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

The begining of the end for Harry Potter. Literally...

Split over two movies (Part 1 opens this evening, Part 2 follows next summer), while I can’t help feeling like the drawn-out conclusion to the most lucrative film franchise ever is as much a gift to the money men of Warner Bros. as it is to loyal fans of the franchise, I’ll concede that there’s little about the content of this tee up movie that will leave fans feeling short changed.

It is, quite literally, the beginning of the end, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is as dark as fantasy-cinema-disguised-as-kids-cinema has ever come – which is impressive work considering the beloved Dumbledore actually died in the last one.

More death follows this time round, as well as torture – that is implied at least – with a performance from Ralph Fiennes as Potter nemesis Lord Voldemort at the (dark) heart of it all. It’s a turn that will undoubtedly leave movie fans of a certain generation feeling the same about the wizard formally known as Tom Riddle as the one prior might have felt about Lord Vader (pre “NOOOOOOOOOOOO” of course).

Yet the infusion of more adult themes isn’t in itself a cause for recommendation – perhaps in a Saw film, not so much Harry Potter – and it’s the films lighter touches – like the interplay between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint, belatedly being given the opportunity to play something other than the fool) or the magical unfolding of the late Dumbledore’s will – that serve to be the most endearing facets of the penultimate Potter.

An overlong jape in the woods aside, played out against the boy wizard’s sooty world falling apart, it’s moments like these that remind you that much of the Harry Potter films appeal comes from the opportunity to spend time within a place like Hogwarts and its surrounding areas. Cherish that time while you can.

Of course the ending jars – there are many plot lines to be resolved from this film, let alone from ten years of storytelling for it to feel in any way conclusive. But Part 1 whets the appetite for what seems unlikely to be anything other than an explosive, emotional ending to the life and times of a beloved fantasy phenomenon. This is a good, almost great film in its own right. Given what it implies is to come, Part 2 promises to be a once in a lifetime cinematic event.

Hyperbolic? Overly giddy? Oh hush. There’s little place for cynicism in the world of Harry Potter. Besides, wait until the sort of stuff you’re spouting two and a half hours after you’ve entered the cinema…

James McMahon

The A-Z of Harry Potter