Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

You may recall from my review of Half-Blood Prince a year and a half ago that I am an unashamed Harry Potter fangirl. Which is sort of a double-edged sword when it comes to enjoying the films – because on the one hand, you adore the material, and on the other, you tend to be rather critical. That said, I enjoyed the heck out of this movie – probably my favorite since Prisoner of Azkaban. But it definitely wasn’t perfect, and as usual it will probably be more loved by fans of the books than those who haven’t read them. Hit the jump for my review in its entirety – it does contain some spoilers for those of you who haven’t read the books.

First, it likely goes without saying that the film is gorgeous. The special effects are amazing (I’ve always been a fan of the swooshy, smoking Death Eaters), and there are a lot of lush landscapes during the trio’s time camping on the run. Though we don’t see Hogwarts in this film, there are some new locations that inspired great designs, such as the Malfoy estate and the Lovegood home. You could also tell where the serious 3D moments were, though after the first time something scary came flying at the screen I was actually kind of glad I wasn’t seeing it in 3D.

There have been some complaints about Steve Kloves’ scripts in the past, that they tend to stray from the source material in a way that leaves out critical pieces of information. The worst culprits were probably the lack of explanation about the Marauders in Prisoner of Azkaban and the what?/why?/huh? of the tossed-out identity of the Half-Blood Prince in the last film. In contrast, this film was probably the most faithfully adapted from the book yet – likely because there was the time to do so by splitting the book into two films. There were some notable additions (you may not be surprised to hear that Kloves still seems to be a Harry/Hermione shipper at heart) as well as some notable absences (as Remus Lupin is one of my favorite characters, I was disappointed by some cuts). But overall, it followed the book very well.

Of course, that could be seen as a negative thing in some ways – particularly for those who are coming to the plot for the first time. Because arguably the most boring part of the book is also the most boring part of the movie – lots of time spent traveling and camping and brooding in tents. Some reviewers have argued that big chunks of this should have been cut out, possibly even making room for the book to have been one film. But I tend to disagree, as I think that the exploration of the trio’s relationship is one of the more touching parts of the story, and the actors did a really great job with the material. It’s a pretty drastic change from some of the horrid overacting in earlier films.

If you’re a parent wondering whether you should take your children to see this movie – depending on how old and how easily scared they are, you may want to check it out yourself first. This movie is much darker than previous incarnations, and has some truly scary imagery and moments. It has a PG-13 rating which is certainly appropriate – and I think that concerns from fans that they were going to tone it down and pull punches were unwarranted. The opening scene from the book at the Malfoy estate was just as disturbing as I pictured it in my head, and a later scene with a certain giant, terrifying snake was indeed pretty terrifying. I would count this as a notch up from the inferi/lake scene in the previous film. Still, if your child was mature enough to handle the book, which is of course just as dark in certain themes, then the movie shouldn’t be an issue.

This morning apparently a number of Twitter users were upset about the fact that “RIP Dobby” was trending. Arguments about whether you should be able to complain about spoilers when a book has been out for three years aside, I think it goes to show what an important part of the film that ended up being. It could have been incredibly cheesy but was handled well instead. And I think that they cut the two films in just the right place. There are clearly going to be complaints about how the movie didn’t “end” – but that’s why it’s a Part 1. And I’m willing to deal with my lack of cinematic closure in exchange for the careful treatment of the source material that splitting it into two films has provided.

In sum, this was a great film for both fans and non-fans, though if you haven’t read the books be ready for some serious cliffhanger griping. The second half comes out in July, at which point the franchise will be officially over. Sad!

And on an unrelated note, there was a trailer for Cowboys & Aliens before the midnight showing last night, and the reaction from the audience was hilarious.

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16 Responses to Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

  1. I really enjoyed this movie, certainly more so than I have any previous entry. When I first heard that the last Potter film was going to be split I was optimistic that the creative people behind the scenes understood that it was important to get the big finale right (if nothing else). I have to say they delivered.

    Nice review by the way Casey, but I have a question for you. You've echoed a sentiment that I've heard espoused by many fans of the both books and films, what is it about Azkaban that you love? That seems to be the hands-down favorite of most fans, and I frankly just don't get it. I've read and heard some explanations before, and asking someone why they liked/preferred something can be an exercise in futility, but you seem able to string together coherent thoughts so … pretty please let me know?

    • i think the reason people like azkaban so much is because of the ending.after reading the whole book about how evil sirius was down to the very end and then BAM the huge twist that reveals that what really happened and you would think jo could just end it there but nope she goes in with another twist with the whole time travel part

    • Yes, Azkaban is my favorite book as well, and I think that James below summed up some of it – the plot twist was phenomenal, to the point where I actually remember clearly the moment when I finished the book. I'm also fond of Remus and Sirius as characters, and actually it's the first book where the adult characters actually start to get interesting. As for the film, I liked the style of it quite a lot, and though I think that David Yates has done a good job, I almost wish that Cuaran had come back for later films. He took more liberties with the story than the first two films, but with some notable exceptions, the choices made were good ones.

  2. Great review, thanks.

    The only question I have is… I don't remember any Marauders from Prisoner of Azkaban (from the books or the movies). Who or what are they?

    • Fair enough. Though I was speaking relatively to the other movies, and also accounting for what would be realistic for a film, even five hours or so of film. (For my part, I was really sad to lose the Remus scene. I was looking forward to Thewlis killing that. Also some of the flashbacks.)

  3. the flim was much better made than half blood prince which is the wrost made flim. here the time taken the pace the plot clearly show as it it more sincere. only point which nagged me is utter lack of comments of Hermione on hollows. the grip taking finish just pulsates one for second part.

  4. I confess, I had been worried about them splitting up the movie into two parts. The idea of an extended camping trip with a brooding Harry, a weepy Hermione, and a jealous Ron never appealed to me. However, now that I've seen it, I know that they made the right choice. And speaking as a closet Harry/Hermione shipper, I loved those scenes. Not that the scene with Ginny wasn't good (and hilarious, I won't spoil it), but there was something so special about those scenes.

    I am concerned about a few of the changes they made from the book, namely Fenrir Greyback and the lack of Remus and Tonks. And I'm sad that we didn't get to see Lucius' patronus (for those who haven't read the book it's a peacock), but that's relatively minor and only because I love the Malfoy family.

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