Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 2, 2008
Simply one of the best Potter movies so far. I have to say David Yates as director has grown with each movie and in this one he brings the love of the subject to the screen. Like it says its part 1 . . so much to cover that well many other characters have very bit parts but overall its a great film.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2015
It's very easy to hold a grudge against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows purely on the grounds of the industrial precedent it created. The financial success of splitting the last and biggest of the books into two instalments led to the same tactic being employed with Twilight and The Hunger Games, regardless of whether their respective source materials actually merited such an approach. For fans and casual viewers alike, the move smacked of wanting to milk as much as possible out of the last drops of a given franchise.

In the case of HP7a (as Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo christened it), we find the franchise finally starting to cut to the chase, beginning the build-up towards the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. Having drawn things out for so long, putting off this inevitable showdown, there is almost a rush to get in everything that is left to be said. Under these circumstances, splitting the book into two films is almost the most logical thing to do, and while not all of it works, it does have a lot of attractive qualities.

The feeling that a lot is being crammed into this final act brings us back to our ongoing comparison with The Lord of the Rings. Many film fans had quibbles with the ending(s) of The Return of the King, and fans of the book were in two minds about some of the omissions, particularly the scourging of the Shire and the death of Saruman (in the theatrical cut). But even taking those as gospel truth - for the moment - Peter Jackson did quite an excellent job of balancing and converging all the different aspects of Middle Earth in the climatic battles - a much better job, in fact, than he managed recently on the third and final Hobbit film.

By contrast, Deathly Hallows - Part 1 has a lot of plot for us to swallow, making it simultanously one of the most satisfying and one of the most impenetrable instalments in the series. If you spent the previous two films crying out for a plot which directly focussed on the return of Voldemort and what his victory could mean for the wider world, you will find yourself openly rejoicing at the fact that this is finally being addressed. Equally, the series is so far gone and insular by this point, that if you happen to find yourself watching this by accident on late-night TV, chances are that you won't have the faintest idea what is going on.

The film is helped somewhat in this regard by the horcruxes, a plot device which I covered in detail in my previous Harry Potter review. All of my criticisms of this McGuffin aside, the hunt for the horcruxes gives the film structure and a definite end-point towards which we are heading. Like The Two Towers, Deathly Hallows - Part 1 ends before said end-point has been reached, but like Jackson's film there is (to some extent) a feeling of catharsis and expectation of what is to come. That being said, the death of Dobby, like Dumbledore's in the previous film, still feels like an arbitrary event, included purely because it happened in the book. For all his dramatic credentials, David Yates still hasn't grasped how to build up tension so that a death can carry meaning: it's not so much a 'shock death' as a nothing-death.

By focussing on the search for the horcruxes, and taking the action away from Hogwarts, Deathly Hallows - Part 1 moves the series into more candidly existential territory. Our three main characters are at their most isolated and strained since Goblet of Fire, faced with a quest which is seemingly impossible, and having to cope without either the wisdom or protection of their teachers. Kermode's comparisons with Ingmar Bergman may seem far-fetched at first glance, but there is a point behind them: there are fewer creature comforts here than in previous efforts, and like Bergman's films there is little credence given to sentimentality.

The aesthetic of Deathly Hallows - Part 1 reflects this desire for all the stability and comfort in Harry's world to be diminished. Eduardo Serra, who won a BAFTA for his work on Wings of a Dove, shoots the action in a more pathos-ridden manner, emphasising the stillness of the woods, the intimidating dark colours and the increasingly pallid landscapes. Yates employs more hand-held work for the chase sequences through the woods, but is also judicious in his choice of wide shots to reinforce the smallness of the characters. There are times in Alexandre Desplat's soundtrack when the world around the characters seems to creak and wail, akin to Alan Splet's extraordinary work on David Lynch's Eraserhead.

Two sequences in the film reinforce the feeling of gathering gloom and descending darkness better than any other. The first is the animated rendering of the Tale of the Three Brothers, whose stick-like characterisations are somewhere between Classical depictions of soldiers and the caricatures of Gerald Scarfe. The animation on its own is beautifully designed and well-told, but the sequence gives the eponymous hallows more status than they would have had if introduced through just another swathe of exposition. The tale has a Chaucerian quality to it, with Death's characterisation being as subtle and cunning as his namesake in 'The Pardoner's Tale' within The Canterbury Tales.

