Welcome to This Could Get Hairy, where each week I will review one of the seven Harry Potter movies released thus far in anticipation of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 this July. I’ve seen all of the Potter films before, but revisiting them in order, with having not watched some of them in quite some time, should be interesting. Share your comments and thoughts as we prepare to bid farewell – assuming Warner Bros. doesn’t foolishly attempt to “reboot” the franchise in five years – to Harry and his friends for good.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Release Date: Nov. 19, 2010
Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves
Runtime: 2 hrs 30 mins
Gross: $295,001,070(domestic); $660,000,000 (foreign); $955,001,070 (total)
The beginning of the end. Warner Bros. decided to split Deathly Hallows into two films. As a fan of the books, I saw this as a chance for the whole book to really get a chance to play out on screen. Cynics called it a cash grab by the studio in an effort to keep its lucrative franchise going for one more film (makes sense. who wouldn’t want an extra billion dollars?). I’ve actually been surprised by some of the negative reactions to Deathly Hallows Part 1. I think this is a masterful film and is perhaps only bested by the film preceding it, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I will admit, however, that it can’t help but feel incomplete. But what else do you expect from a film that just stops in the middle of a book?
If any film should be criticized as a setup or early chapter in a longer story, it would be Half-Blood Prince, which really just feeds straight into Deathly Hallows. The final three films in the saga might as well be their own trilogy.
This film benefits a ton from giving the original text some room to breathe. It doesn’t feel chopped or stunted, though it still has its share of cuts. It plays out quite organically.
We begin with a surprisingly moving scene in which Hermione wipes the memories of her parents, for their protection and hers. This was added from the book, and it gives us a sense of sacrifice for things to come.
Snape wanders up to Malfoy Manor, Voldemort’s new compound. The Malfoys look spectacularly disheveled and enslaved, basically. You can tell they don’t want Voldemort in their home.
After some light discussion and the murder of a Hogwarts teacher, all while Snape looks on, Voldemort blabbers about how he and Harry’s wands can’t be used to kill each other because they share a core. Voldy will, therefore, need another wand, so he takes Malfoys.
Now back at Privet Drive for one last hurrah. The Dursleys are only seen briefly. We don’t get much understanding of Petunia (sadly), or dialogue in any way (you know, the whole “the Dursleys need to leave because Voldemore will kill them” thing). In a deleted scene, Dudley actually walks up to Harry and tells him he doesn’t find him to be a waste of space. This was a nice redemption for Dudley in the book, but David Yates felt that it took the focus off of Harry Standing there and being silent. *cough*
Harry also sets Hedwig free, knowing he can’t take her on his journey. I was a bit let down at first because, you see, Hedwig is the first casualty in Deathly Hallows. I suppose Heydey Films couldn’t stand to off her. And I like death.
The Order of the Phoenix and Harry’s pals show up at Privet Drive. What follows is a pretty comical scene in which other wizards and wizardettes transform into Harry via Polyjuice Potion. Daniel Radcliffe must have had a ball learning how to act like the other actors. It’s a great scene.
The team set off into the night. See, the book explains that it is Harry’s birthday, and since he is now a legal adult int he wizarding world, the love/familial protection/enchantment that kept him safe with the Dursleys has expired. The seven Harrys are to serve as decoys on the journey to the Burrow.
A great battle ensues in the air above London. The real Harry rocks it sidecar style with Hagrid on Sirius’ old motorcycle. Death Eaters are chasing everyone. Then Hedwig suddenly appears. A Death Eater pursuing Harry and Hagrid zaps her with some Avada Kedavra. Goodbye, Hedwig. My death count is still intact.
Eventually, Voldemort appears and he and Harry lock wands again (I thought that could only happen in the past because the wands shared a core? How does this happen with Malfoy’s?). Harry escapes the scenario and ditches Tom Riddle. Not to make unfair comparisons to the book, but in the book the Death Eaters figure out which Harry is the real Harry because Harry is out casting namby-pamby Expelliarums and Stupefy spells while Death Eaters are trying to actually maim and kill everyone. The DEs have picked up on Harry’s lack of cojones and spot him, accordingly. Be a freaking MAN, Potter.
Alright, we get to the Burrow. Everyone but Mad-Eye arrive. Apparently Mad-Eye was killed in the battle, as in the book. Death count intact.
