Jun 7, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Splitting the adaptation for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into a two-part extravaganza was a risky decision that would inevitably spark accusations of Warner Brothers milking the franchise for everything they could. Were they really though? No question that wallets would get fatter with two movies instead of one, but the argument was that there were legitimate artistic reasons for the split. Lionel Wigram didn't think it was possible to do a one movie Deathly Hallows and he was able to convince David Heyman of the same thing.

The split had to be done unless Warner Brothers felt comfortable releasing a rushed final chapter that probably would've had many, many cuts. Personally, I can see the logic behind the split. I could be totally wrong, but I'm skeptical about a one film finale really having worked. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows actually wasn't the first movie to be split up like this though. Kill Bill was split up to avoid having cuts made although Tarantino's homage to martial arts films wasn't quite in the same situation as Harry Potter. Now when it comes to Twilight, The Hobbit and The Hunger Games, well that's a whole other kettle of fish.


At a Glance

Genre: adventure, family, fantasy
Directed by: David Yates
Produced by: David Barron, David Heyman, J.K. Rowling, etc.
Written by: Steve Kloves
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Running time: 146 minutes
Production company: Warner Bros., Heyday Films
Distributed by: Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Village Films, etc.
Country: United Kingdom, United States
Language: English
Budget: $250,000,000 (shared with Part 2)
Box office: $960,283,305 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Nick Moran, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright, Helen McCrory, Peter Mullan, Guy Henry, David Ryall, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Mark Williams, George Harris, Andy Linden, Domhnall Gleeson, Clémence Poésy, Natalia Tena, Frances de la Tour, Matthew Lewis, Toby Jones, Hazel Douglas, Rade Serbedzija, David O'Hara, Steffan Rhodri



Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and other members of the Order of the Phoenix are preparing to leave No. 4 Privet Drive. Finding the remaining Horcruxes of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is absolutely vital which makes attending Hogwarts out of the question. With an attack on Harry almost inevitable, extra precaution is taken by giving six members a shot of Polyjuice Potion in order to create six decoy Potters. Upset at having his friends put in such danger, Harry leaves with Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) on his motorcycle which is the same way he first arrived at his aunt (Fiona Shaw) and uncle's (Richard Griffiths) as a baby all those years ago.


Compared to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has a very different kind of style to it. While HBP is fantastically dark, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 seems to be more grounded in reality if that can be said about a movie involving witches and wizards. It's a bit of a buzzword, but gritty is an easy way to describe it. Believe me though, things are as grim as they can be for Harry and the gang and this tonal shift works well in reinforcing that.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a goodbye of sorts for fans of the long-running series, or at least part one of that goodbye anyway which the story reflects. The comfort and safety of Hogwarts is no longer an option for Harry and neither is "home" which probably never really felt like home until he has to leave it for possibly the final time. A scene where he says a silent goodbye to the closet under the stairs that used to be his room is a particularly poignant example of what Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has in store.

There's still room for hope in this second last entry, but not a whole lot. Once Harry, Ron and Hermione are on their own to search for Voldemort's Horcruxes they truly are alone. DH:P1 does actually feel slow at times (just like the book mind you) during these "camping parts," but I personally feel like it works. Especially in movie form. Sure you could've cut these parts and extended the action sequences, but it makes sense that these parts are slower. The frustration that Harry and his friends go through is palpable as they don't seem to be getting anywhere in their quest. David Yates gets that across quite nicely and I like that everything doesn't just conveniently come together. The protagonists are young, inexperienced and they should be struggling like this.

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 isn't just some kind of Harry Potter road trip movie though and there's definitely enough action to satisfy. The first chase sequence is heavy on the CGI which has a bit of a negative effect, but it's still quite thrilling though just as every other fantasy action sequence in this film. The camera is far more likely to move about which is something that's never really been seen all that much in Harry Potter so far and it's well-used here. There's also an extremely cool animation sequence in the last three-quarters of the film which is particularly eye-catching too.

Besides just the technical side of things, the action works because there's an adequate amount of dramatic weight that's thrown around. You worry about the good guys which is a good thing because let me just say that there is more than one death in Deathly Hallows: Part 1. On the romance side of things, the Ginny/Harry thing doesn't feel quite as good here as it did in Half-Blood Prince but Hermione/Ron works exceedingly well. Yates goes into some surprisingly risqué territory at a certain point even.

While I can understand complaints about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 being a bit slow for some, I think it's a great way to start a two-parter. Where the films ends is satisfying in a very non-satisfying kind of way. So much so that I still remember the torture that began almost instantly after I had seen DH:P1 in theatres for the first time. The reality that I had to wait a whole year before seeing the end of everything was a tough pill to swallow. With good action and plenty of emotional weight, DH:P1 is an excellent kick-off for the final chapter of Harry Potter's story.



Related Reviews:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

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