Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Harry's penultimate Journey
In trying to bring the massive 7th novel to the big screen, screenwriter Steve Kloves faced a mighty challenge: keep it one movie or divide it into two pieces? That is was decided to split it up, one must ask if it was to keep the integrity of JK Rowling's rich details intact or to fill everyone's Gringott's vault twice. Whichever, for a true Harry Potter fan, it's an exciting prospect to get more than one concluding film to judge separately.
Here in the penultimate film of the saga, Hogwart's students Harry, ROn and Hermione have accepted the challenge of scouring the countryside for the 7 Horcruxes that Lord Voldemort is using to keep his evil soul prisoner. Once they are destroyed, Voldemort will be mortal and vulnerable. It's a welcome change of pace to see the kids, now full on teenagers, away from their school; it adds verisimilitude to their maturity and grim tasks that lie ahead.
Director David Yates has fashioned a brisk, thoughtful, elegant film from the first 2/3rds of the novel, one that sidesteps very little from the written text and one that caters especially to the rabid fans who have been crying out for more details to be included since Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday Party was left on the cutting room floor (come to think of it, have we even seen Nick since the Chamber of Secrets)? And what glorious details we get to see: Hermione obliviating her parents' memories, Bathilda Bagshot's creepiness, Charity Burbage floating helplessly above a table of Death Eaters, the silver doe, Mad Eye Moody's watchful eye in DOlores Umbridge's office door, Hermione's bottomless bag, the dust monster at #12 Grimmauld Place, Kingsley Shacklebolt's patronus at the wedding, the story of The Three Brothers done in brilliant shadowy animation, Dobby's defiant rescue, Mundungus Fletcher and on and on. What's missing is Potter Watch (while camping and listening to the radio, the novel informs us that others are defying Lord Voldemort's oppression), and an uplifting moment when Harry visits the house his parents were murdered in and he finds a shrine signed by countless witches and wizards that cheers him up, the death of a main villain, Xenophilius Lovegood's eccentricity, Harry's disguises at the wedding and Godric's Hollow (he pretty much runs around in the open here as himself), Severus SNape attacking the seven Harry Potters, a farewell to the Dursleys, and most unforgivable - the lack of information regarding ALbus Dumbledore's family and history. Granted, some of it may show up in part 2 and I reserve the right to alter my judgment, but as it stands, pertinent information is kept from the viewer.
It's an episodic, but fluent film with excellent technical credits, particularly the haunting, flavorful score by Alexandre Desplat who improves on even the great John Williams - but it's a busy movie and one that doesn't give much of a chance for a full-fledged performance. Characters come and go, possibly never to be seen or heard from again, like Madame Maxime, Neville Longbottom, Cho Chang, Mr. Ollivander, Rita Skeeter and countless others. It's a traffic jam for performances. But it's a serviceable movie, with an engagingly dark atmosphere and a serious tone throughout. It's also mostly just setup for the inevitable battle at Hogwarts arriving in theaters July 15th of next year. I can only hope Part 2 will end with a bang and cover up some of the fallacies from the novel. For now, the Deathly Hallows has a solid beginning for Harry's final journey. B+