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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Movie Reviews

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

The first part of the long-awaited finale to the Harry Potter franchise is the most faithful adaption since the original, and one of the best.

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It’s never easy saying goodbye. I can’t say that I grew up with the Harry Potter films – I was eighteen years old when the first was one released – but they have been a part of my life for ten years, and after that amount of time, anyone is libel to grow attached to what they’re used to seeing. Alas, we have reached the end. But I should not make this an elegiac fanboy essay. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, while easily the most mature and fatalistic of the series, is also terrific entertainment from beginning to end. As the saga draws to its final conclusion, all the tension that had built itself up since the events of The Sorcerer’s Stone is finally released. The latter half of the film would rival some of our better action films; it winds itself up tight and keeps you in the grip of suspense. And just like its predecessors, it dazzles the eyes with a wealth of special effects. Sadly, almost none of them are enhanced by the 3D, employed exclusively for this film.

Adapted from the last third of J.K. Rowling’s novel, Part 2 plunges headfirst into a plot that finds our three teenage heroes – Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) – in one dangerous situation after another. Not so long ago, I would have said that they embark on a perilous adventure. But these are not the same kids that entered Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with fresh-faced enthusiasm. Adventure is a thing of the past; they’re soldiers at war. They’ve dueled evil wizards, fought against monsters, and witnessed many beloved people die, including Albus Dumbledore. They’re battle-scarred and world-weary. They’re still on a quest to locate and destroy magical objects called Horcruxes, which contain fragments of Lord Voldemort’s soul.

Their journey brings them back to Hogwarts, which is no longer an enchanting magical castle. It’s now the scene of the final battle between the students and Voldemort’s evil army. I watched in horror as the Quidditch stadium burned to the ground. I cringed at the sight of the Great Hall, now strewn with debris and the bodies of the dead and wounded. Was there any other way this could have gone? Harry has been marked, figuratively and literally, since he was born; it could not have ended without a fight to the finish. The question, which was on everyone’s minds since before the book was published, is which half of the pair will emerge victorious – in other words, who will live and who will die. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a fan of the movies and intimately familiar with the books. I won’t let that stop me from giving teasing hints.

As with all the previous films, Deathly Hallows employs a wealth of British acting talent. Apart from the three leads, we have Alan Rickman as Snape and Michael Gambon as a postmortem Dumbledore, two characters Harry realizes he didn’t know as well as he thought he did. We also have Ralph Fiennes as the serpentine Voldermort, Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall (never more gung-ho), Helena Bonham Carter as the hysterically evil Bellatrix Lestrange, Robbie Coltrane as the bear-sized Hagrid, Jason Isaacs as the sniveling Lucius Malfoy, John Hurt as the feeble Ollivander, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, Gary Oldman as the late Sirius Black, Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley, Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn, and Warwick Davis in a duel role as Professor Flitwick and, more importantly, as a cantankerous goblin named Griphook. New to the film is Ciarán Hinds as Dumbledore’s resentful brother, Aberforth.

The displays of magic in this film are, understandably, far less whimsical as they were in previous films. We see, for example, a curse that makes objects multiply should they be touched. We also see a raging inferno that takes the form of a snake before engulfing everything in flames, including one person. One of the first action sequences takes place in the cavernous depths of Gringott’s bank; Harry and his friends, along with Griphook, sit in a vehicle and speed down a twisted track that would be the ultimate roller coaster experience, were such a thing possible to build. Not long after, Harry, Hermione, and Ron escape on the back of a monstrous dragon. How that plays out, I leave for you to see.

How sad that I have no more Harry Potter chapters to look forward to (at this point, I rescind my wish to not sound like a fanboy in mourning). Like the Star Wars saga, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even individual films such as The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, these movies have not only created entire worlds successfully but have also consistently told captivating stories and populated them with engaging characters. They belong in that rare category of films that completely immerse the viewer in pure imagination. I will forever be grateful to J.K. Rowling for writing the books, and for inspiring screenwriters Steve Kloves and Michael Goldenberg and directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, and David Yates for bringing her vision to the big screen.

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11/19/2010

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PG-13

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Warner Bros. Pictures

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi