Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Gambon.
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 146 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2010
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Rating notes: Fantasy themes and violence

This is the seventh film in an eight-part series based on the Harry Potter novels by the British writer, J. K. Rowling. The series began in 1997 and will end in July, 2011 when Part 2 of The Deathly Hallows will appear where Harry Potter confronts Voldemort, the Dark Lord, for the last time. Rowling herself is co-producer of this film and the next one.

Part 1 is the first segment of the final showdown between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and the Dark Lord (Ralph Fiennes). Voldemort’s Death Eaters are everywhere, and they are after Harry, because he is the only one with the power to kill Voldemort. Voldemort is immortal and the secret of his immortality lies in the Horcruxes, which are fragments of the soul that are placed within objects allowing a part of the soul to be regenerated or resurrected. The Horcruxes must be found and destroyed, before Voldemort can be defeated. In their search for them, Harry and his close friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) come upon a symbol which represents the mythical Deathly Hallows. The Deathly Hallows are three sacred objects – an invincible Elder Wand, a Resurrection Stone with the power to bring the dead back to life, and an infallible Invisibility Cloak. This trio of magical objects allows one to assume the mantle of the master of death, and each of them will prove necessary for Harry to succeed in his quest.

In trying to find and destroy the Horcruxes, Harry and his friends risk their lives often, and have many narrow escapes from the Death Eaters and Voldemort. On their journey, Harry, Ron and Hermione begin to bicker, and a jealous Ron leaves them to go back home. Harry and Hermione move on, but are devastated that Ron has deserted them. The three join forces again when Ron returns, and saves Harry’s life. In the meantime, Voldemort is desperate to acquire the Deathly Hallows to consolidate his power, and the film ends as Voldemort exultingly snatches the Elder Wand from the hand of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who lies in his grave.

The multitude of Rowling’s plot devices are barely able to be included in the movie’s long two and a half hours. Two parts are clearly needed to convey the complexity of the plots and sub-plots that lie in the pages of Rowling’s book. This movie is different from those that have gone before. Fantastic Quidditch matches, and amazing wanderings along the magical corridors of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, are gone. They have been replaced with darkly sinister acts by the Death Eaters, including maiming and torture, a proverbial car chase in London, and the killing-off of some of the story’s loved characters.

There is a clear trend in the making of sequels, for them to be darker and more sinister than the ones that went before. This film is no exception. This is the darkest movie in the series so far, making it quite unsuitable for children of any age, which seems a pity. In doing battle with the Death Eaters, Harry, Ron and Hermione have to contend with Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) who is a ruthless Death Eater, and a loyal servant to the Dark Lord, and there is a very grim opening scene to the movie where Voldemort feeds a woman to a snake to keep his Death Eaters in check.

In this film, special effects frequently overshadow and dilute the magic that has characterised some of the earlier Potter movies. The movie produces some very impressive special effects, takes a quiet break in the middle for romancing and character development in the country-side by Harry, Ron and Hermione, and returns with more special effects. The feeling is that David Yates has delivered an interim movie, episodic in nature, which is preparing the ground for something enormously big to follow in Part 2.

This movie is the beginning of the end of one of the greatest epochs in fantasy-adventure film history. The momentum of the series will carry the movie forward, and Potter fans will not be disappointed. But Parents beware!

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