Nine years ago the first movie adaptation of the highly popular Harry Potter book series was released to the masses and now four directors and seven films later fans worldwide find themselves facing the end of a decade-long phenomenon with the debut of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1". To maintain a sense of familiarity with the films, Warner Bros. kept on David Yates ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix/Half-Blood Prince"), now the longest-running director of the franchise and that is with Part 2 still looming in 2011. But would one half of a story make for a good film?
As the first Potter film to be focused away from the comforts of Hogwarts, the story revolves around the trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron like never before. Adapted from the first half of the Deathly Hallows book when Harry, Ron and Hermione are forced to scatter away from the safety of the Order of the Phoenix and aimlessly stumble their way across the lands in search of Voldemort's Horcruxes and discover the existence of another set of items - the Hallows - that may be just as important to find.
Their journey takes them from the Burrow back to 12 Grimmauld Place, camping in the wilderness, along with a visit to the Ministry of Magic, the Lovegoods' home and Malfoy Manor. As a result, this film was clearly the darkest of the series yet, but this was also the most I have ever laughed during a Harry Potter movie. It's an interesting combination for the film to be able to produce varying reactions from the audience, be it fear, tears or laughs.
The performance of the cast was taken to another level for the second consecutive film, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint return as the protagonists of the series and continue to shine in their roles as Harry, Hermione and Ron. Each had special moments in the film, Dan during the seven Potters scene where he had to play different characters pretending to be Harry, Rupert when Ron slowly loses focus on the Horcrux goal and starts to grow discontent with Harry and to an extent Hermione, and Emma as Hermione struggles to keep everything together when things look bleak.
Several new characters made their debut in the film: Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy) as the new Minister of Magic, Bill Weasley (Domhnall Gleeson) the oldest Weasley child, Mundungus Fletcher (Andy Linden) a less than respectable member of the Order of the Phoenix, Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) Luna's father and publisher of the Quibbler, and Albert Runcorn (David O'Hara) a Ministry official that unknowingly becomes part of Harry, Hermione and Ron's Ministry infiltration plans.
Others made their return to the series after being away for a few films: Ollivander (John Hurt) the wand maker, Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy), Dobby (Toby Jones) the house-elf, Kreacher (Simon McBurney), Madame Maxime (Frances de la Tour), Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) and the Dursleys (Richard Griffiths, Harry Melling & Fiona Shaw).
Being someone that favors bright, vibrant colors, I have always had an issue with the filters used on Potter films since Prisoner of Azkaban to make the colors muted and give the world a much darker look. This trend continues in this film, but what does change is the scenery for the characters as Hogwarts does not play a part. Instead we see numerous examples of European wilderness during camping scenes, various suburban environments when Hermione leaves her home and when the trio escape from the Weasley Wedding.
The interiors of two family homes, Malfoy and Lovegood, are shown in the film for the first time and accurately represent their respective tenants. The Malfoy home appears grandiose and gives off a dark mood with the current situation of Death Eaters visiting, the Lovegood home is colorful and unique but the underlying vibe of isolation and loneliness is reflected as well.
I was worried that the film would feel stretched as a result of being only half of a story but it did not at all. In fact, the film seemed like a really fast watch, and the chosen cliffhanger point was a great decision that leaves viewers wanting more. The brilliant choices and execution of Part 1 has me very excited for Part 2 next summer. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" gets an A grade and i think it is safe to say that this movie will probably become my favorite of the series within a few more viewings. Go see it now even if you never were a Potter fan, this one in particular seems like a movie that should attract general viewers besides devotees.
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