At this point, Harry Potter has become such a pop-cultural phenomenon that you really ought to know by now whether or not the seventh film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a movie you want to see. If it isn’t, I can’t imagine why you’ve even read this far; if it is, you’re in luck, because this one’s something mighty special.
If you’ve read the book, you’ll most likely be doubly satisfied by what you see here. Granted, it’s been over three years since I read this book and my memory was filled with Is this how this happened?s, but from what I can recollect, there isn’t a single element of the book that isn’t touched on in some way, shape, or form. Director David Yates, who has been handling the series since the fifth movie, Order of the Phoenix, has always made it his duty to make some damn fine films—not simply put it on wax and be done with it…Chris Columbus—and this time out is no different. He brings his own stylistic flairs that have defined the franchise since its fifth installment and coupled them with an obvious admiration of JK Rowling’s story, as well as an endearing respect for the legions of fans who have waited a hell of a long time to get here.
In watching DH1, I was both glad and wildly frustrated by the decision to split this last film into two movies—glad because everything felt as grand, epic, and wildly intense as it ought to; and frustrated because, frankly, I really don’t want to wait until July to watch how it all ends.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s the cliché thing to say about a movie that you’re very enthusiastic about, but even my favorite movies of all time have points where I’m ready for them to wrap it up. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is one of those exceptionally rare films that—even at 146 minutes—I really didn’t want it to end.
Now, maybe a great deal of that came because I knew the story would be ending prematurely and wasn’t 100% certain where exactly. As a result, I was a bit on edge the whole time, sporadically wondering “Have two and a half hours gone by yet?”—and it’s a terrific testament to the movie that I couldn’t tell. With most movies, you don’t really have to worry about that—the movie will end when the story is over…not this time.
That being said, the movie picks a terrific place to cut things off—a spot that makes you wildly eager for more, while also making this movie feel like it went through the proper ups and downs that any story requires to feel whole.
(For those curious, if you don’t want to be driven to madness like me, worrying that it might end at any second, I’ll tell you where it cuts off…if you’d rather not know, however, or haven’t read the book, don’t read this next sentence because it’s one hell of big effing SPOILER: Our climax is the capture of Harry, Ron, and Hermione by Death Eaters, and their subsequent rescue by Dobby, the house-elf. Then Dobby dies and it’s very sad, and then Voldemort takes the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave, and then we cut to credits. END OF SPOILERS!! The only thing that disappointed me was that there was no giant “To Be Concluded” that flooded the screen followed by a rip-roaring teaser for Back to the Future Part III…but I can see how that would have been inappropriate.)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has a distinct quality to it that feels nothing like any other Potter film we’ve seen thus far. Much of this is in debt to the fact that not a single second of this movie takes place within the walls of Hogwarts. We’ll get there in the next film, for sure, but not in any capacity that we’ve seen it depicted before. Missing from this film are some key familiar faces that we’ve come to associate with that wonderful Harry Potter community—I found myself really missing Professor McGonagall, oddly enough.
Mainly, the movie belongs solely to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and they each carry the film most assuredly on their very capable shoulders. It’s no surprise for Danielle Radcliffe (Harry) and Rupert Grint (Ron), who have grown up into terrific young actors. Emma Watson (Hermione), however, has sort of gotten progressively worse as the movies went along. I’m happy to report, however, that she brings her A-game to this one and it couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time.
Another heavy distinction that this film has over the others is that it’s darker than anything you’ve seen before. I mean, it doesn’t do me any good that I have a fear of snakes, but this movie genuinely scared me in spots—and when it’s not “scary” in the most traditional sense, it’s extremely entertaining and engrossing and way, way intense. Parents, think twice about taking your kids to this one (but take them anyway, because their imaginations could use this kind of stimulation).
If Half-Blood Prince, with its woes-of-teenage-romance fluffiness, was a little light for your taste (and let’s be real here—that one was fucking dark too), then you might look upon this as the one where shit got real. There is a pervading essence of the dark times from the opening seconds straight up until the end. Yates nails the mood necessary to tell this story, and it’ll leave you more than a bit exhausted by the time the credits hit. Really, it’s not the kind of movie that makes you want to go back and watch all the others, because they simply won’t recall the same harrowing sense of dread that makes this one so unique.
Don’t worry, though, because this isn’t quite the Schindler’s List of the Harry Potter films–there are a surprisingly hefty amount of laughs to be had, and they all fit quite well into the tapestry of the movie.
And because it must be mentioned, this film contains an animated sequence recounting the history of the titular Deathly Hallows that is simply awe-inspiring, and worth the price of admission alone. It’s a welcome and fitting visual flourish that—again—is unlike anything we’ve seen in the previous films.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is two and a half hours long and I can only imagine that Part II will be about the same…which means that when it’s all said and done the final film in the Harry Potter franchise will be about five hours long. Daunting, yes, but after seeing how they’ve knocked out the first half of this project, my confidence that this was the right decision has grown tenfold. However, I’ll try to temper my expectations for the final installment, so I don’t get too overzealous.
It’ll be hard not to, however. I can never really decide which film I like best between Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix. Definite statements have been tough for me to make with the Harry Potter films, but I think I’ve got one ready. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is, so far, the very best of the Harry Potter films.