It’s definitely the beginning of the end. When the final Harry potter book came out, fans like me felt sad that this enjoyable adventure with beloved characters was coming to a close. Now, the same is happening on the big screen. It doesn’t help the melancholy that this movie opens with scenes of Hermione casting a spell on her Muggle parents to make them forget her as she prepares for the ultimate battle with Voldemort. Similarly, the love-hate relationship we’ve had with Harry’s relatives, the Dursleys, is also winding down as they move out of their familiar suburban home to escape the dangers of harbouring the Dark Lord’s enemy number one. It may seem odd starting a movie with scenes of closure, but it feels right for us fans of the series overall.
After the opening credits, the main story kicks into gear when Harry and the Order (i.e. the other good guys) plan a convoy to help get Harry to a safe place (using polyjuice potion to disguise themselves as decoy Harrys). It’s a chaotic action sequence full of magical pyrotechnics, and it’s one of the few scenes (along with a big wedding scene) that features many of the supporting characters. The majority of the rest of the movie focuses on the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
As anyone who’s read the book knows, this story is pretty different from the six previous ones as there is no time (at least in this part one movie) spent at Hogwarts — which has been the main backdrop so far. No more pencils (or quills), no more books (except a very special one that Hermione receives); no more teachers’ dirty looks (except for Snape with his usual sour puss — you go, Mr. Rickman, sir!). An unintentional bonus of the change of venue (as the trio goes on the run) is the amazing scenery and locales. With their little/big tent, they go trekking out into the rocky wilderness with majestic mountains in the back, amazing cliffs, vast fields, and expansive forests and shorelines. It’s a nice glimpse of some beautifully-shot European landscapes.
With the trio dealing with some pretty grown-up problems, it’s enjoyable to see how well the actors portraying the trio have progressed. Daniel Radcliffe is very much the embodiment of the reluctant hero and I think he does a great job capturing Harry’s conflicting feelings. Rupert Grint still gets to be a bit of a goof (especially now that Ron has become the “Aw, shucks” boyfriend to overachieving Hermione) but as usual he gets to temper that with some sensitivity and a good heart. I think Grint’s dramatic/comedic timing has improved over the years, and he does a great job of giving Ron those extra layers of personality. While it’s obvious that Emma Watson has become a very beautiful young woman (which was more blatantly observed when she came down the stairs to the formal dance in Goblet of Fire) but she also expresses well Hermione’s maturity, even after leaving the safety net of academia.
Like any fan of the books, I essentially find my enjoyment of the movies from seeing how they’ve brought everything from the page to life. I feel sorry for all the people who go to see these movies without the books as background because I imagine it’s a lot more difficult to care about what’s going on when you don’t fully understand what’s going on. Unlike the other books, the last one had the privilege of being made into two movies (which I would have loved for them to have done with each one of the books) so there’s presumably more time to get the details right. Though it feels like Deathly Hallows Part 1 has a more comfortable pace, there were moments when I said to myself, “I recall that from the book, but I’m sure non-book viewers would be scratching their heads at that particular detail.”
One of the elements that I was overjoyed to see was an actual telling of the Tale of the Three Brothers, which was central to the story and mythology. It was wonderfully depicted using a kind of Tim-Burton-style animation–a highlight for me. The other scene that I liked (though it would be hard to match the poignancy and mystery of that same scene in the book) was the doe patronus leading Harry to the sword. It’s seeing these types of things on screen that I enjoy about movies.
I don’t know if it’s just because the story has become more than merely another book or movie to me, but I found that I really had no complaints about the film. Even the ending seems like a good break point and I can feel satisfied while looking forward to the Gringott’s heist and, of course, the battle of Hogwarts in the last and final film, eight months from now. I hope by then I’ll have come to grips with how final it all really will be. (4.5 out of 5)