Films that are split into multiple parts are a tricky breed. It’s hard to really generate a valid opinion about them since you are only watching a portion of a finished product. This is why it is difficult to say whether Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a good film, because it is only half of a full story. It’s like riding a roller coaster up to the tip-top of that first big hill and then the ride operator stops the car, releases the rider’s restraints and tells them to take the stairs down to the bottom. Sure the ride looks epic, but you don’t know that until you’ve experienced it.
Standing on its own, part one of The Deathly Hallows does exactly what it’s meant to do, get audiences excited about the extraordinary conclusions still to come. However its overall lack of real purpose makes it hard to justify its rank among the films that came before it.
Part one of the two part final Harry Potter film follow Harry, Hermione and Ron as they set out amidst the war-torn wizarding world to hunt and destroy the remaining pieces of Lord Voldemort’s soul, in order to finally put the evil wizard down and save their world. But the journey isn’t easy and the dark lord’s henchman, as well as their own personal demons could put the entire quest in jeopardy.
The Deathly Hallows: Part One is a bittersweet film. It addresses one problem that previous Harry Potter films had which was cramming so much into so little time and forsaking so many other great story elements. This time around though, Director, David Yates and Writer, Steve Kloves are free to stuff much more into this film from a very large and more complex book in the series. Story elements are given more room to grow and many of our favorite characters make their respective, but very brief, appearances. That is the sweet part, the bitterness of the film is it’s lack of any real climax to make it worthy of watching on its own. The entire film is nothing but a two-and-a-half hour build-up to part 2.
The film has its moments of action and excitement but they have no real depth, and in some cases, no real purpose other than breaking up the long periods of walking and talking in the countryside as Harry and friends attempt to evade capture. The film builds suspense surprisingly well and it’s certainly the darkest in the series in terms of tone, but it leads to no conclusion or resolution and ultimately no real satisfaction to those watching, especially to those that haven’t read any of the novels.
However, these problems with part one are really problems with multi-part films in general and not a glaring reflection on the quality of this film. The Deathly Hallows: Part One is a promising taste of things to come and certainly warrants waiting for part two.
The quality of character depth is at its best in this film. This time around, Harry and Co. don’t have an army of grown-ups at their disposal to tell them what to do and how to do it. They have to survive on their own this time, and they are putting everything on the line trying to do so.
There’s a broader range of emotions they have to achieve, mostly on the depressing end of the spectrum and it’s captivating to watch the kids we grew up with on screen deal with problems beyond evil wizards and magic. Though the writing for this film is still flat, Daniel Radcliffe and his counterparts prove they have acting chops beyond loudly casting spells in gibberish. Though the dialogue is clunky and the exposition overly drawn out, the talent in front of the camera make for a compelling two-plus hours, especially in terms of the plethora of bit parts from previous films.
The action is much more grown-up this time around as we watch our heroes tangle with a different breed of villain. The wand duels play off as family friendly gunfights that bring a level of excitement not seen before in previous films. David Yates seems of have a better grasp for shooting dark gritty scenes and this growth was much needed when tackling source material that is ultimately the darkest in the series. A chase scene involving Harry and the gang running from dark wizards in the forest really inspires hope that Yates can handle scenes of a grander scale when part 2 comes along next summer.
The only real red mark to part one is the stucture of the story. It can at times become a little talky and the action too brief and inconsequential. There is a nifty section of animated expostion, but it didn’t really feel that necessary as with other portions of story. The film also seemed a little too concerned with the sexual tension that existed in a tiny tent between two boys and a girl and how it addressed those issues came off incredibly hokey. Either handle the hormones with a little more confidence or don’t include them in the film at all.
Standing alone, part one is a very unsatisfactory experience, but in the grand scheme of things it serves its purpose into getting audiences excited for what is to come. It’s a great set-up that leaves you confident that the big finale is resting in capable hands to deliver a dark, exciting and worthy representation of the beloved book.