Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

What It Is

It’s the beginning of the end. This much is evident in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. As it follows the first two-thirds of the last book in J.K. Rowling’s series, the kids are mostly grown up, their figures fully formed and their faces, more often than not, worried. And this time, as Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) leave behind their Muggle families, they can’t go back to Hogwarts, the school where they learned to be wizards over the previous six movies. Now they’re on their own, without parents or teachers. Young as they are, they’re now adults.

This development leads to feelings of loss and displacement. At film’s start, Hermione casts a spell on her parents so they will forget her, literally erasing her own image from all the family photos in their home. A group effort to hide Harry from Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) leads to violence and fearfulness, on the way to even more determination to fight back.

A Death Eaters’ attack on Bill (Domhnall Gleeson) and Fleur’s (Clémence Poésy) wedding (itself a brief respite from the general turmoil) sends Harry, Ron, and Hermione in search of a couple of Horcruxes (the lockets in which Voldemort has stored pieces of his evil soul). Their travel is hectic, as Hermione (as always, the one who’s “best with spells”) zaps them from one desolate location to another — forests and heaths, rocky plateaus and a cemetery in the dead of night. Their new locations are also refreshing, given how much time we’ve spent with them inside Hogwarts.

Their adventures this time also include a secret mission inside the Ministry of Magic (where they appear as middle-aged office workers, perspiring and baffled), as well as some serious soul-searching. This isn’t only about Harry’s usual dilemma, being the chosen one and all, but also about Ron’s adoration of Hermione, her mixed-blooded background, and the boys’ various competitions — here made quite funny in a series of mishaps and exchanges concerning wands lost and broken and Godric Gryffindor’s Sword.

Throughout the movie, the trio is trying to subvert Voldemort’s plans for world domination and escape his murderous intents. Most eager among the minions trying to catch Harry for the Dark Lord is Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), aided by Wormtail (Timothy Spall).

Harry and company seek information from the ancient historian of magic, Bathilda Bagshot (Hazel Douglas), and find unexpected help from Dobby the House Elf (Toby Jones). If all this takes time — the film runs 145 minutes — it also is mostly set-up. The final moments are all about what’s coming next, the final showdown with Voldemort, now, as always, “stronger every day.”

Why It’s Fun

First, the movie is not in 3D. This means the film maintains the franchise’s terrific visual complexity and sharpness, rather than give in to trendy thinking. It also means you won’t have to wear those uncomfortable and murky glasses for two and a half hours.

Second, Deathly Hallows 1 is smart about what it means to grow up. Hermione is especially good at expressing the combined thrill and horror of growing up, her face a perpetually shifting map of emotions. As Harry does his best to stifle his feelings (and power) and Ron shows every fleeting reaction, no matter how petty or wrong, she’s repeatedly called on to sort things out. Hermione is an equal to Harry and extra-fond of Ron, even if she’s also perplexed that he’s so prone to misunderstanding her and behaving badly. She brings along a magic bag that’s packed with nearly everything they need and sees possible solutions before her fellows. In assorted scenes, she mends Ron’s injured shoulder, dances with Harry to a Nick Cave song on the radio (and here, she is utterly enchanting), scolds Ron for his jealousy, and explains away her own obvious brilliance as a function of her “extremely logical mind.” Not only is she clever and perceptive, she’s also modest and keeps her focus on the task at hand.

Third, it’s fun to watch the kids-becoming-adults work through puzzles on their own, in new spaces. The outdoors scenes are positively liberating. These external spaces contrast with the boys’ nightmares: Harry conjures up visions of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Ron has to fight off a nearly crippling vision (Harry and Hermione as a couple). Still, they find ways to trust in one another after all, thus living up to Hermione’s best hopes for them — and, the film hints, Dumbledore’s knowledge of the future (his will bequeaths on each of the three a particularly apt gift, out of his collection of magic gizmos).

And fourth, the movie provides a delightful 2D animated sequence (by Ben Hibron) to explain the story of the Deathly Hallows.

Who’s Going To Love It

The seventh film will again appeal to fans of the books and previous movies (and probably the Orlando theme park as well).

