Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Directed by: David Yates Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Toby Jones, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy Running Time: 2 hrs 26 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: November 19, 2010
PLOT: While being chased by ultimate nemesis Voldemort (Fiennes), teenage wizard Harry Potter (Radcliffe) attempts with his two friends Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) to seek and destroy particular powerful lockets that will help them save all of the world from unfathomable evil.
WHO'S IT FOR? Whether this is considered to be a disaster or not, fans of the franchise (a delegation that now spans multiple generations) will see this movie regardless. For outsiders, this wouldn’t be the best movie to start with, especially with the film's casual tossing around of wizard terms. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 would be pretty overwhelming crash-course for the Harry Potter newbie. And as for suitable ages, some younger children may not be ready to experience the dark tone of the movie, which complimented by a few on-screen deaths.
EXPECTATIONS: Though I’ve missed a Harry Potter movie or two, I feel I’m rather in the loop with the general overall story of the franchise. (If it's any consultation, I once wrote an article about HP-obsessed rock group Harry and the Potters. Look 'em up.) Warner Brothers has put this movie onto its award season itinerary, which is nothing to raise expectations of the movie, but it was curious as to whether this movie was aiming for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King heights on the “epic” scale. At the same time, I feared this movie would be laborious. Would it be able to justify being its own movie, or would it be bloated? And of course, would there be another Quidditch match?
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter: The super wiz kid exercises his emotional muscles a fair amount in this round. (Perhaps the idea that everyone wants to kill him is really starting to get to him.) Suffering from eerie visions and bouts of life-or-death helplessness, the adolescent Potter goes through more emotional pain more than physical pain. Sharing the action with his entourage, Radcliffe’s iconic character takes a backseat when it comes to being much of a standalone hero. Score: 6
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger: Our walking encyclopedia of the wizard world, this brain of the bunch is also the most mature. Experiencing the same case of the doldrums that bug Ron and Harry, she seems to speak considerably less compared to those two, and comes most in handy to them when a potion needs a name, or a clue needs research. Or, when a wreath needs to magically appear. Score: 5
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley: The least helpful of the friendship triangle, Ron seems to succeed more at creating drama within the group than doing his own heroics (though he certainly has his moments). One could argue that Ron is meant to lighten up the audience, but his attitudes in this round are more about exhibiting anxiety and jealousy than they are about offering jokes. Score: 5
Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort: Within seconds of being on-screen, the strange-looking Voldemort reminds us of why he’s a badass villain to be feared by all, not just wizards. But his involvement in this chapter in the entire saga is slim. Instead, he pokes in and out of the story like Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back. A problem about his lack of usage is also that there’s hardly anyone to be a fitting substitute for him. One can only assume as Harry’s ultimate nemesis that Voldemort will come roaring back in the second part of the film. Score: 6
Toby Jones as Dobby: Speaking like a Saturday morning cartoon character, sweet elf Dobby chimes in during the third act and gives it a much-needed kick or two of life. However brief his appearance may be, his dialogue is funny and his underdog heroism quite entertaining. Thus, this CGI character's somewhat sudden departure from the film then becomes more emotional than one would originally anticipate. Score: 6
Rest of the cast: A lot of big names like Helena Bonham Carter, Bill Nighy, Jason Isaacs, and Alan Rickman fill the screen, but their parts are all so minimal. Of course this adds to the franchise's star power, and it's obvious that this series has such casting pull, but many of these talented individuals feel underused. Perhaps some of them will have a good last hurrah in part two. Score: 5
TALKING: The amount of repartee between the three young wizards is cut short, not offering the amount we’d expect them to have as they interact with one another. As for terminology, there’s a good handful of terms thrown around by the movie, some without much elaboration if any at all. (If you hadn’t seen a Potter movie before, good luck on trying to figure out what a “snitch” really is.) Overall, the dialogue is without ham. If anything should remind us as to why Harry Potter is a more overall agreeable franchise than that of Twilight, it should be the talking. Even in moments of darkness, The Deathly Hallows does not explain its misery with cheesy dialogue. Score: 7
SIGHTS: While the art design is still a big-budget sight to behold in the Harry Potter franchise, the most striking visuals can be found in a key animated sequence, as narrated by Watson. The importance of the “Deathly Hallows” is conveyed through its paper-gothic presentation that succeeds at being poignant and memorable, considering its heavy relevance to the entire crux of the story. Score: 7
SOUNDS: A few more ounces of melancholy are added onto the gloominess of The Deathly Hallows by the inclusion of “O Children” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Harry and Hermione gently waltz to it, in a moment that represents a sad dance on the brink of death or uncertainty. As for Alexadre Desplat’s score, while it is satisfactory, it doesn’t offer anything to equal the enchantment of John Williams’ original memorable theme. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: Dobby all the way, definitely.
ENDING: With the plot pieces in place, the film leaves its audience with a cliffhanger, but without any post-credits peek at what remains from The Deathly Hallows.
QUESTIONS: Most of my questions have to do with what is next. A critic colleague of mine who seemed to know his HP remarked that a lot of people will die in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 if the film stays in line with the book. But who's left? And how much different will the second film be?
REWATCHABILITY: Fans are left to their own taste to how many times they may want to re-watch this film, as simply being in the cinematic Potter universe might be enough, no matter how good or bad this movie is. For outsiders, the revisiting value is noticeably slimmer, as the overall brooding of this movie doesn’t sound like it would make for a joyous revisit.
Probably (err, hopefully) because the very final Harry Potter film will be so wholly awesome and fulfilling, this beginning of the end decides to take its time. It allows itself to feel very much like a second act in need of a third one in order to justify its existence. When they’re not slugging through empty desktop friendly landscapes, Harry and Co. are picking up clues and fragments to their destiny as if they were being written by Dan Brown. This elusive sword must be retrieve so that this locket can be destroyed, so that Event A can happen, and so on. Watching these kids wander from one explanation to the other can only carry so much energy until it relies on its fans to apply their own enthusiasm about horcruxes, etc., as they might understand (from the even beefier book) the utmost importance of such items.
Scenes of intense action are in the movie, but their impact is diminished by their choreography. Often, the battles of wizard wands feel like simple shootouts, with bolts being fired around a room instead of bullets. The Deathly Hallows has a few good (albeit brief) jolting scenes throughout, but they’re spread thin in movie’s general swampy nature.
Borrowing from a gloom palette usually reserved for someone like Tim Burton, The Deathly Hallows enjoys its morbidity a bit too much, and key factors like the trio’s special relationship with one another, or the general thrill of stepping into this fantasy world, become semi-casualties. Especially as the time drags on with more darkness piled on, departure starts to become a theme that is anticipated for this film, not feared.
The end is near indeed for the Harry Potter franchise. Certain death stalks its characters just as it does those who are in control of sharing the last Harry Potter story with the rest of the world (until the inevitable reboot, of course). Now that the pieces seem to be in place, here's to hoping that all powers will be united so that Harry Potter leaves us with more than just a grandiose bang.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10