Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 opened on Friday, bringing in over $60 million and putting it on track for the 5th highest opening day ever.

The darkest film in the series yet (and a PG-13 rating to go with it), Deathly Hallows continues Harry’s struggle to defeat the dark power that threatens to take over the wizarding world. Those looking for a return to the wonder and optimism that Harry felt about wizardry in the earlier films will not find it here — corruption, greed and racism against the Muggle-born have turned the Ministry of Magic into a brutal totalitarian regime. Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the run, racing to discover and destroy the dark magical objects that are the secret to Lord Voldemort’s immortality.

The movie is huge, breaking out of the protective halls of Hogwarts (indeed, the school is never seen) and spreading out over seemingly the whole of Great Britain. Some of the films best moments are those that show the sometimes violent collisions between the magical and Muggle worlds. The special effects are used more subtly than in previous films; one of the most poignant scenes involves Harry completing a difficult task in a pointedly non-magical way.

The film does drag in spots, just as the final book in the series did. Much of the middle part of the film is made up of Harry, Hermione and (sometimes) Ron in hiding, with no clue as to what to do or where to go next. Guidance from adults is largely absent, with the trio having to rely on their own training, wits and courage to overcome constant threats and piece together the complex puzzle. Although they spend no time in classes in what would have been their final year at Hogwarts, they find themselves faced with daunting challenges that test all they have learned at the venerable school.

Here are a few links to reviews of the film:

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times — “As we approach the end of a decade of Harry Potter, it’s clear how wisely (and luckily) the studio cast the series. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have grown from children to young adults, still retain the qualities they had when younger, are practiced professionals and carry the series.”

(I think Eber misinterprets the personal relationship between Harry and Hermione, BTW).

Richard Corliss, Time Magazine — “The decision by David Heyman (who has produced all the films), Steve Kloves (who’s scripted all but one) and David Yates (who will have directed the last four of the eight) to cut the final book into two features…meant slowing the story down just as it should rev up. Instead of scooting like a Golden Snitch during a Quidditch championship, DH1 is struck with a long spell of aimlessness, and the viewer with the curse of ennui.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times“Deathly Hallows: Part 1 finds notes of anxious suspense and grave emotion to send its characters, and its fans, into the last round. The sorrow you experience may well be a premonition of the imminent end of a long and, for the most part, delightful relationship.”

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