The second, equally potent sequence is the trio's infiltration of the Ministry of Magic. I mentioned in my review of Order of the Phoenix about the Ministry's design being rooted in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. What was then a mere inflection is now made flesh, with Yates borrowing heavily yet grippingly from the Michael Radford adaptation, starring John Hurt and Richard Burton. The low-angle shots of the banners and wanted posters, not to mention the robotic movements of the Ministry's employees, reinforce the feeling of freedom and justice being crushed in the name of purity and homogeny. Imelda Staunton's return as Dolores Umbridge only hammers this home, taking her inevitable place as the puppet of a state governed by fear, and projecting her own self-loathing onto those she deems inferior.

In the end, however, the centrepiece of Deathly Hallows - Part 1 is the relationship between our central trio, something which is anchored us throughout the ups and downs of the entire series. Like Goblet of Fire, seeing the central three at each others' throats is completely believable, but now that the stakes are raised their every tiff or raised voice could spell disaster. Rupert Grint does especially well in conveying the frustration of his character, whether it's listening to the radio to see whether his family has been killed, or his reaction to the nightmarish visions which burst forth from the locket.

The only problem with the approach that Yates adopts is that the character-driven scenes begin to feel repetitive very quickly. It's not quite the case that you could show these sequences in any order you please, but the fact that Ron comes back so relatively quickly negates a lot of the emotional impact of his departure. Equally, there's little to suggest that the order in which the horcruxes are destroyed is the only order in which they could have been tackled; in this film at least, there's no progression from one to the other in terms of their potency or difficulty.

Another big problem with which the film is lumbered is the need to tie up a lot of the supporting storylines, often by simply killing people off. Rowling described the action of the final book as a war, and in war unpredictable deaths are to be expected. But that doesn't mean that characters and creatures to which we have dedicated several years of our lives can just be swept aside as collatoral damage. If you thought that Ginny and Harry's kiss in Half-Blood Prince came out of nowhere, a lot of Deathly Hallows - Part 1 will feel completely jarring and inert. Once again, Yates can't deliver the knock-out blow when it matters most, working so hard on a general tone that the particular moments carry no weight.

