Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One - Review

Directed by David Yates, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, written by Steve Kloves.

Dark times are coming. All across the land of Britain, men and women huddle in shadowy corners, whispering to one another of the inevitable fate that none of us can elude. Every second draws us closer, ticking away the remaining time before the ominous fear will become reality...when we reach the end of the Harry Potter movie saga!

OK, so that was a bit of a dramatic intro, but it truly is a shame when great film series reaches its conclusion. Think of how you felt when the Lord of the Rings films came to an end (bad example: Return of the King had about fifteen endings); it's a difficult thing to come to terms with. Although the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does bring with it the beginning of the end, it is nonetheless a thrilling and effective adaptation of J.K. Rowling's insanely popular novel.

HP 7: Part One depicts the outbreak of civil war in the wizarding community, forcing Harry, Ron and Hermione to abandon their studies at Hogwarts as they go on the run, Voldemort's Death Eaters hot on their trail. Harry must follow his task of destroying the seven horcruxes, dark magical items created by Voldemort in a bid to gain immortality. This challenge, given to Harry by Professor Dumbledore before his death, will not be an easy one. As they embark upon their quest, confronting the mystery of the Deathly Hallows along the way, the trio will face all kinds of dangers and trials, threatening their lives as well as their friendships.

After re-watching the entire Harry Potter series so far, it's amazing to see how much the three main actors have grown in their skill and ability. I'm guessing that by now they are pretty much best friends in real life anyway, and so it isn't much of a stretch to portray this on screen. However, this doesn't tarnish the performances of Radcliffe, Grint and Watson in anyway, as they draw you into the fraying relationship between Harry and his best friends. However, it's hard to highlight the three leads in this movie as giving the best performances, when the entire cast is a role-call of the cream of British thespians. If I was going to pick one person who shone brightest for me, it would be Jason Issacs, playing disgraced Death Eater Lucius Malfoy. His portrayal of a broken man who knows he has lost his former status and power is chillingly believable, making you almost pity him.

No doubt there will be those who will cry sacrilege at the choices made by screenwriter Steve Kloves and director David Yates when adapting this novel to the screen, but I agree with their decisions for the most part. I especially liked their choice of where to split the book in two, leaving my taste-buds tingling for the next installment. There were a couple of instances where I felt that tricks had been missed and events mishandled, the blunt addressing of Mad-Eye Moody's death being one example. I felt that the pacing of the narrative work really well however, the drawn-out bleak sections of the story having exciting action sequences interspersed at the appropriate points. I my opinion, this is a very faithful adaptation, with some interesting and effective changes made here and there to made the story suitable for the visual medium. For a more detailed summary of my views on book-to-film adaptations, click here.

Visually, HP 7: Part One is spell-binding (I'm really sorry, I had to use it somewhere!). From start to finish you are sucked into the magical world of Rowling's books, with a mixture of incredible visual/special effects and artistic cinematography. Some of the most beautiful moments of the movie are those set in the wild countryside of Britain, which would feel as much at home in an indie arthouse film as in a fantasy blockbuster. Also worth mentioning are the totalitarian themes and imagery used to depict the Ministry of Magic, now infiltrated and controlled by Voldemort's minions, invoking hints of distopian films such as Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) and Brazil (1985).

One thing I will admit about this, the latest in the Harry Potter saga, is that the film is definitely intended for those devoted to the previous books and films. There isn't much point watching this movie if you haven't seen those that precede it. I would even go as far as saying that you won't completely understand the plot if you haven't read all the books. Some elements of the story, such as the importance of the wizard Gellert Grindelwald, are included with the assumption that the viewer doesn't require a thorough introduction, which may confuse those less familiar with the series. I don't necessarily think this is a flaw however, because this is the seventh installment of the story, meaning there is a little bit too much to recap at this point. Another small disclaimer; don't take young children to see this movie. It is quite scary at points and contains suggestive and adult themes that are unsuitable for younger viewers.

So, to conclude, my high expectations were very much met by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One. The first section of Rowling's epic teen fantasy has been cleverly and lovingly brought to life on the screen, with a wealth of excellent performances and beautiful imagery. I can't wait for the finale, although I feel a tinge of sadness that the end is nigh. However, there has to be a conclusion, even for the Boy Who Lived.

If you liked this, then try: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Narnia saga, the Star Wars saga and the Twilight saga.

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