Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
(Referred to only as Deathly Hallows from this point on, for sanity’s sake)
Wow. I loved the hell out of that movie. Let me tell you something. I’m very particular when it comes to movie runtimes. I pay a lot of attention to them and often judge movies based on how well they use the time that they spent telling their story. This movie is 146 minutes long, and honestly, it flies by. I’m a huge fan of the series, but I will admit that most of the movies run longer than they really need to and most have a stretch or two in them that I consider to drag or even bore me. Not the case with Deathly Hallows. In fact, this is a very rare instance where I feel the movie would have actually benefitted from another ten minutes or so of screen time. (I’ll get to that later.)
Despite my standard gittiness before seeing a Harry Potter movie, I did have some reservations regarding Deathly Hallows. First of all, amongst die-hard Potter readers, when many fans think back to reading the seventh book, they think something along the lines of, Damn they sure did spend a lot of time camping, didn’t they? I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a movie that would prominently feature its three stars just chilling in the woods for a huge chunk of the run time. Not to fear, people. I didn’t feel that there was any one spot where they spent too much time focusing on the trio in woods. The film cuts back and forth from this or that and the pacing moves along quickly enough that the camping out stuff doesn’t seem to leave the unappealing taste that it did with the novel. Also, I think it’s important to give a shout out for the acting in this one. Both Emma Watson and Rupert Grint really shine here. Daniel Radcliffe isn’t bad at all and I don’t have any complaints about his perfomance, but it just didn’t resonate like the others. Think of it like this: Remember when The Dark Knight came out and no one was raving about Bale’s performance due to how impressed we were with Ledger and Eckhart? It’s a lot like that.
So how about the split? Could this have worked as one film? That’s a question no one can answer for sure until after Part 2 comes out, but my gut reaction is no. It would have had to have been a 3.5-4 hour long movie if that were the case. Even with splitting the story up, there are still plot points which couldn’t fit in Part 1. I can’t imagine how rushed and hackneyed the story would have been if they tried to cram the whole book into 2.5 hours. They may have been able to make it work in previous installments, but there’s just too much going on with this story. Because of the split, though, this obviously feels incomplete and not as satisfying as one may wish for when the credits roll. But I do think that they chose the right spot to end it. It’s truly one of those great “all hope is lost, what the hell are they going to do now?” moments.
I must go ahead and warn you that this paragraph does contain some spoilery material, so avoid if you’re going into this film with a completely open mind. (I don’t feel the need to censor or restrain since, after all, the book has been out for over four years now.) I loved that they opened with another “show instead of tell” moment, just like they did with Half Blood Prince. Seeing Hermione obliviate her parents is quite moving. I said earlier that I wished the movie would have another ten minutes or so added on to it. I feel there were two bits that were a tad too rushed. The first was Ron’s departure. I would have rather seen seeds planted earlier, rather than one sort-of-montage leading up to his argument with Harry. Also, I feel the scene at Malfoy Manor was definitely too rushed. Even in movie time, I think the characters were in and out of there in under fifteen minutes. It was just way too easy for them to get out of that predicament. And as sick as it sounds, Hermione should have been tortured longer. What we did get with that scene was well done, but it could have had even more impact, IMO. If you’ve read other reviews, you probably know that there are two Harry/Hermione scenes that weren’t necessarily in the book. While many people were turned off by the raunchy nature of one, I had more of an issue with the simple dance scene. I should clarify this first: I don’t have a problem with either scene being in the film, and I liked the choice of having them there. I just feel that the dance scene wound up conveying the wrong idea. It looks an awful lot like there’s supposed to be some love triangle the way Harry reacts to the dance. That was definitely not in the books. The director said in an interview that the point of the scene was to show that these two are close friends who, even in tough situations, can still have lighthearted and innocent fun. I didn’t get that when I watched the scene play out. Loved the use of the music though, and their awkward dance was amusing. As for the raunchier scene, some people are acting like it’s a disgrace. I don’t feel that way. It’s shocking but it makes sense within the context of that moment. The scene where Harry and Hermione go to Godric’s Hollow is another one that stood out for me. That was, to me, far more effective in showing how close these two were as friends moreso than the dance scene. I mentioned earlier that there were plot points that were left out. For the most part, I understand why they left out what they left out. However, one subplot that I feel must somehow find its way into Part 2 is the backstory of Dumbledore/Grindelwald. Grindelwald is mentioned but, save for one conversation at the wedding, none of Dumbledore’s life is even alluded to. I’m hoping that maybe they’re just pushing it back to Part 2 so that it all shows up in one movie instead of being scattered throughout two of them. Done with spoilers.
Overall, this is a well done movie. I feel like I can’t truly judge it or even rank it amongst the others until I see Part 2. It’s definitely going to be a long eight months waiting for that one. As for a rating, my gut reaction is to give it an 8.5/10. Well done, Potter crew. Bring on Part 2!