With the seventh book closing the Harry Potter series in 2007, the final event of the generational phenomenon is the film adaptation of the last book, split into two movies. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is a film for fans and a suspenseful lead-up to the “Part 2” finale coming in July. Following the plot nearly chapter for chapter, lifting dialogue straight from the novel, “Part 1” is a satisfying start to a long goodbye.
Leaving Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry behind them, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are on the run from the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters. Harry must find and destroy seven horcruxes, magical remnants of Voldemort’s soul, before Potter can face the Dark Lord himself.
Along the way, Harry discovers the legend of the Deathly Hallows: three magical items — an invisibility cloak, a stone and an all-powerful wand — that defeat death when united.
Readers will find very little to miss, but those who haven’t followed the series will find it difficult to jump in now. The mirror piece Harry carries around is never explained, and his invisibility cloak is suspiciously missing. Ginny and Harry’s relationship has also dwindled down to nothing more than the casual make out.
However, many changes in the film add dimension to pivotal points in the plot. It’s a more visual experience, especially Harry and Hermione’s refusal to use Polyjuice Potion, which transforms one person into another, when Harry visits his parents’ grave. Audiences are connected to these actors, so having their faces present during emotional scenes makes a big difference. When visiting the Ministry of Magic in search of a horcrux, they do transform. This works because the scene moves quickly and the older actors imitate the younger ones.
The discovery of one horcrux alludes to “Lord of the Rings,” with each of the three characters becoming moody and irritable after taking their turn wearing the cursed piece of magic. However, the actors deal with the weighty emotional scenes well.
The visual effects add a haunting look to the film, especially the animated story of the three hallows, which has the look of a graphic novel with spindly trees and dark shadows.
Bringing back the house-elf Dobby early in the film adds a heavier sense of emotional investment in his character. Dobby’s animation is superb, and he feels more human than the heartless Bellatrix or stone-cold Snape.
The actors carry the film well and have noticeably matured from the previous film. But the three alone struggle without the addition of minor characters, especially Hogwarts favorites. Helena Bonham Carter as the Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange is a standout in the heart-wrenching scene where she tortures Hermione.
True to the book, the film follows the lengthy journey outside of school and focuses on developing characters and establishing the story for the final movie. The explanation of the hallows feels rushed, confirming that this film is clearly not for newcomers but rather for loyal fans of the series.
“Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is a lengthy build up to a grand finale and epic end battle, but for now, leaves audiences satisfied until “Part 2.”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” was written by Steve Kloves and directed by David Yates.