By: Addison Wylie
The Harry Potter series has always been an interesting set of movies to observe. Not only have they struck strong notes with fans of the books written by J.K Rowlings, but the films have transferred well to movie goers who haven’t even picked up a Harry Potter novel. Also, as the films have progressed, the work has gotten darker and more dreary and has matured along with the actors. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One covers the first half of the last book in the series and it’s by far the darkest outing Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley have scouted out on.
Still dealing with the loss of Dumbledore, Harry, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Hermione, played by Emma Watson, and Ron, played by Rupert Grint, are on the run as the Dark Lord Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes, tries to seek out their whereabouts in order to destroy Harry. By killing Harry, Voldemort will have no complications in his way to conquer both the Wizarding World as well as the Muggle World. Harry, on the other hand, is on a quest to find totem-like objects called Horcruxes and dismantling them to diminish Voldemort’s existence. It may seem like a straightforward expedition but the hunt is much more dangerous than expected.
The synopsis for this first part may seem easy to follow but this film is strictly for fans of the series or for outsiders who have watched the previous six films and have a strong memory. That aside, the capability to transfer this content to other outsiders who have not read the books or have seen the films recently is not present. There were sequences in Deathly Hallows where characters bring up past characters or events from older books/movies and it’s very easy to get lost in trying to remember what happened. Steve Kloves doesn’t take time in his script to reacquaint newcomers with details because he assumes everyone can recall the history of Harry Potter without hesitation. It’s understandable that Kloves knows his film is aimed towards people who are very familiar with the source material but it would’ve been nice for him to not give other audience members the benefit of the doubt. He wouldn’t have to write it as if he’s bluntly hammering his audience over the head with the callback cues but more subtle exposition dialogue would’ve been a nice touch.
Kloves does manage to develop the existing characters quite well. What was a series that seemed like it may have been relying on its special effects has now turned into character driven stories. Kloves is able to take the character outlines from the previous work and dig deeper into the personas. For example, in early scenes featuring Hermione, the audience can sense that the character has grown up and has developed deeper emotions. The same can be said about Harry Potter and Ron. Additionally, it helps that the studio has been lucky enough to have three actors who have grown more competently in their field of work. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint excel in their roles and are able to embody the characters they portray. Watson especially has stepped up her game and creates one of the more solid supporting female roles I’ve seen this year. Radcliffe has had a difficult task throughout this series though. Potter is constantly having the most development piled onto his character in each film. Radcliffe, however, tackles these unique emotional attributes by force and is able to make his character more and more convincing as Harry Potter develops. The only negative feedback about the performances is that Helena Bonham Carter returns as the unstable Bellatrix Lestrange and chews up every bit of scenery she possibly can.
Deathly Hallows is directed by David Yates who has also contributed his direction to the series before. Before directing his Harry Potter films, Yates dabbled in directing within a mini-series format. The problem at hand is that he has transferred that direction to feature films. With this film in particular, the pacing feels like a mini-series and it feels like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One is made up of numerous 30 minute episodes. This inappropriate pacing makes the film feel very bloated and long. Taking in consideration how much ground the film had to cover due to lengthy source material, some of those directorial decisions can be forgiven. However, there are countless scenes that are strung together poorly and feel slow. There are scenes within the second act that lack energy due to this poor direction as well.
With the directorial negativity aside, Yates is able to direct action scenes quite well using very creative and visually appealing special effects. Hopefully, Yates is able to split from his lethargic direction to add extra liveliness to part two. Leaving out Carter’s hammy portrayal of Bellatrix, the performances are stellar across the board and the additional development that has been applied to those personas is especially effective. Ultimately though, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One does it’s job by pumping up fans for the final film in the series.