This is it – the beginning of the end! I know you Harry Potter fans have been eagerly waiting for this weekend for a long time. If you haven’t already caught a midnight screening of Part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows you’ll be lining up very shortly to see if director David Yates has once again captured the magic and spirit of the beloved J.K. Rowling book. Those of us who have read the series know what a daunting task that is to undertake. So were Yates, cast and crew able to strike the right balance between faithfulness to the source material and effective filmmaking?
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) have gotten in and out of all sorts of scrapes since meeting their first year at Hogwart’s School for Wizardry and Witchcraft. This time it’s frighteningly different. No longer in the protected environments of school or home the trio are both the hunters and the hunted as they try to avoid capture by Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters and search for the remaining Horcruxes, essential for destroying the Dark Lord. No place is safe, no person can be trusted. Doubts and suspicions even threaten to tear apart these close friends. Without the revered Headmaster Dumbledore to guide them, our heroes must call upon courage and resources they didn’t know they possessed. For them there are no second chances. They’re all that stands between hope and complete blackness.
Every time another one of these Harry Potter movies comes out we all remark on how much the young actors have grown. Yes, we get it. They were little kids and now they’re young adults…blah blah blah. Thankfully we’ll only have to beat that dead horse one last time. As the books progressed the characters naturally matured and changed. The obvious “chosen one” for these changes is Harry Potter himself. Daniel Radcliffe has once again delivered a strong performance. In the last film Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) got to stretch his comedic muscles. This time he has been handed some weighty issues to deal with including a burgeoning romance with Hermione. It’s rewarding to see Rupert making that transition from awkward teen (and often over-shadowed by his more famous friend) to confident man.
I have a feeling this movie is going to be completely polarizing. I think fans of the series are going to be happy with what they see. Deathly Hallows is a dense book with many reveals and tying up of loose ends. Screenwriter Steve Kloves, who has done 5 of the previous Harry Potter scripts, does an admiral job of selecting important scenes and dialogue and director Yates handily captures the creepiness and somberness of this, the most dramatic of Harry Potter books. The issue for those audience members who haven’t read the book will be how slow and devoid of big action sequences Part One is. While there are emotional and exciting moments they’re spread out over the lengthy film. It’s essentially a big set up for what’s sure to be the epic finale. And therein lies what will separate those who like this movie from those who don’t.