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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part I) (2010) November 24, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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I am what you might call a bandwagon Harry Potter fan.

I have never been into the series as much as the fanatics, but I have followed the hype and read all the books (I think starting from when Goblet of Fire came out) and watched all of the movies.  I thought they were all pretty good, more enjoyable than your average book or film, but nothing I would put in my ‘all-time’ lists.

Nevertheless, I found myself excited to see the first part of the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (let’s just call it HP7), directed by David Yates (who also did HP5 and HP6) and with a screenplay by Steve Kloves (who has adapted all seven books).

So far, reviews have been rather mixed.  For Potter fanatics, the first half of this final film is everything they could have hoped for and more, not only because the film is beautifully shot but also because it is more faithful to the source material due to the extra running time.  For non-fans, HP7 probably comes across as a boring (because of the extra running time), confusing (because it assumes knowledge of all previous films/books) money grab (well, because it is).

For me, a relatively minor fan of the series, HP7 leans more towards the former than the latter, even though all the negatives mentioned above are present.  Much like HP6, the film is incredibly dark and bleak (visually, stylistically and in terms of plot), but probably even moreso because Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is finally back and is out to destroy his nemesis Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and all those who stand in his way, including Harry’s best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson).  With only half of the book and 146 minutes to play with, Yates has created a finely paced film that is more in-depth than the previous efforts.  There is more time for character development (particularly the relationship triangle between Harry, Ron and Hermoine), and thankfully, the once-were-babies actors have developed into fairly decent thespians.  Radcliffe, Grint and Watson all put in their best performances of the series.

The action sequences are also as good as anything we’ve seen before.  Of course, there’s the marvellous special effects, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that, unlike the previous six films, this one takes place almost entirely outside of Hogwarts, giving us a glimpse into the other parts of the Potter universe.

On the downside, truth be told, there really wasn’t a need to break the story into two parts.  HP7 (the book) was not even the longest of the series, and could have easily been squeezed into a single film with a 2.5-3 hour running time.  This would have meant a faster, more exciting film than what we’ll end up with, without the boring bits in the middle.  Speak of which, there were a few slow parts.  When I read the book, I remembered there was a long chunk where the kids were wandering around the countryside not knowing what they should be doing — I found that a bit slow in the book and it wasn’t that much better in the movie.

Moreover, non-fanatics ought to brush up on their knowledge of the series before watching the film.  If you go and watch the seventh film of a series without having watched any of the preceding six, then you deserve to be confused.  However, even as someone who has seen all the movies and read all the books, I had trouble remembering certain characters and their complex histories.  Bear in mind, the last book was released 40 months ago and the last movie 16 months ago.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one!

But perhaps the most disappointing thing about HP7 is the ending, which I suppose was impossible to please fans anyway.  It ends on a relatively tame note that felt somewhat anti-climatic — even though it does promise A LOT for the next one.  For me, it felt kind of empty having gone through 146 minutes and not having even touched any of the really good stuff in the book.

When it’s all said and done, HP7 is another fine addition to what will already go down in history as an excellent, consistently high-quality film series.  It gives the fans what they want, which is lots of Harry and his world, with a bold promise of better things to come.  It is difficult to rate it as a standalone film because it isn’t, but taking all things into account, HP7 is still a enjoyable ride.

3.75 stars out of 5!

PS: Did I mention I’m so glad this movie was only released in 2D?



1. Sandra - November 24, 2010

A lot of people who have read the book actually agreed on where to end for the part 1. My daughter said it makes sense to end at the stolen of the Elder Wand. Otherwise, there is nowhere to end. At this point, Voldemort got the Elder wand and he probably thinks has more power and can kill Harry easily; more dark things are coming but in the end, of course the good won over the evil. The elder wand part actually is not really the mid-point of the book, so I am anticipating more intensive visual and emotional details on part 2.

pacejmiller - November 25, 2010

I agree, it was probably the best place to end part 1, but it really comes back to whether there should have been two parts in the first place.

2. uioae - November 25, 2010

I am surprised to find you enjoyed the films. I have only seen the first Harry Potter film, but it was enough to inspire a permanent embargo on the rest of the franchise. The film was a bastardisation of the story, to the point where I felt like the director gave up telling a real story and was instead paying lip service in order to earn some money for the studio.

At the point where you wrote that this seventh book can easily have been squeezed into a single 3 hour movie was when I decided I am not going to bother with any of the films. It is a money making exercise.

pacejmiller - November 25, 2010

Really? I think you might want to reconsider! The first couple of HP films were really kiddie films — three, four and five were more for teenagers, but six and seven can easily be enjoyed by adults too. It is a money making exercise, but so is every studio movie! I try and judge the film by merit as opposed to motive. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the two but nevertheless…

3. Nick Poust - November 25, 2010

Pace, first off, I’ve really enjoyed your work. You are a very good writer.

Second, I’m going to see the movie for the first time this weekend. Big HP fan, and I’m sure I’ll like it. Great review.

I don’t understand why it had to be made into two films, but money talks, I guess. I’ve read a bunch of reviews and the opinions are mixed, as you say. So I’ve lowered my expectations in hopes that the film actually brings them up to where they were.

AS I see by the link you have to my site, I’m glad you are enjoying my work. I certainly enjoy yours as well.

I’ll be checking back frequently, and I wish you continued success!

4. ianthecool - November 27, 2010

Glad you liked the film. I did not like the news of them splitting the movie into two, but I’m actually okay with it. I like that they have included a lot from the book here. I have heard a lot of the same opinions as yours that the part in the woods is slow and dull, but I never found that. I thought it was a good catalyst for interaction between the three leads.

Yes,. non-fanatics should brush up. But honestly, in a selfish way I’m glad that they made this for the fanatics. Iis quite selfishly gratifying not to have to deal with “bridging gaps” between the audiences.

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