I’ve spent this past week catching up with the Harry Potter films. I thought it best to go in with a fresh take with the characters and the story. I’m sure much of the Internet felt that same way, judging from my twitter feed (@Rudie_Obias). There is a great sense of tone with all the film and each one brings something to the table. Whether that be pure wonderment with the first film, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Store or if that be dabbling with sexual flirtations in the sixth film, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is no different at times feeling like a horror film wrapped into a film like the ones by Mike Leigh. But what is the stand alone tone of the film? To me, it offers a great sense of disappointment.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the seventh film in the series and the first part screen adaptation of the seventh and final book. And in fact, feels like the first half of a movie rather than a stand alone film. So what should be my approach to covering this film? I’ve never read a single book in the widely popular series but I’ve seen all the movies to date. Should I go from an angle of being 100% objective? Well, at this point in the series it’s hard to be objective. You’re going to go in knowing everything about the rest of movies. I’m not sure how this film will interest anyone who hasn’t seen any of these films. So I guess my angle will be of one as the film critic. Does Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 work as a movie?
Director David Yates does do a good job with the overall tone of the film. It has this sense of horror mixed in with a somber, reflective mindset. In the story, Harry Potter is the most wanted person in the wizard world after the death of Dumbledore. The Ministry of Magic is under leadership and the wizard world is threatening to engulf and destroy the muggle world. Our heroes have to leave everything behind to hide Harry Potter and find and kill The Dark Lord, Voldemort. Most of the movie is spent with our heroes on this camping journey learning to discover what the deathly hallows are.
This is the third film David Yates has directed in the series and he has one more, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and this film really does feel like more of the ‘Part 1’ than The Deathly Hallows. With no emotional or narrative arch, what can be taken away from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 outside of disappointment. The climax of the film comes and goes and continues on. The way the film ends feels like there should be a next scene rather than a cliffhanger. I know this film is the first part of a two part film but it just feels cheap. Why separate the film into two parts if not to make more money from the Harry Potter franchise? The overall film does not feel economic in the least. It feels more like catering to being overly faithful to the final book rather than wanting to be more cinematic.
But overall, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 isn’t a complete bust. There are numerous exciting and horrifying scenes that will please the fan base and the general movie going public. Everything our heroes have learned at Hogwarts is built in the moments and scenes in this film. Tonally, Harry Potter seems more reflective and poignant in The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 than any other film. This shown in the beautiful, well shot, picturesque settings of the British countryside. What I did enjoy in this film was the small character moments much in tune to a Mike Leigh film.
Lastly, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 fails to stand alone like the other films that precede it. Overly faithful to the source material and unsatisfying as a movie. Again, I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book but even I felt the film version to be an overly faithful adaptation and at the 146 minute running time, the promise of ‘Part 2’ seems contentious and tedious to me.