Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood
Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge
Peter Mullan as Yaxley
Toby Jones as Dobby (voice)
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Brendan Gleeson as Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody
Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Harry Melling as Dudley Dursley
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
Ian Kelly as Hermione’s Dad
Michelle Fairley as Hermione’s Mum
Carolyn Pickles as Charity Burbage
Helen McCrory as Narcissa Malfoy
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Timothy Spall as Wormtail
James Phelps as Fred Weasley
Oliver Phelps as George Weasley
Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley
George Harris as Kingsley Shacklebolt
Andy Linden as Mundungus Fletcher
Domhnall Gleeson as Bill Weasley
Clémence Poésy as Fleur Delacour
Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
John Hurt as Ollivander
Frances de la Tour as Madame Maxime
Simon McBurney as Kreacher (voice)
Rade Serbedzija as Gregorovitch
Jamie Campbell Bower as Gellert Grindelwald
Hazel Douglas as Bathilda Bagshot
Adrian Rawlins as James Potter
Geraldine Somerville as Lily Potter
Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter
Michael Byrne as Gellert Grindelwald
Dave Legeno as Fenrir Greyback
Warwick Davis as Griphook

Directed by David Yates

(Disclaimer: This review is written by someone who never got around to reading the seventh J.K. Rowling book on which this film is based. If you’re unable to accept critical analysis of a film unless it comes from a “diehard fan” basing their thoughts on already loving the source material than please come back when one of our other writers has had a chance to see and review the movie. On the other hand, this review has been kept spoiler-free for those who haven’t read the books though there is a fairly major spoiler for the sixth film.)

Story:
Professor Dumbledore is no more and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his growing army of Death Eaters have gone on a rampage to destroy the Order of the Phoenix as well as ridding the world of “Muggles” (i.e. non-wizards). Part of that plans involves taking over the Ministry of Magic, forcing Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (Emma Watson, Rupert Grint) to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes containing Voldemort’s soul in order to defeat the evil wizard and his Death Eaters.

Analysis:
“These are dark times,” says Bill Nighy’s Rufus Scrimgeour in a Scottish brogue as the first half of the seventh chapter in the “Harry Potter” franchise opens following a rusted version of the Warner Bros. logo, both things giving us the impression that this film is going to be a darker and far more somber piece than any previous “Potter” film. Being the last chapter, “Deathly Hallows” is very much about “goodbyes” and in that sense, we get to see most of the characters one more time, even if it’s just for brief curtain calls. Before we get too far into that, we see the fallout and repercussions from what happened in the last chapter, and while these are dark times indeed, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a bit of levity like when various members of the Order of the Phoenix use a potion to act as decoys resembling Harry.

For the most part, the first half of “Deathly Hallows” is decent, having a very different look and feel from the previous films but not straying too far from the tone we’ve come to expect even with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry being nowhere to be seen. It’s a film made up of very distinct sections with a lot going into setting up the inevitable war between Voldemort and the Order of the Phoenix, something that’s set aside to focus on the relationship of the three main kids while they try to find and destroy the Horcruxes that contain pieces of Voldemort’s soul. Part of that plan involves infiltrating the Ministry of Magic after its been taken over by the Death Eaters, and that’s the best overall section of the movie, not in the least due to the appearance of a minister played by Peter Mullan.

After barely escaping, the three friends find themselves on the run and in hiding from Voldemort’s Snatchers, allowing us to see them in a number of gorgeous and picturesque environments, the point where the film turns into a cross between “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Road.” Then again, a love triangle between three young people mostly taking place in a wooded area may sound vaguely familiar, and the comparisons to another fantasy franchise trying to steal Harry Potter’s thunder are driven home by a rather obvious and awkward joke.

You would think at this point in the series, the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione would be set, so when jealousy once again rears its ugly head between Ron and Harry, something that’s been explored in previous chapters, it seems to be forced rehash for the sake of creating tension. Granted, this leads to some intense scenes due to the impressive performance by Rupert Grint, who gets to show off a lot more emotions this time around with so much going on around them.

One of the most obvious things lacking from “Half-Blood Prince” was the absence of the primary antagonist, Ralph Fiennes’ Lord Voldemort, but he’s back in his full glory as is Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge, who was just so wicked in “Order of the Phoenix.” Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix Lestrange is also crazier than ever with some great moments towards the end. On paper, Rhys Ifans would seem perfect for the role of Luna Lovegood’s father Xenophilius, and the character’s first scene is promising, but when he returns later, sought out by the trio for answers, it’s just not that great. “Deathly Hallows” also marks the unwelcome return of the elf Dobby, the franchise’s answer to Jar Jar Binks. When you kick off the movie with such a promising character as Bill Nighy’s Rufus Scrimgeour, it seems like such a waste his character appears only once more.

Yates isn’t exactly a visionary filmmaker, more of a craftsman able to take the source material and make it work on screen, this time assisted by a different team than the last film: Eduardo Serra doing the cinematography and Alexandre Desplat–an amazing but overused composer–jumping in to fulfill scoring duties. Yates makes some interesting choices like telling the origins of the “Deathly Hallows” using distinctive CG animation, and for the most part, it’s a terrific looking film and it does a fine job further building the tension of this new world order, where dark wizards have run rampant and no one is safe. One particularly powerful and effective moment is when the three are on the run and they listen to the list of the deceased at the hands of the Dark Lord. It’s good to know that being darker than the last few chapters, the movie is quite intense and possibly too scary for impressionable younger kids with Voldemort’s boa constrictor being particularly disturbing. On the other hand, fans will appreciate some of the little things like getting to see Hermione Granger’s parents for the first time.

So much of the early footage from the two-part movie teased the final face-off between Harry and Voldemort but none of that happens this time around. The trailer also makes it seem like there’s a lot more action, but the faster pace of the first half hour starts to tail off as the film progresses. While each of the individual sections works fine tonally, it’s when you put the entire movie together as a whole, it starts to leave you wanting. It just doesn’t feel particularly justified to have split J. K. Rowling’s last book in half and padding it out with so much unnecessary exposition and a retread of the love triangle aspect of the story which we’ve already seen before. Considering how little happened in “Half-Blood Prince,” which seemed to have been meant as a build-up to this finale, to sit through another two and half hours where it’s once against building to a finale we won’t see until next July, it’s hard not to feel more than a little disappointed.

The Bottom Line:
“Deathly Hallows – Part 1″ steps things up from the last chapter before hitting an impenetrable lull that drags the second half down so much that when the movie ends, you’re left feeling let-down and somewhat cheated. Of course, the fans of the book will probably be more forgiving but the pacing problems seem to come from the movie’s attempts to be faithful, and at a certain point, making a solid movie that stands on its own merits should have come first. “Deathly Hallows – Part 1″ isn’t necessarily bad but it’s more than a little disappointing.

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