It's not just the death of Dobby which falls into this category; the entire Battle of the Seven Potters is a classic example of this approach. The special effects needed to create seven Daniel Radcliffes are all well and good, but the battle's choreography is choppy and disorientating; it doesn't communicate the chaos of the battle, it just leaves you wondering why they bothered in the first place. The deaths of multiple characters are treated in a lackadaisical, matter-of-fact manner, whether we see them on screen (Hedwig) or are simply told about them (Mad-Eye Moody). To top it off, Voldemort's appearance in the scene is a complete waste of time: he doesn't come across as threatening, he does nothing of significance, and he's so easily defeated.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 is an intriguing, atmospheric and bleak offering which serves up a lot of good points in amongst its all-too-common drawbacks. It is perhaps the strongest of the Harry Potter films since Goblet of Fire, and unlike many of the films in the series it may well improve with repeat viewings. But while its visuals and main characters are impressive, it's ultimately hobbled or reined in by meaningless deaths and dull repetition. For fans, it's an impressive and ambitious sequel; for cynics, it's a reassurance that, very soon, this will all be over.
Nikhil N.
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2011
Part One is still really entertaining and very dark, but some of the magic seems lost without Hogwarts. Still, this movie sets up the final part excellently, with the tension at an all time high. This is a good movie, but the final part is what we really want to see.
Super Reviewer
April 13, 2013
I needn't say after the prior reviews but visual effects are superb. And..."HI!"...Harry's grown up into a hot young man. The ending leaves one breathless and frustrated that another year must pass until the next installment. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Super Reviewer
½ August 2, 2009
Chock full of plot which often goes nowhere, as well as a painfully slow mid-section, this really is just marking time until the big showdown. Full review later.
Super Reviewer
August 7, 2007
Every complaint raised against this movie is exactly why I loved it and consider it the high for the series. The three leads are absolutely fantastic, but especially Emma Watson who gives her best performance for the series yet. This is a dark and emotional movie that follows the book very well and sets up the finale nicely, even if it ends in a cliffhanger for those who haven't read the books (low percentage of audience at this point, in my opinion). Everyone said there was too much build up and not enough pay off, but the pay off is Part 2 and sometimes the journey is just as good or better than the end. I thought the pacing was fantastic in this one and much better than the job David Yates did on the previous film. He switches the tones and atmosphere better here than he has in any of the others. I looked forward to these final two forever after reading the books, and Yates and his crew have done them more than justice. The change in scenery and style after six books is a bit jarring at first, but this is a gritty and compelling story and has the emotional pull that some of the earlier installments did not have. We all knew going into this film that they would end on a cliffhanger, and yet some still complained. I've never understood this and don't agree with it. For my money, this is the best installment of the series. It breaks the mold and established Harry Potter as one of the fantasy greats.
Super Reviewer
August 11, 2012
Dark and edgy, Part I presents an ominous rise into its climatic finale. Though may lack in the expected action, the film does make a great set-up for its grand conclusion to come. 4/5
Super Reviewer
½ July 20, 2012
A well filmed part one of the saga's last installment. It isn't perfect, though, but sets the stage for the next, and arguably strongest end to a franchise we have seen since The Return of the King.
Super Reviewer
½ March 24, 2012
People say that harry potter is amazing but others beg to differ but im with the people who thinks this saga is amazing! It presents all the points to make it good: action, some humour, drama and the energetic scenes that daniel radcliffe can sustain.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2011
I have never read ANY of the Harry Potter books nor have I seen any other Harry Potter book so for me to jump into the series on its near finale is a big smack in the face of all those following this series religiously. But I couldn't help but find that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1" was expertly crafted. I can't recall an adaptation that has been created with so much production value and skill. The cinematography, acting, and pacing (even though I didn't know what the hell was going on) was spot on. A great movie. I'm sure it must've been even greater for those who have been following the series till now.
Super Reviewer
½ November 13, 2010
The beginning of the end...and the end begins well. David Yates returns to direct his third Potter film and like he did with the previous two, failed to dissapoint. The once prepubescent trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione set out on a quest to destroy Lord Voldemort once and for all. They're out of the safety of hogwarts (Then again, it's probably debatable as to whether a place filled three-headed dogs, ghosts, hidden chambers and Robert Pattinson can be considered safe.) and they're on their own. The film starts off with a scene not in the books, but it sets the tone of the movie perfectly. I couldn't have asked for a better opening scene. The journey soon begins and the vibe of the book is captured immediatley. The feeling of little to no hope and rising adversity is present and done really well. There are some slow scenes that tend to drag on and some scenes in particular I felt should've stayed the same as in the book. Besides that though, this movie was extremely faithful to the book. The slow parts are overshadowed by exciting action scenes, very well written dialogue, (Steve Kloves knows about writing dialogue, he's a very underrated screenwriter.) and some very good acting. My favorite thing about this movie is that it's self aware. The writers realize that there is a part 2 and this is the ultimate build-up to the final battle. The build-up was great and for a movie that doesn't really have an end, it has an exciting climax that will leave Potter fans wanting to see much more. The end of the film is played out perfectly and does a great job of creating a cliff-hanger. If you're a Harry Potter fan, I would highly recommend it, but if you're new to the series and this is the first film you see, you'll be as lost as Harry when he was in the maze in Goblet of Fire....that comparison probably made you just as lost.
Super Reviewer
December 5, 2011
Hey look, Gordo from Session 9 is a Death Eater! One of the (many, many) pleasures of watching this movie is playing spot the famous British actor, but it is far from the least. I love watching the chemistry of the three main actors as they play off each other. They've worked together for so long that they have a poetic and intuitive understanding of each others' timing and mannerisms. It's wonderful to watch. "Where's my wand?" Adunno-" "Give it to me!" No!" It also seems very organic the way Harry, Hermione and Ron have grown into people that can capably rise to the challenge of annihilating Voldemort and taking on his acolytes. I'm really looking forward to the second half, because I really want to see Snape. The ending is a rather natural split in the story too, and this movie stands on its own really quite well.
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2009
