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Movie ReviewsRating: 4 of 5 yaps

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Right off the bat, the final chapter of the Harry Potter saga — well, the first half of it, anyway — broadcasts that its mood will be substantially darker than its predecessors. War is come, and wizards, witches and non-magical muggles alike are battening down the hatches.

For me, the seriousness of the outing was underlined when Hermione cast a spell to “obliviate” herself from her muggle parents’ memories, in order to protect them from reprisal at the hands of Lord Voldemort’s forces. Watching her portrait fade from the family photographs, and knowing what she’s giving up, is unsettling and grave.

I also appreciated that the blooming of teenage romance, so annoyingly pushed on us during “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” is appropriately tamped down. Harry and new love Ginny Weasley share one quick snog, and then she’s thankfully given the boot for the rest of the movie. Even the Hermione/Ron Weasley quickening is mercifully kept at a low boil.

It didn’t even occur to me until after “Deathly Hallows” was over — and I should point out its 2½ hours fly by at a brisk pace — that Hogwarts School, which has been the focal point of the entire series, is never glimpsed, or even mentioned.

The wand-wielding kids are all grown up, and school is most definitely out.

If you’re not up to speed on the chronicle of the boy wizard, his friends and his evil nemesis … well, then head to the video store or fire up your Netflix account, because you’ve no chance of catching on at this late date without seeing the other movies.

The last film ended with the death of benevolent schoolmaster Dumbledore, and the revelation that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, in slithery makeup) has divided his soul into several objects called Horcruxes. It’s up to Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) to find the rest of them, and destroy them.

Meanwhile, Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters have taken over the Ministry of Magic — the central government for the wizarding world — and begun a reign of terror designed to weed out those wizards and witches not of pure blood, and to trap Harry and friends.

For non-readers of the books by J.K. Rowling (like me), it’s difficult to keep track of the dozens of tertiary characters who flit in and out of the background. Pretty much all of them who aren’t dead show up at some point, and a few of them are killed off.

One doomed character, whose name I won’t reveal, hasn’t been seen since about the third Potter movie. So to suddenly bring them back and then off them deprives their death of any emotional impact.

Director David Yates, who’s helmed the last three Potter movies, and screenwriter Steve Kloves, who’s penned all but one of the series, keep things moving along at a zippy tempo that focuses on the relationship between the Big Trio. The only place the story bogs down a bit is toward the middle, when the three are wandering in exile. The simmering conflict between Harry and Ron over Hermione’s affections feels ginned up.

I will confess I’m not a big fan of Rowling’s shoddy storytelling. Her imagination is great — too great, in fact. Whenever the kids are presented with a problem, there’s always a new spell, or a new magic object, or a new ally that pops up to aid them. Her story construction doesn’t have an airtight feel because she always invents a new backdoor for her characters to wiggle out of.

For example, somewhere in the last couple of movies they’ve introduced a spell to “apparate,” or teleport instantly from one place to another, along with those touching the caster. If so, why do they bother with broomsticks to get around? For that matter, why did Harry and all the kids have to climb aboard a special train to get to Hogwarts that first time? Wouldn’t it be much easier to send a few wizards to poof all the kids there instantly?

But that’s just my muggle mind talking.

4 Yaps

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24 Responses to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”

  1. [...] did it in three parts, and the last installment of the “Harry Potter” series was cut in twain. The upcoming prelude to “LotR,” “The Hobbit,” is getting the same [...]

  2. Nikki Nickson says:

    Harry potter was excellant and i cant wait for part 2 to hit the theaters!!

  3. Steve B says:

    I’m probably one of the few Potter fans to have not read any of the books. I’ve seen most of the movies at midnight screenings, and this one didn’t dissapoint. It’s a little rough adjuusting to different directors throughout the series, but this one was a good mashujp of Potter and Lord of the Rings. the story was ominous, but at least the scenery and sets were great. It’s good to be able to sit back and let a movie take you somewhere else every once and a while. Looking forward to part 2 of the finale.

  4. Emily M says:

    "A zippy tempo?" I was bored out of my mind when they were in the woods — it went forever!

    I’m also sad there was minimal Snape footage!

  5. Ryan Oldfather says:

    I see your point about the movie not making as much sense to those who have not read the books. I have a feeling Tron Legacy will have the same issue. But it will still rock!

  6. Dan says:

    Rebecca you are completely incorrect in your statements, and such a thing can only come from a rather selfish core of "well I have read the books so I’m alright, and the rest of you will just have to suffer". If the films were good within their own right then they should be judged in their own rights. They are not meant to be supplements to the books as they are a different form of media. What annoys me about this whole situation is that the film-makers seemingly can’t seem to decide what they want the movies to be.

