Published Nov 18, 2010I confess, I have never seen a Harry Potter film until this one, the seventh and next-to-last-instalment of one in the most prosperous movie franchises today. Deathly Hallows Part 1 will pack cinemas regardless of what any film reviewer has to say, including me, simply because of the Harry Potter brand. However, I wanted to experience the Potter magic, and my reactions are mixed.
Deathly Hallows Part 1 reminds me of The Empire Strikes Back, part of another heralded movie franchise, because both feel like transitional chapters that are part of a larger story. Hallows begins as Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to destroy the secret to Voldemort's immortality – the Horcruxes – before the bad guys destroy them first. Basically it's war and Voldemort's Death Eaters seize control of the Ministry of Magic and even Hogwarts. Voldemort's baddies terrorize anyone who might oppose them, but the dude they most want is, of course, Harry. Basically, Harry has to find the Horcruxes before Voldemort (a snub-nosed Ralph Fiennes) captures him.
The film ping-pongs between these two characters, following a consistent rhythm of attack then retreat. The action scenes are gripping, full of CGI special effects and dazzling pyrotechnics that shake the big screen. However, when the movie calms down, the adrenaline drops and we're left waiting for the next action sequence.
Another weakness is the characters. The only time I connected with Harry was one scene buried in the middle when he dances with Hermione (Emma Watson). True, this is a fantasy film and not Citizen Kane, but the original Star Wars succeeded because you wanted to be Luke Skywalker; I didn't want to be Harry Potter.
An interesting subplot though is that Harry and his friends aren't kids anymore, but budding adults with surging hormones. Credit the film for building this into the story and not hiding the obvious.
Deathly Hallows Part 1 has its faults, but it's a fun ride. However, let's hope that the next and final instalment delivers a bigger bang. (Warner)