Harry Potter in Review: Deathly Hallows Part 1
Cast: Half the British phone directory.
Plot: With Voldemort waging war against the wizarding world Harry, Ron and Hermione traverse the countryside in search of the ‘Horcruxes’, enchanted items that hold the key to defeating the Dark Lord.
Review: First up, this trend of splitting movies in half is starting to get lame. Although there are sometimes a good reason for it, it’s increasingly seen as a money spinning exercise. Kill Bill was written as one massive script that was later divided into two films whilst on the other hand Twilight Breaking Dawn was split into two films in order to milk more money out of the franchise. The Deathly Hallows kinda sits somewhere in the middle. Yes, the source material is a bit more dense than previous entries but the end result still feels padded enough that it could have conceivably been condensed into one film. If they felt really dedicated to the double film idea they could’ve done us the favour of giving them different names instead of the awkwardness of slapping ‘Part 1’ on the end of an already long title.
Another uncomfortable trend in adapting big name books is when directors kowtow to fans demand that the movie incorporates every tiny little detail that was featured in the book regardless of the relevance to the overall plot of ease of inclusion. As a result we get one line cameos from every character who has been mentioned in the films prior to now (also due to actors having been contracted to be in every film). Sometimes these little moments catapult the viewer clear out of the movie before dropping them back into the action. The most glaring example comes with a group of Death Eaters arrive on the Hogwarts express only to be turned away by a single line from Neville Longbottom. Not that we’re missing much while on these little detours – the amount of screen time dedicated to the gang hanging around their tent sharing theories (and pasty glares from Ron) feels repetitive very fast.
Flip side of the coin, this is one of the best looking films in the series. Moving away from Hogwarts comes as something as a relief (no doubt for the director as well) as the constant backdrop of stone walls gets tiresome before long. What we get instead is a nice selection of wide pleasant landscapes that are a treat for the eyes in high definition. The young actors have been at this long enough to slip into the characters easily and, while still not amongst the most talented performers in their age bracket they can manage the heavier material. There’s still a bingo cards worth of cringe-inducing scenes, but they have come a long way as actors.
When the film shifts from sitting-in-a-tent mode to action mode things liven up quite nicely. The fight scenes are more engaging and more creatively handled than in previous films and it leaves viewers with the sense that the rivals are doing more than flinging sparks and pop caps at each other. The combination of the improved action and visuals do make up for much of the padded down time, except for the really pointless moments such as Harry dancing with Hermione which, in spite of the intentions, really looks as though he’s trying to score.
Except for the fact that the ending is sudden and unsatisfying due to that whole double-movie ploy, it is a decent penultimate chapter.
Score: EIGHT outta TEN