Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

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Gone is the brilliant dining hall illuminated by hundreds of floating candles as hundreds of eager young wizards and witches sit in anticipation for a magnificent feast starting off the new school year. In its place is the fantastically grim world outside the walls of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Audiences around the world have come to know and love the magical dark times of Harry Potter.  Read with me now about the newest… Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I.

Voldemort is on the move to obtain ultimate power and demise of our titular hero, allowing the Death Eaters to run amok. With evil wreaking havoc amongst wizards and muggles alike, it seems as if it is the beginning of the end of magic itself—and with the film being the first of two adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s final installment of the entire series, it basically is.

Personally, it’s hard to grasp that by next summer the Harry Potter madness will come to and end after thirteen years! From the initial popularity — (Rowling’s first novel of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998) to the years thereafter of a growing cult-following showing up at midnight releases of the next book — to the subsequent film installments starting in 2001 — the entire Potter phenomenon has ingrained itself a place in contemporary culture. Harry Potter, along with the entire magical world Rowling introduced us to more than a decade ago, has become a defining element of our generation.

That said, David Yates, the director of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, has not let the Rowling-canon down, and has actually provided a worthy nod to the established fan base for their years of commitment. By not lending a helping hand to any new recruits to Dumbledore’s Army with explanations as to the multitude of characters or references to past events, the story is able to jump straight into the the now plight-ridden world as the ministry of magic loses power.

Despite the film being advertised as a part one of an epic finale, there wasn’t all that much action going on. Sure there were a couple note-worthy battle scenes, but for a majority of the film seems like a set-up for part two, which will be the actual epic finale that the previews have boasted about. Just as the action begins to pick up, the film ends leaving the audience in anticipation for the July 2011 release of the final film.

Without the comfort of their professors to guide them, our team of heroes—Ron, Hermione, and Harry—must learn to trust and rely on each other and their independent abilities as they embark on a daunting journey to destroy the rest of Voldemort’s hidden horcruxes. Their loyalty and perseverance is tested as they hop amongst desolate areas to elude detection from Voldemort’s loyal followers.

The task proves especially difficult as our trifecta of adolescent heroes seem to let relationships weigh down on their priorities. While I understand that covert snogging and unspoken feelings are an appealing element of the novels for many, the idea that an immature jealous tantrum causes a rift between the dynamic trio amidst a war seems a bit melodramatic, especially with the almost uncomfortably sexualized resolution.

Other than raging teenage hormones, the rest of the film is quite enjoyable and well worth a watch in theatres, especially in 3-D, IMAX or D-BOX. With the core characters jumping amongst obscure locations for safety, the various landscapes, ranging from a rocky cliff side to a frozen forest escape, their temporary backdrops to their temporary homes are remarkably stunning. I found the vast scenery a welcome contrast to the dismal darkness within the current Ministry of Magic overrun by the almost muggle-hating mechanical drones spreading propaganda against Potter and his allies.

The true hero in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I seems to lie within Hermione Granger, played by Emma Watson. Starting off the film by ridding her parents’ memory of her in order to save them from the torture of the war, she must then repeatedly haul slack left by Harry’s emotional ruins to Ron’s lack of gumption. She is the irreplaceable adhesive force driving the team forward in order to fulfill Dumbledore’s plan as they are forced to once again face obstacles beyond their maturity level.

Luckily Watson, along with Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe, playing Ron and Harry, respectively, have honed their skills to establish themselves as fine actors sure to garner success past the Potter franchise—Watson is currently the face of luxury fashion house Burberry, while Radcliffe has found a name in theatre appearing as Alan Strang in Equus, while Grint has several film roles lined-up, including this year’s comedy Wild Target. Although there won’t be anymore Harry Potter books or films to look forward to by this time next year, there’s still additions and improvements to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando to check out.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is currently in theatres nationwide. The final installment is due out in July 2011.

Photo courtesy of carolyn.wills and ericskiff via Flickr.

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