    For example in the deathly hallows (pt1) there are a number of things that just didn’t work to me. Now I don’t know whether this was the the book, the adaptation, the editing or the directing, but it doesn’t matter ultimately, because someone should have spotted it and fixed it.

    For example the character’s death was completely emotionless to me. It was rather obvious that once we saw the knife that someone would die and this person would be an auxiliary character. Yes the death may have had a lot more meaning in the book, and this may have made the books good, but it made the film bad because nobody I saw the film with really cared about such a bit-part character. It actually seemed like a cop-out. It was only from reading the above comments that I have learnt that a character I hadn’t seen since movie 3 or whatever had appeared in other books.

    I’m not trying to slate the books – I have no informed opinion on them since I have not read them. However this latest film just did not work for me, which was a shame as I have enjoyed the others up to this point.

    Actually for those that have read the books can someone tell me when they get back from the lovegood’s and meet the death eaters why don’t they just teleport out?

  7. Barb says:

    I want to take my grandson to see this he’s 11 and loves Harry Potter!

  8. Ryan Oldfather says:

    Harry Potter 7 part one is a great and dark movie. You really can feel the despair of the three main characters as they search in the dark for a way to stop Lord Voldemort. My only complaint is that it ended! I was ready for another 2 and half hours. The final battle is going to be awesome.

  9. Rebecca says:

    I am so sick of people who don’t read the books that movies are based on griping about how they don’t get what they just watched. Pick up the book. Read it. There is a reason this franchise is so huge…the books were freaking awesome! You get more out of the book than you ever could a movie. I am still amazed at the way JK Rowling included little tidbits in the first book that didn’t really come into play until later in the series. I have yet to see the movie because I want to reread the book first (a little refresher!). And no offense Michael…but doing a recap at the beginning of the movie?? This is not a television miniseries.

  10. The language is different because it’s not American English. England’s English can be quite different, such as, water closet for bathroom. Rowling also devoted her writing to kids when she found out how much involved in reading they are, of her stories. Yes, they’re not the greatest but look at how many kids read that didn’t before. If you read the books, it would be easier to understand the storyline. You are lost if you didn’t see the last one.

  11. MICHAEL says:

    I hate that just as getting into the film it was over. Now have to wait to see ending. They could have done some clips at beginning to let people know what had just gone on in last film.

  12. Andy says:

    I was hoping to find how close to the book this movie was, but from what I gather from the review it might. I guess I’ll find out how it is on Sunday.

  13. Mel Gonzalez says:

    I went to the advance screening on Tuesday and I felt the movie was well put together as far as following the plot and themes in the books. I really enjoyed the movie. It was def slow in parts but it sort of had to be that’s the way the book was written. I don’t mean that in a critical way that’s just what needed to be portrayed in the movie. There was so much backstory that had to be explained and brought forth to conclude the HP story. Loved the book and loved the movie. Go see it everyone!

  14. Cameron Byam says:

    I enjoyed the screening Tuesday night and was pleased to see a few attendees adorned in HP costumery. As an adult fan of this series I like the dark direction it’s taken but feel a bit bad for the younger generation and those parents that have to decide whether to allow their children to see this.

  15. Jay Ray says:

    I went to the screening on Tuesday and thought the movie was very well done, but I cannot get over the two part setup since there is no easy way to create the first movie with a beginning, middle, and end. However, I agree emphatically that these movies (7.1/7.2) are meant for avid book fans since they really don’t do any explanation of the story so far and there are glaring items missing that you would only know from reading the books (apparating and Harry’s ownership of Grimmold Place and Kreature, the house elf). Finally, I realized that this movie is mature. I was sitting next to kids in the theater and when certain unnamed characters die, it is graphic. We can only hope the second movie ties everything together and smoothly connects this one to the rest of the seventh book.

  16. Betina Mobley says:

    I can not wait to see this movie. I have followed all of them and I hope this one is better then the last.

  17. Joe Shearer says:

    To perhaps stir the pot just a bit more, let me say that the lead photo (the one on the main page) looks like it came out of a Monty Python sketch.

    Harry sucks!

    Just kidding. About Harry sucks, not the Monty Python comment. Also I want to point out to those hammering on Chris that he did give the film 4 of 5 Yaps, which is a pretty solid rating. You Potter fans are getting as bad as the Trekkers.

    Love the discussion. Keep it up, Yappers!

  18. Mary Strain says:

    I can’t compare the books to the movies because I’ve only read a couple chapters of the first book. I would like to say that this movie is really good, whether it’s like the book or not, and I believe most will enjoy it!

