'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1'
(Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, et al / PG-13 / 133 mins)
Overview: The first installment of the two-film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows follows Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) as they search for the pieces of Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) soul that he extracted from his being and hid in obscure locations both far and wide. If the trio is unable to locate and destroy them all, Voldemort will remain immortal. Despite their long friendship, a combination of dark forces, romantic tensions, and long-held secrets threaten to sabotage the mission. David Yates directs.
Verdict: With 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' —or as I like to think of it, in Fellini terms, Harry Potter 6 1/2 — the series finally crosses the line into the realm of the horror film. This should come as no surprise, since it’s been heading that way all along. And while Deathly Hallows: Part 1 most assuredly can’t stand on its own, it fulfills the promise of Brit TV director David Yates as the perfect Harry Potter director—and quite possibly as a filmmaker to reckon with in general.
However, this is not a film for the uninitiated; it would be a bad starting point for a newcomer. But then I find it difficult to imagine that there would be many people who, after avoiding the first six movies, suddenly have the urge to take up the series now.
This entry starts where Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince leaves off, and it definitely assumes the viewer is familiar with that film. In all honesty, I suspect that it’s only because I had re-watched Half-Blood Prince on Tuesday that I remembered what a “horcrux” is—and as a result, knew just why Harry and his compatriots were so keen on tracking horcruxes down. I suppose it doesn’t really matter all that much—think of them as a MacGuffin — but I was glad to know all the same.
Of course, I’m only a casual fan. That’s to say, I’ve liked all the films, loved two of them (now three, or two-and-a-half anyway), but my knowledge of the intricacies of the world they inhabit is by no means encyclopedic. True Potterheads are tut-tutting even as we speak that I wouldn’t know what a horcrux is without a refresher course.
Is this the darkest of all the Harry Potter movies? I’d say it is. I also think that ought to have been expected, since Half-Blood Prince climaxed with the death of one of the series’ most beloved characters. That set the stage for the ultimate battle that’s always been at the center of the overall story, and it’s not surprising that the mortality rate is going up—in part because the stakes have gone up. I suppose the cynical might want to factor in the desire to create a certain closure for the characters by the author, but even that is as much a need for satisfying the reader/viewer as anything else.