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Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

Directed by: David Yates

Premise: A first half of the final story in the Harry Potter series. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) search for the Horcruxes that are the source of Voldemort‘s power. 

What Works: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 continues the complexity and maturity that the series has demonstrated in its second half. Those who have followed the series all the way through will be rewarded with some call backs of familiar characters, props, and situations. Where the series has gradually shed the scholastic settings of Hogwarts, The Deathly Hallows Part 1 rejects them almost completely. Harry, Ron, and Hermione spend a lot of their time on the run from Voldemort’s agents and a lot of the film takes place in the woods where the young adults ponder the future and exhibit weariness for the life and death struggle they’ve been engaged with for the past six films.

What Doesn’t: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a difficult film to review because it is not a complete story. The film has a beginning and a middle but no resolution. Middle chapters in other franchises like The Empire Strikes Back, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers faced similar challenges but these films overcame them by deepening their characters, presenting those characters with game changing reversals, and concluding the films with compelling cliffhanger endings that led into the final installment. The Deathly Hallows Part 1 does not do any of that. Harry, Hermoine, and Ron travel from one place to another in search of the Horcruxes but their journey does not have a dramatic rise and fall; the characters are essentially the same at the end of the film as they were at the beginning. What happens in between is a whole lot of nothing; although the scenes of Harry and his friends venting their frustrations about the world does have a mature and melancholic frustration about it that is philosophically interesting, they rarely ever encounter and conflict with this evil or get any closer to solving it.

Bottom Line: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 attempts to break from the action of previous installments to be a meditation on the struggle between good and evil. But the film is overlong and the vacuum isn’t filled by interesting or meaningful experiences for its three lead characters. The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is going to have to cover a lot of ground in order to compensate.

Episode: #318 (December 12, 2010); Revised #349 (July 24, 2011)