Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Thanks to Twitter (@JoeyZambrano, specifically), Lindsey and I managed to get our hands on six passes (two of which were used for Lindsey and myself, of course, while the other four were given to our friends Chris, Kelly, Lianne, and Lee) for an advanced screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 last night. Now, if you’ve been a long-time reader, you may remember the excitement and site activity in the build-up to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the advance screening we attended last year, and you may wonder where that excitement and site activity was for the build-up to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. To make a long story short, I was so disappointed with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that I couldn’t bring myself to hope that Deathly Hallows would be any different.

There are three basic ways in which to go see a movie:

  1. High Expectations
  2. No Expectations
  3. Low Expectations

The problem with going into a movie with high expectations is that, while a confirmation of those high expectations in the form of a fantastic movie gives one a wonderful feeling of satisfaction, the likelihood of those expectations being met or exceeded is incredibly slim. The problem with going into a movie with no expectations is that, while you give yourself a higher chance of leaving the theater pleased and satisfied, you still run a very high risk of disappointment. The problem with going into a movie with low expectations is that, while having those low expectations manifest themselves in the form of an Uwe Boll movie, there is an incredibly high chance of the movie being better than you expected, even if only slightly. I am generally willing to open myself to risk and go into a movie with either no expectations or high expectations, depending on my connection to the movie. In the case of Harry Potter, however, the severe sting of disappointment caused by Half-Blood Prince lead me to enter Deathly Hallows with very low expectations. Fortunately, those expectations were not realized. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is wonderful.

There may be spoilers ahead; I haven’t decided yet as of this point in writing the review. If you have not read the books, or don’t want to know how the movie’s events mirror or stray from the book’s events, why not find another article to read? Perhaps a Fable III review? How about a Vanquish review? Oh! I’ve got just the thing; a discussion on comic books and the status quo!

I’ll start with the flaws, because one flaw in particular was the first thing that came to mind when I thought to myself, “How should I start the actual review?” There are times in the film when the cinematography feels amateur. When Harry first walks up the stairs of Grimmauld Place to visit Sirius’ room, it feels like they followed him up the stairs with a hand-held camcorder. It may have been done intentionally in an attempt to convey some sort of internal emotion on Harry’s behalf, but it came across as just bad filming. There are a few other scenes where the camera shakes to convey urgency, and at most of these times it’s done well, but I think our proximity to the screen (fourth row from the screen) made it more difficult to handle.

There were, of course, plot elements and other scenes from the book that did not make it into the movie, or were rushed. This is understandable, and to be expected. As in past movies, however, time was dedicated to new scenes that could have been dedicated to bringing plot elements in from the book. In Half-Blood Prince, the issues between Tonks and Lupin are skated over; this continues in Deathly Hallows. For example, the argument between Lupin and Harry while at Grimmauld Place regarding Lupin offering to come with Harry never happens. Some may say that these events are minor compared to the parts that made it into the movie, but with the way Tonks’ and Lupin’s storyline, and that of their son, parallels that of Harry’s and his parents’, I think highlighting their side-story a bit more would have added quite a bit of value to the movie.

That being said, the complaints are relatively minor in comparison to what the film does right. With small exceptions, the film manages to stick close to the timeline and events of the book. Some new scenes elaborating on events only mentioned in the book help establish the tone of the movie early on (for example, Hermione modifying her parents’ memories and sending them off to Australia is brilliantly done, and conveys a great deal of emotion). Some changes improved upon the book considerably, as was the case with Hedwig’s death.

The actors all do a wonderful job of portraying their characters (after so many years, they should have no problem with that). Each of the characters experience noticeable development over the series, and that continues in part 1 of the seventh movie. Even in the case of Neville Longbottom, who had a total of five seconds in this movie, development can be seen. His delivery of his single line showed the confidence and power that his character gains in the seventh book. The CG characters are not immune to this development, either; Kreacher was a stand-out improvement in my opinion. The technology, of course, has advanced since both Kreacher and Dobby made their first appearances, and that did go a long way in improving how the digital characters emoted and interacted with the world and characters, but the voice acting for these characters was also done very well, making them both very well developed house-elves.

The special effects and visuals were, as always, gorgeous. The Harry Potter series has done a wonderful job over the years of finding a visual style for the world’s magic that works very well on the big screen. The CG characters, as I mentioned, have become even more developed and nuanced with the advances of technology. The scene with the multiple Harry Potters during the escape from Privet Drive was gorgeous and spot on. The transformations were handled well, with a bit of humor added in, and handling multiple Harry’s in one scene was done so smoothly that it looked absolutely natural. When Hermione tells the story of the Three Brothers, the story is animated very well, with a distinctive and fitting visual style. One of my favorite parts of the movie is Hermione’s telling of the Three Brothers story because of how well it was animated and presented.

The crew does a great job (with certain exceptions) of filming the movie. The direction is well done. But again, as this is most important, the tone, feel, timeline, and events (almost) all feel…right. Although the camera was shaky at times, most of the movie was filmed exceptionally. Although certain elements were excluded, changed, or rushed through, most of the movie followed the timeline and events of the book wonderfully. Although I thought Bill Nighy was somewhat over-the-top with the first introduction to Rufus Scrimgeour, most of the performances were sublime. Although I…have nothing bad to say about the special effects or visuals of the film, all of the film was beautiful.

It was, by far, my favorite Harry Potter movie yet, and I will be going into Part 2 (coming out July 15, 2011) with high expectations.

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One Response to “Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”

  1. Cheryl Cheryl says:

    Way awesome! This makes me all jazzed to see it, although DH was not my favorite in the series. Do they get to any of the history of Voldemort’s mother that they left out of HBP?

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