Movie Review: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”

I was fortunate enough to see this on opening day with a friend. It is based upon the final book in the Harry Potter series, but due to the length of the story, this film only covers the first portion of the book. Part 2 will be released in theatres July 2011. I saw the regular version rather than 3D. Caution: for those of you who have not already read the book, some of the following may be considered spoilers.
As the Harry Potter saga draws to a close, “The Deathly Hallows Part 1” has a different, more personal feel than the six previous films. Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron are now of legal age (17 in the wizarding world), and because they are being pursued by the evil Lord Voldemort and his followers, they do not attend what would have been their final year at Hogwart’s. Without the school as a backdrop, we focus on the relationship between the three teens and the nearly insurmountable task they face: that of finding and destroying Horcruxes, which are objects or creatures which contain a portion of Voldemort’s soul. There are seven Horcruxes in all, and at the start of this story, only two are destroyed, and they only know what one of the others is but not its location.
Nor can Harry, Ron or Hermione rely on the Ministry of Magic, the wizarding world’s governing body. It has essentially been overthrown by those loyal to Voldemort. Those in charge set disturbing policies authorizing inquisitions of anyone who is not a “pureblood”, as in borne of two magical parents. And Harry Potter has been designated Public Enemy Number One, with rewards for his capture so that he can be turned over to Voldemort.
One of the earliest scenes, which was merely alluded to in the book, is quite moving and lets the audience know that what Harry and friends are up against is not mere child’s play. Hermione, whose parents are muggles (non-magical people), rather than risk someone torturing them to disclose her whereabouts, erases any memory her mother and father ever had of her. She slips quietly away, not knowing if she’ll ever see them again.
Harry, who has spent each summer in his aunt’s house under magical protection, is about to turn 17, which means his protection will end. His anti-Voldemort allies devise a plan to transport Harry to another safe location. Six people drink a potion that makes them look exactly like Harry, so that any enemy won’t know which is the real Harry. But Voldemort and several of his followers, known as Death Eaters, attack all of them. Voldemort himself attacks the real Harry, but the spell he casts does not work. This sequence is visually quite exciting.
Harry does arrive safely at Ron’s family home, but there are casualties amongst the others. Harry, not wanting to be the reason for any further loss of life, tries to set off on his own, but Ron convinces him that the task of finding the Horcruxes is too large for one person to handle, so he agrees to wait until his friends can go with him. Meanwhile, the Weasley household gears up for a wedding.
While at the Weasley home, Ron, Hermione and Harry find out that the deceased headmaster of Hogwart’s, Professor Dumbledore, left items for them in his will. They are perplexed by these three seemingly ordinary objects for which the will has no explanation (they do have meaning later in the story). A fourth item of great importance that would have helped them destroy Horcruxes is missing.
The wedding unfortunately is cut short when Death Eaters make an appearance. Harry, Ron, and Hermione must flee amongst the chaos without telling anyone where they are going or why. Their narrow escape begins their daunting search for the Horcruxes.
Even though this story is spread across two films, many of the events from the book have been compressed, some changed, and others eliminated. But like the fourth film, “Goblet of Fire”, which also had substantial differences from the book, the intent, tone and most important sequences remain intact. So we still feel these teens’ uncertainty, loneliness and anger as they flounder on their quest.
One of the Horcruxes is revealed to be in the possession of Dolores Umbridge, a former temporary headmaster at Hogwart’s (the evil woman in pink featured in “Order of the Phoenix”) who is now head inquisitor of wizards with Muggle parents at the Ministry of Magic. In order to capture the Horcrux, Ron, Hermione and Harry must disguise themselves as Ministry members, a bold and dangerous move on their part.
Their satisfaction at the successful theft of the Horcrux turns to frustration when they discover they cannot destroy it. Worse, because it is cursed by an evil wizard, mere possession of it poisons the minds of the friends, who turn against each other. Worse still, while at the house of an ancient woman whom they think might be able to help them, Harry and Hermione are attacked. But when all seems darkest, Ron manages to break the seductive power of the Horcrux.
Harry, Ron and Hermione decide to pay a visit to the father of their classmate, Luna Lovegood. It is there they learn that the legend of the Deathly Hallows, three objects that when combined are thought to make one immortal, may in fact be real. Harry also realizes that Voldemort is after these Hallows even as he is chasing Horcruxes.
The three friends soon after are captured by Snatchers, thugs who are hoping they have the right kids so they can get a reward from Voldemort for their efforts. But before Harry is collared, Hermione puts a jinx upon him that causes his face to distort so that he can’t positively be identified. They are taken to the home of nemesis Draco Malfoy to decide what should be done with them. “Deathly Hallows Part 1” ends with a daring rescue attempt.
The effects in “Deathly Hallows” are even more realistic and impressive than in the previous Harry Potter movies. The house elves look much less like computer images and much more like living breathing creatures. And because most of the focus is on Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, their acting had to carry the movie. I am pleased to report it did.
This movie is rated PG-13. Because there are fewer childish antics and more losses of treasured characters than in previous films, parents should consider whether they feel it is appropriate for their own children. If your child enjoyed the books, they are probably going to be okay with the movie. There is no gore and just a few indications of romance, but young kids might find it scary overall.
It is going to be difficult to wait eight more months for the resolution of the Harry Potter film saga, but if part 1 is any indication, it will be more than satisfactory in the end. For lack of a better word, I found the first installment of “Deathly Hallows” to be magical.
Reviewed by Karen Brauer
Karen has been writing for for many years. Her movie and book reviews are always descriptive and honest. She has a keen eye for pointing out what might be useful to a viewer/reader that might have certain disabilities, or sensitivities. She loves reviewing movie dvd’s and television shows.
  • Betsy Laraway

    I saw this movie this weekend and trully enjoyed it. However my granddaughter (she is 8) who has seen all the other Harry Potter movies (she had no problems with them and loved them) was terrified in this one. I do believe it is because of the snake that comes out of the screen at you and some of the scary scenes that are in it. However there are a few funny parts that she did laugh at. Overall I thought it was fantastic and can’t wait until July to see the final battle.