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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

The first part of the two-part finale to the Harry Potter franchise released in 2010.

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Deathly Hallows Part 1 -- you're gonna see it anyway, but is it worth full price?

  • Nov 23, 2010

Is anyone going to come to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 who is not aware that it is two unfortunate things: part of a series and a tease? If you’ve been in a coma for almost a decade and think that Part 1 means the first part of the series then you will be lost and nothing in the movie or this review will change that. If you cannot read, then explaining, in print that “Part ONE” means that the movie will stop instead of end would be similarly wasted. Given especially this last bit, can the movie be good?
If you are a fan of either the movies, books, or both, then you’re going to see it anyway, so does the quality matter at this point? Perhaps it won’t determine WHETEHR you see it, but could determine when and where. Is it worth full movie cost? Not at all. Matinee price? Maybe, but only if you require stadium seating. Dollar movie? Almost any movie is worth a dollar. Waiting until the DVD and watching it at home? For this movie, I think it’s the best option.
If you’ve read the novel, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs of summary.
Harry is days away from his seventeenth birthday – that is the day when the spell that kept him safe while living with his hated and hateful aunt and uncle ends. The Order of the Phoenix—those tasked with keeping Harry alive and well—know this and have a plan to move Harry to another protected location. Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters know this and are trying to determine which of the factotums has the correct inside information. The plan is for half of the Order to accompany the other half of the order transformed to Harry look-alikes as they spread out all over southern England in hopes that half a dozen decoys can protect the one real one. Their destination is the Weasley home; now that Hogwarts is controlled by the Death Eaters, the Weasley home is Harry’s only safe place for the time being. It is also the site of the only happy thing to happen in quite some time: the marriage of the Weasley’s oldest son. However, this bit of joy is upended when black specters arrive announcing that the Minister of Magic has been assassinated and that Voldemort’s sympathizers control the bureaucracy that runs their world.
Realizing there is now no one who can protect him and nowhere he can be safe, Harry tries to set out on his own to complete the task Dumbledore gave him at the end of the last term: to locate and destroy a number of cursed items whose existence makes it possible for Voldemort to escape the “final” battle should it go as badly as it did the first time he faced the young Potter. Harry tries to insist that he go alone but neither Ron nor Hermione will allow that to happen, naturally.
With some luck and old fashioned sleuthing, they determine that one of the items is in the heart of the Ministry of Magic. What it is and how they get it, I’ll leave to the movie.
But it is upon their escape from the ministry that the movie becomes very problematic.
Most of the rest of the time covered in Part 1 is spent with the trio (then duo for a time) trying to determine how to destroy the one item they have and find and destroy the rest. When they absolutely must seek outside help, they risk their lives but also the lives of any they meet, so there is a huge incentive to trying all they can before relying on any other help. For fans of the novel, this is when the story gets tedious—not for me, but most of my Potter loving friends said the time the three spend in the actual and emotional wildernesses could be cut by about half. Print has wiggle room to allow for contemplation and other subtleties that don’t transfer well to the screen. But what is tedious for readers will be even more so for viewers.
Before I get to my concerns, I’ll cover the standard cinematic facets. It is a beautiful movie. Mr. Yates seems able to keep what is a very difficult balance with regards to style. Harry Potter is an epic, but not the Lawrence of Arabia sort. The majority of viewers are teens and tweens who don’t have the patience for a 4 hour desert movie no matter how beautiful it is. His eye to the natural vistas, particularly the Scottish countryside, is matched by how he presents the wider interiors: Malfoy Manor and the Ministry of Magic. The exteriors are winter gray and the interiors are very dark gray and black. The size and color show just how just how small Harry is and the joylessness of his task. While I think this metaphor is obvious, I think Mr. Yates presents it even handedly so I never felt that the film condescended. Similarly, close interiors (Xenophilius Lovegood’s home, Black Manor, and Bathilda Bagshot’s home) are almost impossibly close and equally as dim and dank as Malfoy Manor. Again the metaphor of closeness meaning danger is obvious but not heavy handed.
The acting is tepid. For roughly fifteen hours, the cast has been making an adventure tale with lots of action. Jumping around and waving wands and making pithy comments requires an entirely different set of acting skills than the complex emotional situation of conflicts between friendship and romantic love. Emily Watson (Hermione) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) prove that they can transition to believable members of a romantic dramedy—their scenes in his home town and the cemetery where his parents are buried show this most clearly. Rupert Grint (Ron) still has the same 2 expressions he’s had from the get ready (confounded and nauseous), but is able to add a level of recognizable indignation; however it is not enough to raise him to the level of his other cohorts. And the biggest problem with the acting is that every other character is reduced to type. All of these characters had enough screen-time in the previous movies to develop a character, but in Deathly Hallows, they serve essentially as plot points. When it comes to Alan Rickman (Snape) this issue is nearly criminal since Snape is the most complex and complicated character in the series.
There are two major problems that continued from Half-Blood Prince: pacing and special effects. I catalogued about 25 minutes worth of wasted time in HPB that could have been used for telling a more robust, and coherent story. I don’t think the film need be any shorter, just that the time be better spent. I’m not going to audit Deathly Hallows Part 1 in the same way. I’ll just use the time in the wilderness represent the whole. We are shown the beautiful scenery they choose to set up their camp and they are beautiful as I said above, but cutting that time in half would not have made the scenery less spectacular. We see the trio cast their protection spells around the camp site 3 times when once would have been enough. That editing would free up about 5 minutes that could have been given to add a bit of dimension to either or both sides of the coming conflagration—and that is just 5 minutes. It wouldn’t take me too long to come up with at least another ten minutes. And that time could have been used to adjust the pacing so that it didn’t go from edge of the seat excitement straight to setting up camp and worrying. The time could have been used to adjust the pacing so it was more rollercoaster and less yo-yo.
And the special effects are inconsistent. The final scenes have Voldemort opening a grave to obtain one of the cursed items. The special effects looked like it was a chapter opening for Halo Reach. Halo is a great game with incredible visuals, but it is still obviously a video game. Deathly Hallows is a multi-million dollar production that carries the high expectation of multi-millions. Ending with a special effect of questionable quality does not bode well for the finale. This is especially true since the Part 2 is supposed to be in 3D—if your effects suck in 2D, just how much are we to expect when there is one more dimension to foul up?
I hope I’m wrong, but I get the very strong feeling that the first third of DH 2 will continue the dull choices that plague the last two installments and that the final battle will last about an hour and will look more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Pete’s Dragon than Avatar (which no matter how much I loathed that movie did have solid effects).

