Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I
Over the past several years I've seen all six "Harry Potter" films exactly one time each. I enjoyed all of them quite a bit, but I didn't really become a hardcore Potter fan until this past summer when I read all seven novels for the first time. I tore through them more quickly than I've ever read anything and I found I loved each one even more than the last. Obviously then, "Deathly Hallows" was my favorite.
For the first time though, I was going to be watching a new "Harry Potter" movie having read the book it was based upon. This makes reviewing a movie more difficult because I like to look at films purely as films. Everyone I know who defended the absolutely awful movie version of "The Da Vinci Code" kept insisting that if I read the book then the movie would make more sense and therefore be better. But that doesn't work because a movie has to be able to stand on its own, separate from any books, graphic novels, video game spin-offs, or webisodes. If it can't then it's not a good movie. Also, I didn't want to spend two and half hours last night repeatedly thinking, "That's not what happened in the book!"
So now that I've written probably the most lengthy review introduction I've ever done, let's take a look at the actual film. Opening with a speech from Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy doing his best Churchill) in which he warns of the dangers that lie ahead in the war with Voldemort, "Deathly Hallows - Part I" sets up an eerie atmosphere that is far removed from the previous films, which it absolutely should. After all, Harry, Ron, and Hermione won't be trying to squeeze fighting Voldemort in between Potions and Quidditch practice because they're not going back to Hogwarts for their final year. Instead they are going to search for Horcruxes, which in case you forgot are odd items that each contain a piece of Voldemort's soul. If Voldemort gathers them together than he will make himself whole again. If however, H, R, and H are able to find them first and destroy them then Harry will be able to kill Voldemort.
Before they even begin their journey a couple of comrades are killed and another loses an ear. This is a far cry from flying a car because of missing the Hogwarts Express. When the wedding of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour comes under attack, Harry, Ron, and Hermione quickly disapparate into the muggle world where they are forced to go on the run and face far greater danger than ever before. The majority of the movie is spent following the three heroes through cold woods and over mountains while they search for Horcruxes and hope to evade Voldemort's agents.
Directed by David Yates (director since "Order of the Phoenix") and with a screenplay by Steve Kloves (writer of all "Potter" films with the exception of "Order of the Phoenix"), "Deathly Hallows - Part I" is a very good film which allows Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson to do more with their characters than they've had the opportunity to before. They know their characters and it seems that the sense of finality that the actors were feeling was transferred perfectly into their roles.
As with every "Potter" movie to come before it, this one features terrific performances in many very brief appearances. No one is surprised at this point that Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes embody Snape and Voldemort better than anyone else could but up and down the cast you find fantastic actors doing great work. I did find it quite jarring though that Rhys Ifans, in the role of Luna Lovegood's kooky father, managed to seem more normal here than he has in any other movie I've seen him.
In all I enjoyed the movie very much and didn't find myself missing very much from the book as I was watching it. Then my friends and I stepped outside the theater and I asked, "Did you guys really miss anything?" And the answer was yes about a couple of things. Then a couple more things. Then I started thinking of stuff. This morning I thought of a few more things. And I thought, "Hey! Wait, that was a big deal to not have that, that, and that!" Not in an angry way, but in a very surprised way.
The thing is really, when you make eight movies based upon seven books with the amount of content, plot, and characters that Rowling's series does not only do things have to go, things that you love have to go. The problems come in when a story element introduced in "Goblet of Fire" that's seemingly trivial ends up really mattering in "Deathly Hallows," but was cut from the movie version of "Goblet of Fire" because at the time it didn't seem important. Suddenly the movie of "Deathly Hallows" has some explaining to do and the explanation may not end up making a lot of sense in the context of the film. Unfortunately things like this do happen and create plot holes and problems of logic when looking at the movies on their own merits. Thankfully though they aren't so gaping as to bring the movie crashing down.
So now that you've read a mostly positive review you can finally make up your mind to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I," because clearly if you've watched the first six movies you were on the fence about seeing the next one. (I realize that sarcasm doesn't always come through in print but if you didn't get that then I don't know what to tell you.) 8.5/10.