As Harry, Ron, and Hermione race against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, they uncover the existence of the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows.As Harry, Ron, and Hermione race against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, they uncover the existence of the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows.As Harry, Ron, and Hermione race against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, they uncover the existence of the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows.
Dividing the seventh book into two movies has given a taste of what a miniseries might have been like. "Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is a more faithful adaptation than any of the previous films. This surprised me a little, because the portion of Book Seven it covers is actually longer than the entirety of some of the earlier books. (As I was rereading it a few months ago, I correctly guessed where they'd end Part 1--it's at an important turning point in the story that occurs close to the two-thirds mark.) Most of the film's sequences are exactly as I had envisioned them, and sometimes better than I had envisioned them. I especially liked its approach to the Riddle-Hermione scene, to the matter of protective enchantments around their camp (which is handled with a nice dose of spookiness), and to a spell that distorts a character's face. Apart from the oversimplification of a few plot details here and there, any flaws in the story come straight from the book. The two-and-half-hour movie drags at some points, but then so did the book, particularly in the forest scenes. The plot concerns Voldemort's takeover of the wizarding world and pursuit of Harry, who goes into hiding with Ron and Hermione but repeatedly endangers them and himself in his daunting efforts to find and destroy a set of objects that keep Voldemort immortal, aided only by a few enigmatic clues Dumbledore has left him.
It is not a very accessible film for non-fans. People who haven't read or seen any of the previous installments will probably be lost. It never once pauses to explain the Harry Potter universe or anything about the background to these tumultuous events, not even a prologue like the one that began the third of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films. The good news is that it doesn't condescend to the audience. The bad news is that if you don't know or can't remember things like what a horcrux is or what happens when you point a wand at someone and say "Obliviate," you might have trouble following the story.
As a fan, however, I loved it. It's just well-filmed, and I had notably fewer complaints about acting and special effects than I had for the previous movies. The CGI is relatively unobtrusive, and there aren't too many fake-looking moments. (The house-elves look especially good this time.) Ralph Fiennes finally appears to have settled into the role of Voldemort, after having delivered somewhat phoned-in performances previously. The kids, who get to dominate more scenes than in any of the other films, when their presence was counterbalanced by a plethora of seasoned British performers who are mostly absent here, have really grown into their roles. They were well-cast from the start and always had a certain raw talent, but early in the series they possessed some of the amateur qualities common to young actors. They have become increasingly proficient as the series has progressed (which I suspect was what the studio intended when it eschewed the tradition of casting older actors in child roles). Here they display the kind of camaraderie that can only be developed gradually, after having acted together in several films, and it makes the scenes that deal with their relationship feel natural and unforced.
I actually look forward to seeing the movie again at some point, just so I can sit back and take in more of the details. I think I didn't appreciate it enough the first time, distracted as I was by my knowledge of what happens in the book and the lack of any significant divergence in the film's depiction. There is not a lot in this film that will surprise fans; the enjoyment comes from seeing how vividly it is all brought to life.
- Nov 22, 2010