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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 review

REVIEWS - MOVIES

The young sorcerer comes of age in this dark first-half of the Potter valediction...

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1

This review contains some spoilers for those who have not read the book...

Diehard fans are usually out sniffing for blood when it comes to the young wizard, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 director David Yates has come quite close to the fine balance between pleasing the fans of the book and a more general audience who'd just like to see a film of sweeping fantasy adventure. And surprisingly, Yates has managed to convey the rather melancholy feel of kids realising that they have to grow up much sooner than they thought.

Wailing, weeping and chest-beating are what spring to mind when I realised we had finally come to the end of our lengthy love with the boy who lived. Although thankfully the Harry Potter movie franchise does justify the hype, it doesn’t necessarily do justice to the story. The length of the source novel meant that condensing the first half into a two-hour timeframe was a wise way of setting the tone, but didn't work out as expected. The book has a lot of detail, which - like the preceding films - Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 has to rush through to fit into a two hour slot.

Readers of Deathly Hallows know that the first half of the novel is slow and drags like chewing gum stuck in synthetic weave, but lays the essential framework for the fast-paced second half. Consequently Hallows Part 1 feels rather disjointed in places, like a staccato series of slides rather than one continuous story. But rather beautiful slides. If this was a tourism advert for England, Wales and Scotland, we'd be holidaying at Pontin's in record time. But you'll have to wait until July 2011 for the candlelight vigils and the quietly sobbing children outside your local Odeon.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his faithful chums, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) set out into the real world, to defeat Voldy, skive off school and be taught the harsh lesson that being a school-leaver and venturing out into the wide world ain't all it's cracked up to be. With some rather risqué adult themes, including - but not limited to - partial nudity, and some questionable language, it's a lot darker than the other films. But then so is the book. There is a touch more humour than in previous Potter outings, leavening a rather bleak story; among these is my favourite scene, where Harry takes flight, Ron catches up with him, lectures him about being a man, and Harry drops his bag on the floor, and leaves Weasley to pick it up. Underlying themes of superiority ahoy!

A word of warning: if you plan to attend with any children under the age of 12: there are some scenes that aren't for the eyes of young ones, or even faint-hearted adults. But kids are so jaded these days, that it's highly doubtful that they'd blink an eyelid.

I spent a good part of the film in a tearful state, partially attributable to when Hedwig the owl was killed and Dobby the house elf was murdered trying to save Harry's speccy arse; but also through the misguided scenes where Daniel Radcliffe is forced to try and actually convey some emotions, where I wanted to cover my eyes in shame. Radcliffe's remarkably monotonous performance is improved by some choice comedy titbits, which is where his true calling lies, rather than glaring at a snake and willing it to stop attacking his friends.

(By the way, Mr Radcliffe, if you read this, you are adorable, and in interviews and matters apart from Harry Potter you seem rather likeable, but as the boy who lived, you don't get to crack many jokes, and I'm usually watching through my fingers.)

Hallows Part 1 doesn't gel completely, but the cinematography more than makes up for the jerky storytelling. Avoiding the overblown and unrealistic effects of many films of late, the visual continuity of the VFX-work seamlessly flows from sequence to sequence without inspiring the feeling that you've just stepped off a rollercoaster after eating too much candy floss. And remarkably it's not in 3D; avoidance of cinema specs is always a bonus, but Hallows Part 1 will be released in selected IMAX theatres also.

The highlight of the movie proved to be the incredible shadow-animation created by Ben Gibon to tell “The Tale of the Three Brothers”. Entirely unexpected, but unexpectedly magical, it harked to Jan Pienkowski, legendary children's illustrator, and a favourite of mine.

Hallows Part 1 boasts a stellar cast unfortunately not utilised to the best of their abilities, but merely lurking in the background: Bill Nighy seems bewildered to pop up in his cameo role, while Helena Bonham-Carter does what she knows best: being creepy and unattractive.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 vaguely manages to hold onto its credibility; and I must give props for character consistency: Daniel Radcliffe still cannot act in this role to save his life, which is a pity, as all the other cast members seem to be holding him up. Nevertheless this film is one of the best out of the series, after Goblet. You'll leave feeling not entirely satisfied, but abated. Will it leave you looking forward to the next one? Well, only to see Ron and Hermione finally get it on.

Verdict: Pretty satisfying, but it won't change your life.

3 stars

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 opens in the UK on the 19th of November

See also:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows DVD Review

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part One Soundtrack Review


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