- Vancouver, British Columbia - With the Harry Potter franchise nearing its finale, there was a lot of talk over how the final film was going to be handled. For various reasons, the creative team decided to split the last book up into two movies. Some people thought of this move as a shameless cash grab for Warner Brothers who wanted to milk their successful franchise for all it was worth. However, the creative team behind the movie insisted that it was to remain faithful to the book and give the series the send off it deserves. The two parts of the story were filmed together.
The film starts with Voldemort discussing with his baddies about how he can't kill Harry Potter using his own wand because their two wands are “twins.” They also learn that Harry is being taken to a safe house away from the Dursley's. Meanwhile, the Order of the Phoenix meet up with Harry and take him to the Weasley's house. On their journey there, they get ambushed and Harry duels with Voldemort who is holding a wand different than his own. Harry's is stronger so he destroys the wand and Voldemort is kinda ticked about it. Eventually he is found at the Weasley's and has to escape with Ron and Hermione. The three of them now must travel alone to find the Horcruxes to destroy Voldemort and protect Harry from the many Death Eaters who seek him out.
This one surprised me. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 takes a very different turn from the standard format of every Harry Potter movie so far. One of the biggest differences is that the film does not take place at Hogwarts. It's not even seen in this movie, which makes sense. With Dumbledore gone, Hogwarts was no longer a safe place for Harry to be. And as Voldemort's influence grow stronger in the wizard world, it only makes sense that Harry and his friends put their education on hold so that they can defeat the evil wizard. It just makes a whole lot more sense for them to get out of the limited space that Hogwarts provided. It was a loose formula that worked well for the series, but the situation has gotten too big.
What I like about this film is its relatively quiet tone, while keeping a thick amount of tension throughout. We get a chance to really spend time with these characters as they're taken out of their element. It can be calm and contemplative or it can be intense and frustrating. For better or for worse, we are along for the ride with them. It's also fascinating seeing the three of them in the “real world.” They spent every movie at Hogwarts thus far so when we see them in a setting where magic is not common place, it's a chance to see them out of their element. There is always a sense of impending danger and the stakes are the highest they have ever been. This is important for what this movie is. It is the direct lead up to the final movie and the big climactic finish. We are supposed to feel doom approaching and get the sense of desperation that the characters are feeling.
We are treated to a number of very human moments between these characters. Tension between Harry and Ron is at an all time high because of the time they've spent on their journey. This is amplified by the effect that one of the Horcruxes is having on whoever is wearing it. It's not unlike the characters in The Lord of the Rings who keep the ring in their possession. They start to go a little crazy with rage. There is also a scene where Harry and Hermione share a dance. A number of people have expressed to me that they “don't get it” and fail to see the point of the scene. But for me, it is one of the single most beautiful moments these two friends share in the whole series. It's just a glimpse of joy after literally months of hopelessness. There could be more read into it, but I enjoy the simplicity of it just being a tender moment between friends.
We also get the sense that things are coming to their grand finale because of how many characters reappear. Even Dobby, the annoying house elf, comes back and is somehow much less irritating. In fact, his inclusion feels like a breath of fresh air and I was glad to see him as if he was an old friend. Similarly, as the series continues and more and more information is revealed, and it actually makes the previous films seem so much better in retrospect. When you start to see the purpose behind the choices, complaints start to disappear. Except for Delores Umbridge who I still hate, though I appreciate her small part in this movie also.
Near the end, we get to see a unique and artsy side to the Harry Potter series that we've never seen before. I don't want to spoil anything, but there is a brilliant animated sequence where we learn the story of the Deathly Hallows. I won't say much beyond that, but it was one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. It was a chance to even further explore the back story to J.K. Rowling's fascinating world.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is my favorite of the entire Harry Potter franchise to this point. It's an adventurous change of formula and a real chance to see the best and worst of our three heroes. The three actors are at the top of their game, now fully immersed in their characters. We've been getting the chance to see them hold their own aside Britain's finest actors and now we get to see them carry the weight of this entire feature film on their backs. I'm really looking forward to watching where their careers will go now that they are done with the franchise. David Yates has won me over and is directing with a sure hand. He creates and maintains a very melancholy tone, but is not so relentless that we lose hope. The pacing is admittedly slower than past films, but that's one of the things I like about the movie. It still feels like it fills out its two and half hour run time without getting boring. And I happen to agree with the move to extend the last book into two films. Even with that move some people complain about things missing from the book, but I never felt like there was anything drastically missing so the film makers are adapting it well in my opinion. I'm looking forward to reviewing the final chapter to the Harry Potter saga.
Rating: 5/5 Sour Grapes