Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

By: Francis David | Posted: 20th January 2011

The end of the beginning...

Previously on Harry Potter... An 11-year-old Harry prevailed over a trying situation where the ethereal form of Lord Voldemort came out of the back of Ian Hart's head.

He stabbed a giant snake with a special sword and killed a diary with one of the snake's fangs. David Thewlis turned into a werewolf. Gary Oldman turned into a dog. Hermione turned back time just so some stupid horse thing with wings didn't get its head chopped off by the man from Middlemarch; Robert Pattinson got killed by Timothy Spall. Harry tried to find a mysterious prophecy that could have made the series a bit shorter. But the prophecy was destroyed by his clumsy friend. Gary Oldman got killed by Helena Bonham Carter. Some good guys came down the chimney to save the day - including the man from Middlemarch who finally agreed that Lord Voldemort might be a problem...
Out in the open

The last time we saw Harry (2009's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) he was getting kissy with his mate's sister, pissy with overly cryptic mentor Dumbledore and dizzy with Aryan class rival Draco. He also learned that the way for good to triumph over bad was to destroy the shards of Voldemort's soul hidden in a hunch of magical artifacts ('horcruxes'). Michael Gambon got lulled by Alan Rickman.

Now, Harry, Ron and Hermione have bunked off their final year at Hogwarts to find the horcruxes and rob Voldemort of his immortality, so that the world will never again have to watch something coming out of the back of Ian Harts head.

Problem: no school, no structure. Previous Potters have swaddled the younger actors in a cuddly comfort zone of each other. Stilted delivery was muffled by the bustle of Hogwarts' crowd solidarity. Here, they're caught out in the open - exposed to the unblinking camera eye. While the leads slip-up across field and forest, squabbling, haggling, decoding clues and making camps, there's nowhere to go into hiding.

Watson, as ever, is the star - breezy and effortless and never over-rehearsed. However the acting cogs still whir and crash behind Grint and Radcliffe's eyes and Watson's domination gives the three-header scenes a wearisome air of matriarchy - as if she's playing mum to a pair of clumsy teenagers. However all three are emerging talents who've ineptly grown into their craft as they've grown up in public. Their uneven turns are an inevitable side effect of the pressure exerted by the film's reverential treatment of Rowling's books. The concluding story may well be colorful and complicated but on this proof, there's little artistic explanation for a two-movie split.

It's messed up and tortuous and over-stretched (like the book). It's protected with sprawling asides (like the book)... Instead of filleting Rowling's original for what could have been a gripping and pacy finale roughly split into two major acts (the build-up to the final battle and the final battle itself), we're stuck with an overlong prequel to 2011's main event. Two-and-a-half-hours of fumbling and foreplay that could have escalated into something elemental if it wasn't so chaperoned by the dual-movie structure story.



By: Francis David


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