Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010)

Having watched just about every father figure he has ever had be unceremoniously Avada Kedavra’d, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is eager to complete the rest of his unofficial mission alone. With Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) proving unshakeable, however, the trio are soon wandering the streets of muggle London bereft of any safe place to hide. Securing a Horcrux (a piece of Lord Voldermort’s soul) from the Ministry of Magic, our heroes’ progress is stunted when it quickly proves immune to normal magic. As an increasingly haggard Ron struggles to cope with the trio’s apparent lack of direction, he inconveniently bails leaving a distraught Hermione after becoming jealous over her relationship with Harry. In his absence, Harry and Hermione visit Harry’s birthplace in a desperate search for answers. Leaving with another tidbit of information, and eventually regrouping with a repentant Ron, Harry and Hermione must track down the Sword of Gryfindor if they are ever to finally defeat Voldermort.

Having now seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I three times (if you think that’s bad then you really don’t know me at all), I have yet to disengage with director David Yates’ admittedly slow paced narrative. With the final instalment split across two movies, and most of the source novel’s action set to occur in Part II, the penultimate film was always going to be high on plot and light on set-pieces. However, this late in the game – and so much strife yet to come when the last movie is released in July – it was about time we spent some actual time with the characters whose lives will soon be hanging in the balance. Across films 1-6, we have had little insight into the everyday interactions of Harry, Ron and Hermione, their unwavering friendship apparently the result of – well, just because.

As such, when the action is paused while Hermione cuts Harry’s hair, or Harry and Hermione slow-dance in Ron’s absence, I was anything but bored – finding myself warming to a group of already loved characters as if I was meeting them for the very first time. Regularly criticised for their amateurish acting, Deathly Hallows stands testament to just how inextricably linked actor and character have become. With Polyjuice potion once again raising its shapeshifting head, it is incredible just how competently the actors cope with the requirements of imitating someone else. As Harry plays six of his peers in one impressive opening scene, as Hermione copes with the loss of her unrequited love, and said unrequited love clings to a radio as he listens out for the fate of his family, you really get a sense of how much each actor has grown – even if other scenes prove slightly less convincing.

On a more technical level, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is reliably spectacular. As a steady slew of homages hark back to the previous six instalments – Potter’s latest marks the welcome return of Dobby, the Dudley’s (briefly, but I’ll get to that), Triwizarding competitor Fleur Delacour and über-bitch Dolores Umbridge – the nostalgia is complemented by a franchise-matured gravitas that makes it clear that the end is in sight. An airborne ambush, a Ministry skirmish and a last act animated segment keep jaws firmly on the floor as our heroes take intermittent  breaks from their prolonged camping trip to flex their wand arms. The effects are never at the expense of the characters, however, and this is never more true than the effects-heavy destruction of the locket Horcrux. Visually stunning, the scene is all the more effective for the impact it has on Ron – his fear of spiders coming back with a satisfying vengeance.

As far as justifying the decision to split the movie in two, I found myself too involved in the story to care. Yes the final scene fails at closure and could have been shoehorned anywhere in the movie, indeed the pacing lags with the characters as they find themselves inundated with dead ends and sure the movie leaves Part II with little but the Battle of Hogwarts to concern itself with, but I found enough in its considerable screentime to keep me entertained. My only problem with the movie, as ever, is the scenes that have been lost in the translation to film. While the novel spends some time with the Dursley’s, permitting them the chance to redeem their horridness with a loaded apology, the film has them out the door before the opening credits roll. Similarly, the conflict between Horcruxes and Hallows proved a compelling dilemma in J. K. Rowling’s final tome whereas it is dangerously underdeveloped in the adaptation. Having only just discovered the Hallows when the movie ends at Shell Cottage, Harry’s forced decision will lack qualification if it too occurs, as scheduled, at Shell Cottage at the next film’s open.

However, the opening concocted by Yates does not suffer as a consequence of his omission. After the stunted opening act of Half Blood Prince – in which Michael Gambon apparently forgot how to act and the pacing suffered a distracting case of the shakes, it is reassuring to see the director back with such force. As the corroding Warner Bros. insignia creaks overhead and Alexandre Desplat’s score sweeps into action, there is no finer proof that this particular saga is about to go out on a high. From this point on the film just gets better and better as Yate’s flexes his truly impressive horror capabilities and people die, snakes strike and Hermione shrieks in agony. It really is a beautifully shot, beautifully scripted and beautifully orchestrated movie in its own right – far more than simply another cash-in franchise instalment.

Other than a fanboy’s arbitrary gripes, however, there is very little fault to be found with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. A triad of undervalued performances, an uplifting score and a welcomingly intimate focus, Deathly Hallows is the calm(ish) before the storm. A beautifully crafted piece of escapism, Harry Potter is once again the pinnacle of children’s fantasy which – like the adults – is just as mature as any other.

Here’s to the albino dragon of Part II!

Advertisements

About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010)

  1. Pingback: My 10 favourite movies of the year. « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: The 10 most annoying customer questions « popcornaddict

  3. Pingback: January 2011 – It’s on like Donkey Kong « popcornaddict

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: