After ten years, “Harry Potter” has finally reached the beginning of the end. Cut into two installments, the last of the “Harry Potter” series continues to be what it’s been for the past decade: one of the best book-to-screen adaptations there is.
“Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1” acts mostly as a prelude to what’s bound to be an incredible finish, and gives audiences a large dose of what’s to come. Filled with dark themes and more focused on character psyche, “Deathly Hallows” offers its audience a compelling and stimulating cinematic experience.
In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) hit the road, leaving family and friends behind in search of the remaining horcruxes of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in the hopes of destroying them, returning Voldemort to the mortal state once more. What lies ahead is a long and grueling adventure which will press the limits of the trio’s friendship, setting the stage for an epic finale.
Being a prelude, “Deathly Hallows” can’t help but appear as just that. However, the story is handled with great precision. Instead of focusing solely on the action at hand, the first portion of “Deathly Hallows” falls back on its characters to bring life to the story and keep it moving along.
As the trio is on the run and no longer confined behind the walls of Hogwarts, the pacing becomes entirely different. Given its material, it is surprising that “Deathly Hallows” contains the quickest pacing of any “Harry Potter” film. For the fans, each scene is a transition and a wait for their favorite chapters to come to life. For outsiders, the change of scenery made possible by the ever-on-the-move characters makes for an enthralling experience. In the past, the films resorted to blunt action, but “Deathly Hallows” stabilizes the action with a gradual rise of tension and suspense.
In subject matter, the first portion of the finale will certainly satisfy fans of the series as well as those who have recently begun following the films. However, those who aren’t as familiar with the story and try to jump right in will probably be utterly lost. For the most part, the film expects its viewers to have some background and doesn’t waste a lot of time devoting itself to explanations. Even so, the film isn’t a 100 percent adaptation. Scenes are included and character’s actions are altered to provide more of a human element and audience connection, both of which help make for a more enjoyable watch.
What may hold the attention of non-fanatics is the film’s bleak atmosphere, backed by its impressive cinematography and, combined with the characters, which act as the vehicle’s driving force. As “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is by far the darkest and most mature of J.K. Rowling’s seven installments, this film truly sticks its neck out from its “family-friendly” shell and dares to be as bleak as the book’s material.
Much of the film is an adaptation, but it takes a few risks of its own. One particular risk is when Ron comes face-to-face with a horcrux and its power. He reflects on the image of Harry and Hermione in a vicious make-out session, partially nude, in an attempt to fog his mind with contempt and make him incapable of completing his task.
Tearing friendships and relationships apart is just a small example of the dark themes present in “Deathly Hallows.” Jealousy, anguish, uncertainty, isolation, fear, the unknown and especially death play roles in the plot. It is the opposition to these themes that truly pushes “Deathly Hallows” over the top. Though very dark, the film offers subtle humor. which is persistent throughout. Making light in the face of adversity unites the characters and offers the driving theme: sticking together through a state of peril. It is these combined themes and a heavier focus on the characters, as opposed to the action, which makes this installment more efficient and cinematic than the previous ones.
In terms of acting, the big three have to be applauded. Whereas in the previous films they’ve had older, more experienced actors to share significant screen time with, this time around the focus is entirely on Radcliffe, Grint and Watson. After 10 years of playing the characters, it is remarkable to see how far they’ve come as actors. The standout has to be Emma Watson. She’s blossomed into a wonderful actress and a gorgeous woman whose range of emotion in the film is bar none. She pumps life into Hermione and brings her well beyond the former brainy student she began the series as.
On the other side of the spectrum is Ralph Fiennes, who plays Lord Voldemort. Though he appears in only a few scenes, Fiennes steals each of them, and not only reinforces Voldemort as one of the most evil and heartless villains of all time, but also sets the stage for the monumental ending in Part 2.
Gone are the days when “Harry Potter” used to be strictly for the fans and the families. Reflecting the darkness and the grim state of affairs of the book, “Deathly Hallows Part 1” is just a taste of what’s to come. It may have just felt like a prelude, but it was an engrossing one; one which wasn’t afraid to take risks and focus more on themes than action. Not only did Part 1 set the stage for Part 2, but it also raised anticipation and expectations. If a simple prelude carries this heavy of material and this much entertainment, then it is nothing short of scary to think of how Part 2 will play out.
Nick Coviello can be reached at [email protected]