Happily, the film depicts essentially healthy and mutually supportive relationships among the three teens, not in spite of their quarrels, but because of them: Harry, Hermione, and Ron are here more interesting as a group and individuals than they have ever been.

As these relatively mature characterizations will attract audience members who have followed the movies since 2001, the movie’s PG-13 rating will also remind parents not only of the film’s occasionally complicated plot turns and emotions, but also the occasionally violent imagery (see below).

What To Be Aware Of

Like all the Harry Potter movies, this one acknowledges not just the potential fun of movie mayhem (adventure and excitement), but also the risks of death, but also the effects of living with loss and fear. As Harry has long lived with memories of his parents’ murders, this background is familiar for fans.

That said, this movie shows how he and his friends deal with loss and other troubles in the following ways:

At the film’s start, Hermione is sad to leave her parents (she has tears in her eyes as she erases her memory from their minds and then appears in a poignant long shot, alone on a dim street). Harry is also sad to leave his Muggles home (as difficult as that has been at times).

Voldemort holds court over a table full of his helpers, while a human woman is suspended in the air, her face bloodied and contorted in pain, as she is being punished for supporting the idea that Muggles and wizards might marry. Voldemort kills her (she drops, hard, to the table) and then sends his giant snake to eat her: this shot ends with the reptile’s mouth wide and toothy coming at the lens.

As Harry and his friends try to escape Voldemort, they appear as eight Harry Potters (a potion induces the effect). As Fleur is transformed, we are treated to the very odd sight of Harry Potter’s face looking surprised to see his male body still wearing her bra.

The escape doesn’t go quite as planned, with some violence involving flying brooms and Hagrid’s (Robbie Coltrane) flying motorcycle leading to bloody lacerations. George Weasley (Oliver Phelps) loses an ear, then lies bleeding on his mother’s sofa; Harry loses his beloved owl too.

Harry and Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) kiss, very chastely, accidentally in front of George, who teases them.

To disguise themselves as Ministry workers, Harry, Ron, and Hermione knock out the three workers whose forms they adopt. While in disguise as a worker at the Ministry, Ron is kissed by the worker’s wife, who kisses the worker’s wife, a scene that makes Hermione gasp alongside the actual worker, who reappears just as Ron becomes himself.

The fascist-looking Ministry of Magic has miserable workers creating propaganda sheets in support of a racist campaign, specifically against the mating (miscegenation) of Muggles and wizards, as this produces “mud-bloods” (one headline proclaims, “Mud-Bloods: The Danger They Pose!”).

During a last minute escape from the Ministry, Ron suffers a bloody injury, where it appears that his arm is almost detached from his shoulder. Hermione tends to him with a magic potion, but her hands are left very bloody.

Ron is weakened by this event, and spends some time depressed and angry, with dark circles under his eyes (he is especially susceptible to the effects of a Horcrux they’ve found and need to take turns wearing until they find a way to destroy it).

Flashbacks show Harry’s traumatic memories of losing Dumbledore and his parents to Voldemort’s violence, alluded to by flashing dark-and-light and frantic framing.

Bothered by his suspicion that Harry and Hermione are a couple, Ron is visited by a magical evil vision (courtesy of Voldemort) wherein animated versions of his friends appear naked (only in body outline, shimmery and white-bluish), kissing passionately. It’s not true, but certainly alarms Ron. The boys argue, then make up (in a cute scene where Ron gives Harry a wand, which he descibes as “only 10 inches”).

Captured by Bellatrix Lestrange, Hermione is subjected to painful torture. We don’t see exactly what this is, but we see her cry and then see Ron and Harry respond with mouths agape when she screams.

During another last minute escape, Dobby is mortally wounded, with a bloody slash in his belly. Everyone is sad to lose him, and we’re especially sad to lose his peerlessly comic performance.

See-It-Again Points

9 out of 10

Film Information

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans
Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 2010
Rated: PG-13
US Premiere: November 19, 2010
UK Premiere: November 19, 2010
Official Website
Official Trailer
Movie Pictures

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