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November 30, 2010
Fantastic review, Paul! I'm amazed at your attention to detail because I never would have noticed some of these things! Thanks so much for sharing :)
November 25, 2010
Great review and very detailed, I have liked these flicks thus far but the later ones [and this and the next I am sure] I was really only into because my girl Helena Bonham Carter is in them.
November 24, 2010
What a wonderful review. I agree with you completely! I had to go see the movie since I've read all the books. All the fans will, but I don't think many will see it a second time. It just left me restless and empty. And yes, Ron has no range as an actor. I could barely understand his mumbling.
November 24, 2010
Great review, thanks! I totally agree, as a HUGE fan of the books and pretty solid fan of the films. The movie DOES "stop, not end" -- very well put, and had I really though that through, I'd probably have just waited for DVD. It felt like a huge jip and really rude thing to do to the fans - who, as you rightly say, are going either way. Let alone for those who haven't read the books - must've been beyond boring. It IS however beautiful, and the cinematography and visual tone continue to impress, I do very much agree with that as well. Great breakdown.
November 24, 2010
Wow! This is an incredible movie review! It's well thought out, well written and quite detail oriented. I haven't seen the movie yet but, I'm not one of those that would be sleeping on a sidewalk for it either. So, I really appreciate your plot summary with a little back story thrown in as well as a cinematic critique breakdown so we know exactly why you rated it a -1. It helps moviegoers like me that would be a little pissed about wasting money on a 4 hour movie! Thanks for sharing and saving me a couple of bucks :)
November 24, 2010
Very thorough breakdown of the film; quite impressive. I liked the movie myself, but I do agree with some of your points. This was good, (rated it a weak 4 out of 5, almost made it a 3.5) and I couldn't really judge it yet since it is just part one. I am happy to see a negative review of this movie in our community--it is refreshing to see contradicting viewpoints! Thanks!!
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review by . December 24, 2010
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review by . December 03, 2010
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review by . November 26, 2010
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review by . November 18, 2010
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review by . November 19, 2010
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The decision to split the final of J.K. Rowling’s novels into two films was a wise one, for it allows for the inclusion of crucial details that simply couldn’t be cut for the sake of time and pacing. This first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the most faithful adaptation since the original Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s also just like all the previous films in that it’s spectacular entertainment – provided you don’t mind …
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Paul Savage ()
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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About this movie


  • Opens Friday, November 19, 2010 | Runtime:2 hr. 27 min.
  • PG-13
    For some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
  • Without the guidance and protection of their professors, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) begin a mission to destroy the Horcruxes, the sources of Voldemort's immortality. Though they must rely on one another more than ever, dark forces threaten to tear them apart. Voldemort's Death Eaters have seized control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts, and they are searching for Harry -- even as he and his friends prepare for the ultimate showdown.
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman
  • Director: David Yates
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Poster art for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: An IMAX 3D Experience"
  •  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I is a brooding, slower-paced film than its predecessors, the result of being just one half of the final story (the last book in the series was split into two movies, released in theaters eight months apart). Because the penultimate film is all buildup before the final showdown between the teen wizard and the evil Voldemort (which does not occur until The Deathly Hallows, Part II),Part I is a road-trip movie, a heist film, a lot of exposition, and more weight on its three young leads, who up until now were sufficiently supported by a revolving door of British thesps throughout the series. Now that all the action takes place outside ...
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