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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