of the franchise’s trio of main characters Harry, (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint). Those mystical three musketeers are off on their own this time, leaving their families and instructors behind because of the deadly danger that they’ll face; a danger which racks up a major casualty early on in the film. The heroic threesome begins a trek around the world in search of a way to destroy Voldemort’s all-important Horcruxes (Items which contain fragments of Voldemort’s shattered soul) because as long as the Horcruxes still exist, Voltermort can never die. All the while, Voldemort’s army of Death-Eater assassins are hot on their trail.
The action sequences are spread out with a pace that allows the suspense to build before the next attack comes. Many of the battles take place off-screen. In between, the film explores the dynamic of the Harry/Hermione/Ron relationship. The three of them have built a great friendship and camaraderie, having come to rely on each other over their seven years together but there are occasional bumps in the road. Ron is feeling threatened by being the less-useful third wheel tagging along after Harry “the Chosen one” and the brilliant Hermione. When Ron storms out, leaving his girlfriend and best buddy alone, Harry and Hermione experience a closeness during their solitude that may lead to the realization of Ron’s worst fears.
There are tons of brief reappearances here by actors from pervious films; so many in fact, that it becomes a “Where’s Waldo?” type of spot-the-character game. The immensely talented supporting cast gets little to do in this installment. It’s a shame that such talents as Bill Nighy, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Imelda Staunton, Miranda Richardson, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, and Jason Isaacs go to waste here. Isaacs does the best with his limited screen time and manages to effectively convey how broken Lucius Malfoy has become due to his time in Azkaban prison. Helena Bonham Carter, reprising her role as Bellatrix Lestrange, steps up as the general of Voldemort’s army. Fiennes himself flits in and out of the film as a spectral threat, who seems forever present but mostly unseen. When he is on screen, he is the embodiment of nastiness. Even some of Harry’s allies get a thrifty amount of screen time, such as Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). Also conspicuous by her absence is Maggie Smith, who played Minerva McGonagall in all the previous Potter films.
The star trio of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have grown into their roles, giving much stronger performances this time around. Emma Watson, in particular, gives her most nuanced performance as Hermione. Grint is, as usual, reduced to comedy relief but he does show moments of depths when the script calls for it. Fans have followed these characters so long and watched them grow up, so it becomes a gratifying thing to see how the cast have developed as actors.
This film is not for people unfamiliar with the characters and history of the Potter franchise. It’s strictly for all those who have been following the storyline from the beginning. The first half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a strong beginning to the long awaited finale of the popular franchise. The story builds to a cliffhanging finale that will have fans itching for the soon-to-come conclusion.