As visually captivating and as significant it might have been to lead towards the grand finale & for the series on the whole, I found this installment as "much ado about nothing" considering it individually. Hope the final one makes up for it if I ever get to watch it.
Super Reviewer
½ December 18, 2010
It was decent, yet I can't help but feel like they could've done more..
Super Reviewer
August 19, 2011
'The Deathly Hallows' shuns previous Potter films and becomes a lot more darker and better. As the story develops the films picks up in pace and despite the sometimes poor acting, the script very good and overall the film, perhaps not the best in the world is very entertaining.
*** 3 Star
Super Reviewer
½ July 31, 2011
Good as a movie in itself however to leave a proper review I'd need to watch the series back to back as I'm not up to date on what's going on.
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2011
Best entry in the series.
Super Reviewer
November 20, 2010
Cinematically and generally, it is one of the best, but the problem, and it is a big one, is that it is very much PART ONE. It doesn't have enough to stand alone as its own film, no big enough arc. It means the film feels very strangely paced and is always building slowly. It is enjoyable to watch but it just trots along and then that's it. In contrast, the last part is all ending, so I would be very interested to see how they work cut together. It would be long, but possibly the best of the series. Who knows.
Anyway, like Half Blood Prince, this is much better and more stylistically filmed- something we haven't really seen since Cuaron's handling of Azkaban, but Yates takes it further still, to satisfying effect. It's all blues and greys and sweeping shots. Lovely, and moody. This is where the central three characters have soom room to breath and a chance do some 'proper acting', expand their characters a little, and maybe prove their critics wrong. The results are mixed. Radcliffe is still a little self aware and although not appalling, can get a little dull. Partly this is due to the occasional but pronounced mis-step in Steve Kloves' usually smooth enough script. The odd line sounds a bit peculiar or slightly archaic or unnatural. Emma Watson is fine, as usual, nothing exceptional or disappointing. This is also a chance for Ron to do a little more than use mild profanities and crack jokes, and I suppose that goes okay. I wasn't blown away, but admittedly, Grint handles his darker scenes confidently. Good for him.
It's pretty much as good as could be expected for an adaptation of this half, but the key problem is the funny pacing and story development. It leaves it feeling episodic and although we want more, it is more out of not having had our fill than having loved what we have seen.
Super Reviewer
August 7, 2011
The money-making machine keeps turning, and now we come to the next to last film in the Harry Potter series - The Deathly Hallows Part 1. Instead of having a straightforward final part to close out the series, the filmmakers instead decided to divide the huge final novel into two parts for the film adaptation. Again, I haven't read these books so I can't talk about how well-adapted they are, but I will say this: even though there are a lot of complicated and much-needed character dynamics going on this one, even more than the previous films, this definitely isn't the most jam-packed film story-wise. There are great gaps where hardly anything happens at all and the story has no momentum. I assume all of the great action set pieces are being saved for the final film, but if so, this film suffers for it. It's executed and shot well, and there are some nice moments peppered in there, albeit sparingly, but I'm really starting to feel that most of this could have been trimmed down and combined with the other to form a grand three hour finale. However, that's just my two cents. Now that I'm a bit more versed in these films and how they work, I await seeing the final part and epic conclusion to the series with anticipation. I just hope it has more going on in it than this one.
Super Reviewer
July 22, 2011
Watching this film, two things went through my mind. The first was that, in terms of dark overtones and the aging of the series, this film finally shows how it needs to be, thus putting Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix rightfully to shame. With that film, it went from darkness entering to series to just plain dark. But then restored some light with Half Blood Prince. Now the series has maturely aged into the darkness that this film is. The second thing that went through my mind was the same feeling I had when I first saw Kill Bill Vol. 1. The reason for that, other then this being the penultimate edition to the series, is due to how the film felt. Now, in terms of action, that is not what I am hinting at. It is just the feel that we are being teased and the great payoff will be coming up next. Now, with me watching this film, my overall reaction was just that: It done itā(TM)s job by wetting our taste buds. Plus, it does the one thing that I have been wanting this entire film series to do: showcase the acting of the three main actors and show us how they have grown over the years. Now, are they able to pull that off? Well, letā(TM)s see. First off though, we need to talk about direction. Ever sense his debut with O.o.P., I will admit that David Yates is now showing his talent for being behind the camera with this film. One thing, according to one director, that is hard to do would be filming for about an hour a card game (like War) and make it interesting. Due to most of this film taking place with them camping with them going to some locations here and there, it would be difficult to keep peopleā(TM)s attention for even the longest of times. But, Yates shows he can direct a film to keep our attention and he deserves acclaim for this. He does not have the pacing go fast, but he does not have it slow. Besides, anyone that can make a film where we have our three main characters in a tent hunting small objects and make THAT interesting needs to have some talent. Now the acting. Due to this being a showcase of the talent of our three main kids (now adults), I will not waste your time by going into detail with each of them, but I will say this at least: They all shown that, in terms of talent and maturity, that they have grown. Seeing their chemistry together, and the way how Emma Watson (Hermonie) makes her character strong and tough plus focuses when Ron (Rupert Grint) leaves them to go out on his own. Yeah, that is what we need more in films: Strong female characters. And that is exactly what Emma Watson is in this film. Next the script. Taking the final book, and splitting it into two separate films, is the best thing this entire series as ever done. Now, the reason why is simple: there is so much development with the characters plus a crap load of revelations that have to be addressed that one film (unless it was going to be four hours long) would not be enough. So, this film is mostly just the exposition. But, what exposition it is! This shows exactly how I like to see a film: you get the plot, but it builds on itself, expanding what we know. It does not just support the plot. Too many films do that, but Steve Kloves just writes the screenplay that it expands on itself. Now, I know that this is an adaptation of a novel, but making the plot weak and not have it expanded can happen in an adaptation. But, luckily Kloves does this with justice. Finally the score. By now with the series, I just forget about the score. With the exception of Prisoner Of Azkaban, the score has always been the same and, for me, it is just not worth even talking about it. Overall, this is the best way to start off the finally, and the ending will leave you in tears. Bring tissues.
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