It’s the beginning of the end for the Harry Potter films and I’m already starting to look into some Post-Harry Potter Stress Disorder counseling. It’s hard to be upset over it ending, though, when the films are looking so good. The second to last installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, follows Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) as they wander in search of the remaining horcruxes in order to make Lord Voldemort mortal so he can be defeated for good. The problem is they have no clue where to look or how to destroy the horcruxes if they find them. Add in a hefty dose of angst and a pinch of jealousy and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. For Harry Potter readers, this installment picks up with the removal of Harry to a safe house and ends with the gang at Shell Cottage with several horcruxes still missing.
Deathly Hallows Part I stays pretty close to the novel, changing a few details, but not adding anything big and completely new like the terrible added fight scene in Half-Blood Prince. A lot was cut in making the screenplay, such as Molly Weasley’s plots to get Ron, Harry, and Hermione back to Hogwarts, Harry’s angst about Rita Skeeter’s book on Dumbledore, the war memorial at Harry’s parents’ house, or the surprise appearance of Voldemort in Godric’s Hollow. While I realize not everything from the book could make it to the big screen, I did feel a little jipped by some of the details that got cut. The tone of the movie, however, is right on the nose. That said, I do think the screenwriters ruined the tension a bit at the end. I’m sure the debate about where the break between Part I and Part II should have happened could go on for ages, but the moment they chose just didn’t work for me. Instead of feeling anxious for the next film to be released, I left the theater feeling a little tired and sad.
There is one small scene in the movie that wasn’t in the book during which Harry attempts to cheer Hermione up by getting her to dance with him. It’s the first time the series has ever really looked like a typical teen movie, but I thought it really worked as a shorthand for the complicated brother-sister relationship Harry and Hermione develop, even as others expect that they’d be interested in each other romantically, and the way their loneliness and dependence on one another complicates the friendship. Also, Radcliffe and Watson play the scene so that the awkwardness is palpable. In short, I thought it was fabulous.
While this is by far not the most exciting of the Potter films, I think it features the most mature performances by anyone on the cast. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are adults now, as are their characters, and the first generation of Potter fans. There was something about actually watching someone grow up on film as I grew up that is really powerful and that feeling of connection to the characters is a large part of what makes the series (books and films) so meaningful to me. In this film everyone really seems to have come of age and the performances include a subtlety and a depth that hasn’t really been present up until now. So while the plot is a lot more subdued, it was worth it to see the cast demonstrating their skills in different types of scenes.
The style of this film carries some threads from previous movies while also creating a look of its own. One of my favorite visual elements of the series is the WWII-era look of the Ministry of Magic, newspapers, and politicians. The Wizarding world in Deathly Hallows Part I continues to have a retro vibe, but Harry and Hermione are also moving about in muggle society, producing an interesting mix. Also, the cinematographers took advantage of the travel narrative in Deathly Hallows, using gorgeous landscapes and winter exteriors to bolster the tones of aimlessness and isolation in the story. As I understand it, the Deathly Hallows was shot continuously as one movie and that gives me pretty high hopes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. 4/5 stars
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I was written by Steve Kloves based upon the novel by J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates. It runs 146 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images, and brief sensuality.