a critiQal film review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Plot: Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) set out on their perilous mission to track down and destroy the Horcruxes. Meanwhile, the long-feared war has begun and Voldemort's Death Eaters seize control of the Ministry of Magic and even Hogwarts, terrorizing and arresting anyone who might oppose them. But the one prize they still seek is the one most valuable to Voldemort (Fiennes): Harry Potter. The Chosen One has become the hunted one as the Death Eaters search for Harry with orders to bring him to Voldemort... alive.

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Just when you thought Warner Brothers was going to wrap up the acclaimed Harry Potter film series, they decide to break the final film into two parts, saying they want to capture every moment from the final book.

So, while we wait for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) to finally wrap things up this summer, we went out and bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 as soon as it arrived on DVD. Would the first part of this final chapter be up to the standards the other films have created? Or is this just another way for Warner Bros. to cash in on the Potter phenomenon?

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are at the forefront for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 even moreso than in previous films. On their own for the first time, they have thankfully grown as actors throughout the series, so don’t really disappoint here. Unfortunately, just the three of them aren’t as captivating on their own either, so viewers may become a bit bored with their long trek.

Thankfully, that’s intertwined with scenes of magic and wizardry, including a daring break-in to The Ministry of Magic and the astonishing flight from Privet Drive. Both are big highlights of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. They also allow viewers to glimpse familiar faces like Mad-Eye Moody and Delores “wasn’t she killed by spiders?” Umbridge.

Unlike previous films, where Harry and his friends had to battle exterior foes, most of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 involves them dealing with inner turmoils that threaten to break up the happy trio. True, some of the biggest shocks are glossed over (Dumbledore’s hidden secrets, for one, are merely hinted at in this film, hopefully to be followed up in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)). But, the inner turmoil Potter faces as the (mostly unseen) war rages around them, Ron’s continuing worry over his family and Hermione’s struggle to appease everyone are played up throughout this first film.

Unfortunately, the “doing justice to the book by splitting the final into two parts” reasoning falls apart quickly, as major points are skipped throughout this first film. Whether it’s Dudley’s redemption, Wormtail’s change of mind, or the sight of the sign that conveys the God-like adoration of his fellow wizards at Harry’s birthplace, there are quite a few scenes from the first half of the book that are noticeably absent in this film. Sure, all of the films have glossed over pieces. With this final film, however, and their claim to “do justice” to the book by splitting the film into two parts, viewers expect pivotal scenes like the ones mentioned above to be a part of the film – and will be dismayed that they are not.

While the film may have lost a step in the viewer’s eyes, the special effects have not. In fact, they have continued to improve, and bring some new visual treats to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, including a multiple Harry sequence that viewers won’t be able to find fault with. Even Voldemort’s snake is admirably sinuous and sleek as it glides it’s way towards the camera, finally opening it’s jaws to prepare to swallow the camera whole.

If viewers haven’t read the book, they may have some trouble following the importance of some of the happenings with new characters in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, including Bathilda Bagshot. Still, viewers who haven’t read the book should enjoy this much more introspective Potter film nearly as much as the previous ones.

Unfortunately, if viewers have read the book, this will turn out to be a disappointing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 as there are more glaring omissions than any of the previous films. Director Yates spends most of his time trying to get his actors to emote a bit more than they are able. He tosses in surprisingly decent action sequences packed with eye-popping special effects every so often. They seem more as an afterthought though, rather than a much-needed element to get the film to stop wallowing and move on once again.

A rather disappointing first part, especially after the impressive heights some of the previous films have achieved. Let’s hope Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) doesn’t let us down as much.

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