Everyone who experiences the Harry Potter saga on film can be categorized into two separate groups – those who have read the books beforehand and those who have not. Those who have read them have likely read them several times. They know exactly what each film will bring, just not how it will bring it. For the rest of us, the young wizard exists only on the big screen and never has his world looked so great or been as engaging as in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”. No matter which group you belong to though, the Harry Potter film experience is entering its final chapter and the anticipation is palpable.
Director David Yates has outdone himself this time out. Despite the enormous amount of pressure on his back to bring one of film history’s biggest franchises to a satisfying and successful close, he seems to be flying through the Harry Potter universe with incredible ease after piloting the last three films. Yates also helms the second half of “The Deathly Hallows” but first he has masterfully and delicately handled this decidedly dark first half, where nothing is as it was. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his most trusted allies, Hermione and Ron (Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) do not return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, like they do at the beginning of each previous installment. No, now this trio of role models to children the world over are officially dropouts, but with good reason of course. Harry must soon fulfill his destiny as the one who lived to vanquish he who used to not be named (psst .. that’s Voldemort – Ralph Fiennes). I know how it sounds but if you made it this far, you must have bought into this already and it’s still surprisingly compelling.
I can only imagine that J.K.Rowling’s last book operated in much the same fashion as Steve Kloves’ screenplay. Kloves has written every one of the Harry Potter films and in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”, he oscillates between somber, dark, sometimes downright frightening moments and a warm, nostalgic yearning for seemingly simpler times. As the series nears its end, familiar faces, places and things resurface to honour both the history and the fans while new addition to the Harry Potter family, cinematographer Eduardo Serra, lenses the Harry Potter landscape with depth and grandeur unlike anything I’ve seen in the first six films. The mounting magnificence of the Harry Potter films is infectious and to remain so fresh and relevant so many years later is some of the best magic I’ve ever seen.
Review by Joseph Bélanger