Monday, November 29, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Review

The Bearded Bullet’s Review of The Deathly Hallows: Part 1

I couldn’t pick any better film to review first than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (DHP1).  Its no secret that I’m a huge Potter fan (this past summer I and two other Order members took a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) so I’m going to try to keep this review as unbiased as possible.  I’ve grown up with the franchise in both book and film incarnations.  The film series is one of my absolute favorites.  I’ve looked forward to each successive film with eager anticipation and DHP1 is no exception.   In fact, the only other film that surpassed my anticipation this year was the outstanding Inception.  For me, the wait was well worth it; I absolutely loved DHP1.

Directed by David Yates (films 5-8), the story picks up very shortly after the events of the sixth film, The Half-Blood Prince.  Harry is on the verge of turning 17, making him an adult in the wizarding world; a time at which his mortal enemy, Lord Voldemort, is free to attack him (any magical protection afforded Mr. Potter dissipates upon him turning 17).  Harry and his companions, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, must set out on their own to hunt down and destroy the remaining Horcrxues; relics that contain a part of Voldemort’s soul.  Only upon the Horcuxes’ destruction will Harry be able to finally confront and defeat the man who murdered his parents.  

This film marks a departure from the formula of the previous books and films; this time around the crew is on their own, without the comfort of family, friends, and Hogwarts itself.  Very early on they are thrust out into the cruel world that is ever more crashing down upon them as Voldemort and his Death Eaters pursue them at every step of their journey.  The story is much darker than the previous films; death and pain is more present than ever in DHP1.  Without spoiling much, there are several emotionally heavy scenes that will have even the most hardened moviegoer holding back tears. The pacing of the film is quite brisk despite the somewhat-dragging source material.  The at-times long-winded camping scenes that populate the vast majority of the book move by quite quickly in the film adaptation; the trio move from set-piece to set-piece with outstanding transitions that help to give an amazing flow to the film.

If you are a fan of the book then you will undoubtedly notice all of the changes/additions/subtractions screenwriter Steve Kloves (all other Potter films except Order of the Phoenix) made to JK’s original story.  I personally separate the books from the films with regards to story changes; I try not to get hung up on whether or not the film was 100% faithful to its written counterpart.  I try to enjoy the film for what it is, and I was completely fine with the changes that were made to the story (for fear of any spoilers I’ll refrain from providing examples).

Overall this is perhaps my favorite of the Potter films.  The acting from the main trio was their strongest of the series, with the supporting cast fantastic as always.  Despite having very limited screen time, many of the power players from the previous films (Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes etc.) turn very strong performances.  There were actually very few scenes or lines of dialogue that I had any issue with; in fact, only one line felt out of place and didn’t make much sense in the context.  The editing and cinematography were top-notch as always, expertly displaying the grand vistas the trio trek across throughout the film.  After six films with incredible practical and visual effects its hard to believe there are any tricks left, but the effects team from DHP1 continued to impress; key scenes included the chase in the beginning of the film and a thrilling escape from a group of snatchers toward the end.  The camera work outside of the vista shots was spectacular as well.  There were several instances of what we like to refer to as “circle cam.” The scene with the multiple Harrys and the close call with the snatchers in the forest are excellent examples of the coolness of the circle cam.

The emotional tone of this film differs from the previous entries in the series.  Since the trio is on the run with little hope or guidance, an ever-present sense of despair and loneliness hangs over the film’s proceedings.  There are several bright spots in the darkness; while not as funny as the other films (Half-Blood Prince especially) there are plenty of the great lines that will make you chuckle and remind you of the journey that these actors and characters have gone through over the years.  The bits of humor are drowned out by some excellent dramatic scenes and performances from the main cast.  The source material called for these young actors to step up their game and in my opinion they fully delivered; they’re asked to portray jealousy, rage, anger, joy, despair, pain and they pull it off with aplomb.  There are a few key deaths in the film, one of which I feel wasn’t paid enough time to - as a result the character in question seems to accept what had happened quite quickly.  Per the plot one could argue that there was not enough time to lament the incident but more time could have been given to what occurred.  

As you can tell I am quite fond of Deathly Hallows Part 1.  I feel that the film exhibits a mastery of character, cinematography, visual effects, emotion, story and tone that mixes together for a great movie-going experience.  Unfortunately one of the weaker aspects, for me, was in the music department.  Alexandre Desplat’s score is quite effective at times, but seems almost non-existent for most of the film.  Yes, I heard the score playing throughout most of the film but none of it was nearly as memorable as John Williams’ score or even some of the score from the last few films.  The piece that plays at the beginning (eerily Dark Knight/Inception-esque) and at the conclusion of the film are quite strong and worthy additions to the Potter pantheon.  Overall I have very few complaints with Deathly Hallows; there really isn’t anything of the nit-picky nature.  If you are a fan of the series or enjoy great films with great characters, a fantastic story, and amazing visuals you absolutely must see this film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1   5/5


  1. I do agree with most of your review, Kyle. However, unlike you, I do feel that the pacing of the camping scenes in the film mirrored that of the book's. As soon as the trio had the tent set up, I feel like the movie slowed to a crawl.

    Ron's exodus from the camp, Harry and Hermione's trip to Godric Hollow, and the eventual retrieval of the sword felt agonizingly timid compared to the first half. The completely unnecessary dancing scene only dug the hole deeper for me, and I feel like the whole experience was dragged down by the painfully slow second act.

    The last 15-20 minutes of the film helped to alleviate the dullness, but I don't think it saved it overall.

  2. They did the best they could with what the book offered, but the screenplay did drag tremendously and I felt that the pacing of the tent episode was a little off. The tension could've been portrayed more, and though it would've elongated that section, it would've given it more narrative weight.

    My other complaints stem from things that couldn't have been prevented; Deathly Hallows just isn't really a great book until the final battle at Hogwarts. I don't see how Part 2 could let us down, but Part 1 does not stand as a favorite of the series for me.