Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) – Review


Strong but incomplete starting gambit to the finale of Harry Potter

There’s one thing that few franchises have from the outset: the ability to be an event movie from the very beginning. Coming off an insanely popular book series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and every film that has followed in the franchise has opened massively no matter what time of year when counting domestic box office receipts and grossed close to a billion dollars worldwide in just theatrical receipts. Potter has captured the imagination of both movie-goers and book lovers worldwide but eventually it all has to end.

In a move to accommodate both an attempt at bolstering box office receipts as well as tell the final chapter completely, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been split into two parts separated by nearly half a year in release. And while it may tackle much more of the book by being split into two films, it leaves the first part feeling incomplete as it ends on a cliffhanger designed to lead into the film’s climactic finale in the summer of 2011.

Harry Potter 7 opens with a bit of change in circumstance for the young wizard (Daniel Radcliffe). His arch enemy Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has taken over Hogwarts and has one goal: kill Harry Potter. With old friends getting him to safety, he goes about doing the one thing he can do to even the odds: destroy Voldemort’s soul. Split up into pieces, he and best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) go on a quest to find the Horcruxes that hold Voldemort’s soul and destroy them and the immortality he has with it.

Taken out of the Wizard Academy and thrown out into the real world for a change, David Yates and the cast get to experience something different in the franchise: a tale told outside of the walls of Hogwarts. It turns into much more of a chase film as Harry and his pals are constantly on the run from a variety of people who want to see him dead or captured. Harry is on a quest and can’t trust anyone, seemingly not even his own friends at times, and the beauty in this is that this exactly what the franchise has been building up to since the first book/film: Harry Potter as a man of destiny.

Throughout the series we’ve seen him as someone about to embrace his destiny but not quite in it. Since his first entry, Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry is in his formative years and his destiny is always in front of him. Now Harry has to confront his destiny (Voldemort) head on. This is his “go time” and now we’re seeing the final act of what’s essentially an extended hero’s arc. This is Harry having to become the man of destiny through all these years of training and character building moments; Yates has a feel of this grand measure of destiny and sculpts it into mythos. It’s not shocking because he has experience with extended character pieces, most notably helming the BBC version of State of Play, and he views Deathly Hallows as the finale it was is essentially a character piece about the power of destiny.

Yates is the real star here as he has a sense of the mythology behind the franchise and guides it with an epic touch. The whole grand theme of Harry Potter is about the power of destiny and he really harnesses it from Harry’s perspective. Harry, played with a higher level of acting from years of experience both in and out of the character by Daniel Radcliffe, is no longer the boy he was when he started but not quite the man of destiny he is to become. But he’s almost there and both Yates and Radcliffe understand this; he’s at the point where he’s no longer leaning on others for many things and acting like the man he is to become. There’s still a twinge of his youth there, especially early on, and right when he’s about to fully take the next step the film ends.

And that’s the problem; the second part of Deathly Hallows completes the final arc of heroism that this film begins. As such we’re left with only half a story and only half a hero’s journey. With all of the technical marvels that the franchise has had since the beginning, and a cast that has a great understanding of the characters and the material, that film is the completion of the journey. As such, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) is a well-done and well-plotted story that’s incomplete. It’s very well done, and quite good, but not quite the brilliance it could be by necessity of a second part.

Director: David Yates
Notable Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter, Bonnie Wright, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Rhys Ifans, Imelda Staunton
Writer(s): Steve Kloves based off the novel “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K Rowling

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