It’s been a long ride but the wait is nearly over for fans of the “Harry Potter” series. Since the release of the seventh and final book, legions of loyal readers have awaited the film adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” which was mercifully split into two films to accommodate as much of the story as possible. “Part 1” released last year and now arrives on DVD (for sale only, rentals will be made available on May 10th). “Part 2” will release in theaters this summer on July 15th.
Instead of spending their senior year at Hogwarts; Harry, Hermione and Ron go on the run as the evil Voldemort’s Deatheater cult seizes political control of the wizarding world. The cult searches for the fugitive teens who are on a search and destroy mission themselves. Harry aims to collect and dispatch Voldemort’s “Horcruxes,” the physical objects that fuel Voldemort’s power of immortality. All the while, the heroic Order of the Phoenix fight for survival and suffer great tragedies in order to cover Harry’s escape and protect the innocent “muggles” (normal people) caught in the crossfire.
“Part 1” of the “Deathly Hallows” was meant to serve as as a dark and slow buildup to the big climax in “Part 2.” This makes the film somewhat frustrating. It favors exposition and slow burn for only a handful of the action which will no doubt appear in the next film. “Part 1” of “Deathly Hallows” managed to capture the desperation and solemn hopelessness felt by the main characters and ends leaving the story hanging at a moment of dire tragedy. I’m sure many will feel the ending too downbeat, but I hope they keep in mind that “Part 1” is only half a movie. While watching, I couldn’t help but anticipate the spectacular moments to come in the second part which made the slow pace and the abrupt ending of “Part 1” bearable. “Part 2” will certainly give viewers the climax and closure every Harry Potter fan expects.
Perhaps one of J.K. Rowling’s biggest successes in creating this series is her attention to detail, characterization and mythology. As the series evolved, so did her writing and fortunately this leads up to a highly satisfying payoff in the seventh and final book. I envy the fans who grew up reading the first book at the age of Harry and his friends, maturing along with the darker material and emerging adult themes. This final installment comes full circle with these themes as the three main characters find love and battle isolation, loneliness, jealously and despair.
By far the best scene in the film, or possibly the entire series for that matter, is also one of the quietest: When the situation seems beyond hopeless, a soulful song (“O’Children” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) comes on the radio in their hideaway tent, prompting Harry and Hermione to forget their troubles and slow dance for a few moments. It marks one of the most intimately emotional moments in the series and illustrates how far the actors, the characters and the story have matured over the years.
The second part to this film could possibly contain the most exciting sequences out of any of the Harry Potter movies to date. “The Battle of Hogwarts” as it come to be known will round up nearly every single living character from the past books/movies to participate in the final conflict. Not all of them will survive… possibly not even Harry himself.
I wholeheartedly recommend any Harry Potter fan see “The Deathly Hallows: Part 1” on DVD, but if you haven’t seen it yet, I’m going to recommend that you hold off until July. I believe the most satisfying way to see “Part 1” is directly before viewing “Part 2.” I saw “Part 1” in the theater and I can tell you the ending was painful knowing I would have to wait around six months to see the rest of the finale. If you have already seen “Part 1,” definitely see it again on DVD right before seeing “Part 2” in the theater. You’ll be glad the first half is fresh in your mind when you witness the spectacle The Battle of Hogwarts promises to deliver.
Rowling initially said she would quit the Potter series at book seven but has recently hinted at a desire to revisit the world of wizards and muggles. Whatever she chooses I have a feeling she will do so with full respect to her fans. She managed to accomplish this throughout her entire seven book run so I trust her judgement. Hazarding a guess, I expect she will eventually gift her fans with another trip to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I would also guess that the prolific writer has a few new projects she would like to get on the page first, so I hope Potter fans will be patient with her if she decides to try something new for her next project.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” = 4 out of 5 stars
Coop Cooper is a film critic and filmmaker based in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a B.F.A in Cinema, and received his Masters in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Hollywood. You can read his past articles at: http://www.smalltowncritic.com/