Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1

Directed by David Yates, 2010

I saw the film on November 18th, 2010 at the first screening on the first day of its release here in Denmark. Although the cinema seated 900, only about 100 showed up, mostly people in their late teens or early twenties. They were not impressed and neither was I.

 

The plot

In "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" part 1, the evil lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has taken control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and he has outlawed Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). In order to kill Voldemort, Harry and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) set out to find and destroy Horcruxes, the objects in which Voldemort has hidden parts of his black soul.

The plot is as simple as that, but if you don’t know the book, it is very, very hard to understand what is going on on the big screen. The story is just too sketchy and badly explained and as such the film comes across superficial and unsatisfying. All scenes are boiled down to the essentials and that is just too little. We get all the highlights, but in a very comprised way, leaving the audience no time to dwell on the characters and their situation, but at the same time the trio’s travels between events seem unnecessarily long-winded. Basically it’s Harry Potter gone camping and we get loads of snap shots of the British countryside, but I would rather have dwelled more on the action!

 

Good and bad

On the positive side "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" part 1 is true to J. K. Rowling’s book which is nice as its predecessor, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", had very little to do with the written saga of Harry Potter. The few changes that are made in HP7 part 1 are very becoming, like Hedwig’s death or Harry and Hermione entering Godric’s Hollow.

The film also skips all the tedious parts of the book and reduces its likeness to "The Lord of the Rings". Where the book is almost identical to "The Lord of the Rings" with Harry as Frodo, Hermione as Sam, Ron as a twisted Gollum and the Slytherin Locket as the Ruling Ring, it isn’t in the film and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, without the likeness it is difficult to understand why Ron gets so mad that he leaves the quest.

In general the film could do with some explanations. For instance it was surprising to see that the Weasley home – The Burrow – was still standing. It burned down in HP6, but apparently the scriptwriters forgot as in HP7 part 1 it is still there. No explanation at all. The same thing goes for Bill Weasley (Domhnall Gleeson), who wasn’t maimed by Fenrir Greyback in HP6, but here in HP7 part 1 we are told that he was. I find that very unsatisfying.

 

The magic has gone

To me the Harry Potter films have lost the magic that was so clearly there in the beginning and I guess things started to go wrong when David Yates took over as director in HP5. Up until then the Harry Potter films kept getting better and better, but the three latest ones that Yates has directed are average at best.

With HP7 part 1 Yates has tried to make a dark, gloomy coming of age/road movie, but it doesn’t work. There are no depths to the characters or the plot and you feel that you’re just being transported from one scene to another without time for reflections or feelings.

I know the actors say, that with Yates they were allowed to explore their characters more than with other directors, but unfortunately it doesn’t show. The characters come across one-dimensional or even worse: as actors delivering lines. We all know how brilliant the Harry Potter cast is, but in HP7 part 1 they never get to show it. It is rather disappointing, especially with Rupert Grint who doesn’t get to unfold his gifted talent as Ron Weasley at all.

Of new cast members Bill Nighy as the new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, and Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood, Luna’s father, deserve a mentioned. They are both perfectly cast for the roles, but unfortunately they are both gone almost before you get to see them.

 

Reasons to watch the film

To me there are only three reasons to watch HP7 part 1:

  1. Daniel Radcliffe as the seven Potters. He is wonderful, slipping into the characters of the other actors and the special effects are stunning.
  2. Oliver Phelps as George Weasley. He is hilarious, especially in the kitchen scene.
  3. David O’Hara as Runcorn. He is brilliant in the Ministry.

As for the scenes, there’s a tender scene between the Weasley twins (James and Oliver Phelps) in The Burrow and one with Harry and Hermione dancing that work quite well. And I liked the scene with Ron and Harry in the tent with Hermione’s fire. That’s all and far too little for a film that runs 146 minutes, I’m afraid. I would have loved to dwell a bit more with what is happening and to get the happenings explained a little better. Just saying…

When "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" part 1 was over, the guy sitting next to me said, "Was that it?" and it was. "I hope part two is better," he said and so do I.

Three out of five stars: ***

@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2010

P. S. I haven’t mentioned the animation of the tale of the three brothers, because although I get the idea and appreciate how it is done, I found it distracting and not very Harry Potter-like.

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