  19. Elisa says:

    You’re correct, there are no footnotes in films. And that is the fault of the people who adapt the movies, not JK Rowling. The films have been ANYTHING BUT slavishly loyal to the books (I wonder where you got this information – I have a friend who refers to the 3rd movie as "Hermione and the Prisoner of Azkaban because it is SO different and focused on her). I’d go so far as to say that the first one was the only one that was fairly true to the book- not having seen the last one yet. They have cut endless chapters, storylines and characters. The last movie, Half Blood Prince was so butchered towards the end that I can’t believe they used the same director for the last one.

    This world is very detailed and elborate, unless they’d split up every single one of them into two there is no way to fit it all in. Again, without reading the books it is fairly impossible for you to know how faithful the movies are.

  20. HP_Fan & Kay:

    I read the rules of Potter magic on Wiki. I understand that they aren’t allowed to teleport until they’re 17, but that’s not what I said in my review. I asked why several wizards from the school couldn’t teleport the kids to school in batches rather than take the silly train. And I also read the rule about anti-apparate spells on Hogwarts’ grounds — well, then they can just teleport to right in front of it.

    Face it, once somebody invented the teleport spell, no self-respecting witch would be caught dead on a broom every again, except for maybe Quiditch (as you point out).

    Elisa–

    I still attribute the bulk of the storytelling duties to Rowling, because the movies have been by all accounts slavishly loyal to the books, only leaving a few things out but not changing anything major around. It’s not like Kloves is out making stuff up about apparate spells and deathly hallows.

    I’ve actually read a lengthy excerpt of one Potter book, so I’m not a total virgin. But I’m criticizing the movies, not the books, and it’s not good enough to say, "Well, if you’d read the books you’d understand this part." There’s no footnotes in film: "To know why this makes sense, see pages 417-23 of book five."

  21. AJ says:

    This is something that always frustrates me when reading reviews by those who haven’t read the books. I know that ideally one shouldn’t have to have read the books to enjoy the film if the film is doing its job and telling the core of the story. But a lot of what reviewers have gripes about they foist onto Rowling, instead of onto the filmmakers. Even as a lover of the Harry Potter books, I’ll admit plot minutia and happenstance do get a little absurd (e.g. are we seriously meant to buy that the prophecy that the whole series pivots on occurred during a random job interview at a sketchy bar?; you won’t understand that unless you’ve read the books). Still, the aspects of Rowling’s story that you pinpoint in your review as being unsuccessful aren’t so much the fault of Rowling as they are the inevitable fallout of the filmmakers’ decision to excise parts of the story in earlier installments. Although these elements of the story may seem tacked and unnecessary on in the films, they seem perfectly natural and delightful to the world-building of the books. Adult characters are known to apparate (or teleport) all throughout the books; the protagonists just don’t really make mention of it because they’re still children, just like the way that children in the real world might not think too much about paying taxes or driving. In fact, in the books, apparating becomes a great metaphor for learning to drive as in the "Half-Blood Prince" the characters have to take "Apparition Lessons." The doomed character that you mention actually makes appearances in the 4th, 5th and 6th books, and his death in the books is a lot more effective. You wouldn’t be able to get the payoff of any of these elements by just watching the movies. I’m not sure what the point of this comment was. I guess it was just borne of out of the frustration of someone who grew up with and loves the Harry Potter books dearly, and finds it just laughable how reviewers of an older generation completely mischaracterize the series. I guess, if anything, my point is that the Harry Potter books are really worth your time; there are a lot of great humanist lessons in the series that the films have been unable to replicate. I’ve always thought that the best film adaptations are of flawed source materials that don’t have the built-in fanbase that Harry Potter does.

  22. kay says:

    everyone knows you can’t apparate into hogwarts. plus, you need to be 17 to get a license.

  23. Elisa says:

    How can you claim that you don’t like Rowling’s "shoddy storytelling" when you just said one paragraph earlier that you have NEVER READ A SINGLE BOOK? You either need to leave Rowling out of your shoddy/uninformed review, or you need to change that to "Steve Kloves shoddy storytelling". Only someone who has never read the books could make such ignorant statements about there always been some "magical back door" to save the characters. Do some reading, it’ll do you good.

    It’s also strange to me that you don’t like the romance "pushed on you" by the films. First of all, there is so little romance in any of the Potter films that I can’t even fathom that statement, are you a hundred years old? They’re teenagers. Get a clue. Either that, or you’ve mistakenly been watching "Twilight", where character spend the entire film telling each other how much they can’t live without the other. I’ve never read any other reviews by you, but if this is the quality of your work I’d opt to do something else.

  24. HP_FAN says:

    thee are two (2) reasons they dont just teleport to the school:

    1)They have to be 17 to be able to do that, and;

    2)The school is protected so that ONLY the headmaster can teleport within the campus, anyone else can do that, considering all the bad stuff thats happening

    and the broomstick thing is mainly just used for Quiditch and well, fun not to get around