I have been a fan of the Harry Potter phenomena for what seems like forever. I’ve grown up reading the whole series, and they in turn have grown up with me. Each book was a darker and more sinister read, and thankfully the films have followed suit. The Deathly Hallows Part 1 starts with the words “These are dark times”, to remind us that this is no longer a light magical children’s story but a great battle between good and evil – and oh does the evil have its fun.
As we know from the last two films, Lord Voldermort is now alive and killing pretty much anyone who crosses his path. As the facist head of the Death Eaters, he is quickly taking control of Britain and victimising muggles, squibs and those who value their freedom in a way that is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Their fate is left in the hands of Harry Potter and his two best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, who have been left to find and destroy the remaining horcruxes. I don’t want to go into “this happens – that happens” during this review, because by now I’m sure most of you have watched it and readers of the book are well aware of the plot already. I’m much more interested in the actor’s performances and how this movie ranks against the previous six.
Now like most people, I had a sudden nervous feeling when I discovered the last book would be split into two films. The part of me that was overjoyed remembered leaving the movie theatre the previous six times feeling robbed because certain scenes I felt were imperative to the story were left out. We were always given the same reason – not enough time. Surely 5 hours instead of the usual 2 and a half would solve the problem, no? However, the other side of me remembered how long and sometimes tedious the first half of The Deathly Hallows is. With no Hogwarts, we’re confronted with endless camping in fields and forests while the three main characters go on a mission of self discovery. Of course we must add with each movie earning £1 billion globally, I’m sure WB did not need much persuading when the suggestion of splitting the book into two was put before them. Nevertheless, they had more time to play with and thus no excuse regarding missing the smaller but still important scenes. I must admit right now, I haven’t read the final book for a year so every itsy bitsy detail escapes me, but watching Part One I actually remembered parts of the story that I had completely forgotten – such as Voldermorts snake Nagini taking the form of Bathilda Bagshot (followed by my frantic whisperings to my friend that they were walking into a trap). This pleased me immensely as it showed the attention to detail in telling the story, and for once I noticed what scenes they’d put in – and not left out.
So what was good and bad about the first part of this story? Let me just put it out there straight away, the good vastly outweighs the bad. We’re immediately thrown into the action and the realisation that these main characters are no longer children but young adults with a lot of responsibility. There’s no way around it, the final book is dark and upsetting – which is why I get angry when those who have never read the book give me the “oh my you’re so sad, it’s a kids film/book” look whenever I mention the series. I’ve always been amazed at J.K Rowling’s absolutely fantastic imagination and the way filmmakers have been able to translate that onscreen. Putting the storyline aside, the special effects have always been outstanding and an area of the franchise I have never criticized. What I really enjoyed was the light humour within the film, which is needed despite the importance of the seriousness of the plot. The multiple Harry Potters, the fun loving Weasley twins and the endearing but laughable scene where Harry and Hermonie dance to a song on the radio in an effort to revive some fun into their surroundings. It’s also great to see new and talented British icons join the cast, such as Bill Nightly and Rhys Ifans and they do the best they can with the little screen time they have. Being surrounded by generations of great actors has always shown what novices Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are but it felt like the three of them really got to grips with their characters in this episode and their performances shined through. I must give a special shout out to Rupert Grint who played the jealous Ron tremendously, coming to terms with his long standing fear that his two best friends would unite and leave him out in the cold.
There is no doubt that this film sprints ahead of its predecessors, or more specifically the first two films. Some parents may not be happy with the increase in dark material, but then life isn’t a bed of roses – as they say. Then again, J.K Rowling’s message is clear – life is an inevitable struggle, but with strong friendships and by accepting our responsibilities we can make that transition into adulthood. Harry Potter is the quintessential good guy, who battles his own demons to give him the strength to take on evil. The film is slow at times, as is the actual book but it is the attention to detail that really captured me during this interpretation. They have taken their time on it, really understood what needed to be in without change and what details they could change a little.
They ended Part One at just the right time and certainly left me wanting more. While I do feel annoyed that I have to wait until Summer 2011 to finish the story, I am greatly looking forward to it. Essentially this movie was the foreplay, and now we’re left gagging for the ultimate climax. While Part One will be undoubtedly slower and less action packed than Part Two, it was still necessary to get us in the mood. Here’s hoping Yates and his team can deliver, however there’s nothing to suggest they will not.