Deathly Hollows: Part One
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All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
arry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” is as good as one can expect from a movie that ends in the middle of the story. Warner Bros. had no choice but to split the final installment in the Harry Potter series into two parts – the book is over 750 pages long – but doing so leaves an unsatisfying feeling when the credits roll, that while everything that just happened was well executed and entertaining, it isn’t enough. The movie also has the “nerve” to let the characters breathe, rather than tossing them straight from this battle to that mystery. No “Potter” movie before it has been so pensive. This will surely come with a cost.
The movie begins with the Death Eaters on the offensive, as they attempt to assassinate Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) as he flees for a safe house. Soon after, the supporters of the dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) have taken over the Ministry of Magic, and everyone thought to be a Potter supporter is forced to go underground. Harry and his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) spend their days hiding in the woods, trying to come up with a plan for uncovering the Horcruxes that contain the remaining pieces of Voldemort’s soul, which must be destroyed for Harry to have any chance of stopping him. Finding the Horcruxes, though, means going out in public, and every time Harry risks doing so, he discovers just how heavily the deck is stacked against him.
Radcliffe, Grint and Watson should take pride in the fact that they have been trusted to carry this movie, something that would have been out of the question when they were younger (read: this is the first time Alan Rickman, or Emma Thompson, or Kenneth Branagh, doesn’t steal a “Potter” movie). And while Watson does the majority of the heavy lifting – she’s unquestionably the best actor of the three – they make the most of their solo time. Many of their scenes are quiet and low-key, and that makes sense; they’re still children, after all, and none of them have ever had to survive on their own. They need time to think and sort things out, and the movie gives that to them.
Sometimes, though, the movie gives the three leads this down time at its peril. It’s good to let characters breathe, but not so good to let them stretch, and there are times when the movie’s pacing suffers as a result. Perhaps director David Yates was so excited to get away from the CGI and shoot those lush country sides and rocky beaches that he lost himself in the scenery. Or who knows, maybe they felt that they needed to deliver two movies of considerable length in order to justify splitting the story in half. Not true. Two two-hour movies would have been just fine.
Yates seems to have a “Star Trek”-like odd/even thing going with his “Harry Potter” movies. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was drab, while “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” soared. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” falls somewhere in between. It has some great individual moments – the animated telling of the story of the Deathly Hallows is hauntingly gorgeous – but there is only so much they can do to dress up half a story. On the plus side, if this whole odd/even thing continues, then the final movie will be fantastic. See you in July.
Three-Disc Blu-ray Review:
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Warner’s Blu-ray release of the seventh “Harry Potter” film is jam-packed with bonus material, but it’s certainly commendable that the studio is still cranking out quality extras this far along in the game. The highlight of the set is Maximum Movie Mode, a seamless picture-in-picture feature hosted by Jason Isaacs that includes behind-the-scenes video, interviews with the cast and crew, and other interesting trivia bits about the series that play as you watch the movie. You can even access mini-featurettes called Focus Points (covering everything from shooting the last scene at Privet Drive, designing Hagrid’s flying motorbike, choreographing the wand battles, and bringing characters like Dobby, Kreacher and Griphook to life through CGI and make-up) that can also be watched individually.
But that’s just Disc One. The second disc also boasts eight deleted scenes and a series of production featurettes about shooting various sequences like the Seven Harrys scene, the visit to Godric’s Hollow and Harry’s ensuing battle with Nagini, and Ron’s rescue of Harry at the Frozen Lake. There’s also a cool little video diary from a golf outing with Rupert Grint, Tom Felton and the Phelps brothers where they reminisce about shooting the “Harry Potter” movies, as well as short trailers promoting the official soundtrack and the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios. And as always, there’s also a DVD and digital copy of the film. Not a bad haul considering that an Ultimate Edition is probably just around the corner.