It is truly the beginning of the end for Harry Potter’s near decade long cinematic journey towards his destined and deadly face-off with his dreaded foe, Lord Voldemort. The latest film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One”, not only heralds the gateway towards the long awaited climax to Potter’s magical journey; but it also presents the start of a bittersweet finale for both the film characters’ journey together… and for the film franchise’s loyal fans’ connection to the characters as well.
Few film franchises, if any in this critic’s memory, have so fully chronicled the literal and emotional growth of three fictional characters, and it’s actors, as has the Harry Potter series. In 2001, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were young children and novice actors grabbed from obscurity and thrust into the daunting task of bringing author J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron to vivid life on the big screen. Over the years, we have watched as Radcliffe, Watson and Grint grew into their roles in every way. They not only physically matured on screen; but also, they matured as true seasoned actors who embraced and eventually embodied their characters with enthusiasm, realism and relatable emotion.
We as an audience witnessed this growth as though watching a trio of friends and extended family members for whom we truly care for, grow up from children to the brink of adulthood.
Now, nine years later, with debut of the penultimate chapter to the Potter saga, general audiences and die-hard Potter fans alike are faced with having to truly let go of this trio of friends as they face their pre-ordained destiny and the true end of the Potter saga. Barring J.K. Rowling reneging on her vow against future Potter books, the literary saga has ended. However, via the films, fans of Harry Potter were able to continue to see the familiar story play out anew, in larger than life form on the big screen.
Since 2001, the films have served as a companion piece to the books, visually bringing Harry, Hermione, Ron and their magical universe to life. However, unlike the books; on film, the characters do not stay forever young and fresh as they do on the printed page… and the actors who play them on screen grow up, mature and move forward. It’s that sad inevitability that forces an end to the Harry Potter saga, making this next to final chapter in Harry’s quest exciting yet also somewhat sad as well.
In this film, Harry, Hermione and Ron are thrust into a world far different from the comfortable and often safe haven of Hogwarts. Their world has now drastically changed with the death of Albus Dumbledore, their beloved mentor and inspiration. The evil Lord Voldemort ( Ralph Fiennes) is in control of much of what was once Harry’s safe and magical world and many of it’s former inhabitants.
Voldemort is now leading an all out attack, aided by assorted wizards and “Death Eaters” to search out and destroy Harry Potter. Meanwhile, a group of allies loyal to Potter as “The Chosen One” has vowed to hide and protect him from destruction. However, Potter knows there can be no rest, nor safety for himself or his friends unless he defeats Valdemort. To do this, he must find and destroy a group of small talismans called Horcruxes which contain portions of Voldemort’s soul. Only by destroying these, can Potter have a chance at defeating Voldemort once and for all.
However, the journey to accomplish this is far from an easy one for the three friends, Potter, Hermione, and Ron. In the process, several lives will be lost. For Hermione, her loss is immediate from the film’s opening scenes, as she magically erases any trace of her presence and memory from her beloved Muggle family as she joins Potter on this perilous journey.
During this quest, that thrusts all three into the semi-unfamiliar Muggle world of London, the trio finds themselves in a dark and dangerous trek to outwit and evade countless wizards enlisted by Valdemort and his minions to find Potter so Valdemort may kill the young wizard himself.
For Ron, the perilous journey takes it’s toll upon him and his friendship to Harry, resulting in Ron temporarily abandoning both Harry and Hermione to continue a quest that Ron deems to be foolish and fruitless. In one climatic sequence, Ron’s self-doubt, insecurities and jealousies surrounding Harry and Hermione take on full realization testing Ron’s loyalties and inner strength of spirit and strength of character.
However, it is Harry who perhaps suffers most throughout this film as he wrestles with the guilt of the death and sacrifice many are making to ensure his safety. At one point, Harry also has revisit the stark and cold memory of his own parents’ death at their gravesite. Ultimately, Harry endures the crushing heartbreak of losing one of his closest friends who selflessly sacrifices his life to save Potter from the evil Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter )
For the uninitiated, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” can be a complex and confusing mix. However, that is certainly understandable and excusable since the film is “part one” of the final culmination of nearly a decade of movie storytelling. However, despite that, the film is wonderfully exciting, but also very dark, foreboding and grim as well.
Director Peter Yates has wisely chosen to tell this story with the serious tone befitting the serious and mature task facing it’s equally maturing protagonists as they prepare for the ultimate denouement in the final film with the dark Lord Voldemort.
All the actors in this film are first rate. Fiennes’ performance as Voldemort evokes an evil that is especially effective, repulsive and frightening. Helena Bonham Carter also thrills in her, borderline over the top, portrayal of the murderous Bellatrix.
However, of course; it is the trio of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint who truly shine in this film. Each of the three evoke a sense of gravity to their roles that befits the grim, overwhelming and stressful task that weighs upon them and their friendship. Just as the film series has grown and improved over the decade, this installment shows the same progression in these young actors skills as well. Their maturity as actors is essential to making their characters’ transition from young whimsical friends, to now devoted allies in a deadly struggle, believable and effective.
The film near it’s end features a superbly animated storytelling sequence that explains exactly what is meant by “The Deathly Hallows”. The scene lends even more foreboding to the film’s final image featuring Lord Voldemort finally in possession of the formidable tool of destruction he plans to use to destroy Harry Potter in the film’s final chapter next summer.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is a superbly well-done appetizer for the ultimate and deadly confrontation to come between Harry and his life long foe, Voldemort.
… it’s only flaw is that, as part one of two chapters, we must wait several more months to enjoy the bittersweet, deadly and magical culmination to this well told story.
See more of Tim Estiloz’ film reviews and videos at: www.TimEstiloz.com