Bill Nighy shows up as the Minister of Magic (it’s never explained that the previous one was ousted following Order of the Phoenix) and gives Harry, Hermione and Ron three items from Dumbledore’s will: the first snitch Harry ever caught, a book about Beatle the Bard, and a deluminator, respectively.
Bill Weasley is marrying the hot French chick from the fourth film, so we get some wedding action. Harry hears about Dumbledore actually being some kind of creep from a freaky old woman, while a man who must have invented the multi-shirt popped collar defends Dumbledore.
Death Eaters crash the wedding and Harry, Ron, and Hermione disapparate and pop up in London. And now, we begin the great, solitary journey. As a sidenote, I love that the kids have apparently mastered hordes of new spells, even in silence, since the last movie. So, what, outside of school and in a month-long lag between books they’ve suddenly gained five years’-worth experience?
The kids are alone. They fight some Death Eaters in a diner and make their way to ol’ Grimmauld Place from the fifth film. Kreacher the house elf is still there. At the end of the sixth film we learn that the locket that Harry and Dumbledore acquired in the cave was a replacement, and that the real one was elsewhere. Harry realizes the locket was likely taken by Sirius’ brother and asks Kreacher where it was. Kreacher tells them Mundungus Fletcher, a sort of pimp version of Bob Hoskins, took it when he cleaned out the house.
We come to learn that good ol’ Dolores Umbridge has the locket. The trio stalk some Ministry workers, drug them, and use Polyjuice potion to assume their identities. They then go to the ministry to find the locket. We get some comedy here in the vein of having to be flushed down a toilet to enter the Ministry, Ron becoming a method actor with his new identity, and Harry hopping around with the weirdest gait I’ve ever seen.
The Ministry has fallen since the wedding and is now some sort of fascist front. I’m not sure whether I love or cringe at the countless gestapo and fascism allusions throughout the place. Basically, the Ministry is conducting a few Inquisition, stripping half-bloods of power.
We find Umbridge here. She’s wearing the locket. Harry, of course, Stupefys her, jacks the locket, and the kids get on their way after fighting off some Dementors and a creepy Scottish dude. This, of course, begs the question as to why they didn’t just set the whole place ablaze, knock out everyone in their path, and carry on their way, because now that the Scottish guy followed them as they apparated, they cannot return to Grimmault place. Time for the road.
A lot of people hate this part of the movie. I admit it drags a bit. At least it’s broken up by the Godric’s Hollow sequence.
Ron was injured in the apparation out of the Ministry and spends the bulk of his time thinking that Harry and Hermione are having an affair. We get some pretty comedic moments from Rupert Grint (“Yeah, I’m still here!”), before Ron tells Harry that this fight isn’t just about him, that he has no family, and that he’s wasting his time. Goodbye, Ron.
Harry and Hermione travel to Godric’s Hollow, home of Harry’s parents, and as it turns out, Dumbledore and Godric Gryffindor. Also resident in the Hollow is Bathilda Bagshot, an historian who might have some answers for the lost duo.
After a touching moment with Harry finding his parents’ graves and his demolished childhood home, the kids run into Bathilda. She is scary as hell.
She’s also alarmingly quiet. Only when she has Harry alone does she start blabbering in Parseltongue and then – holy geez! – her body crumples and Nagini, that freaking snake, comes out. She’s been in there the whole time! Bathilda is dead and loving it. Harry and Hermione escape. Something I wish would have been included from the book in this sequence is that because Harry has regular visions of whatever Voldemort is actually doing, he realizes that Nagini has called her master when she meets Harry in Bathilda form. In the book, Harry actually sees Voldemort making his way into Godric’s Hollow and even up the stairs of Bathilda’s house before he and Hermione jet. It’s really tense and would have played well in the movie.
Back to the outback. Scotland is lovely in winter.
A random Patronus just shows up one night. Harry should know better by now than to follow anonymous magical objects (somebody never listened to “The Safety Kids” growing up), but he does, anyway. And what does he find?? BAM! Sword of Gryffindor underneath some ice! Harry decides to go in and get it, all while wearing the real Horcrux necklace (smart move, dude. You didn’t think to take it off before diving in?), which chokes him and tries to drown him.
Ron shows up and saves the day! Harry opens the Horcrux and then we get this wild sequence of the Horcrux trying to talk down to Ron, replete with images of Harry and Hermione not just trash talking Ron (Harry: “Your mother told me she would have preferred me as a son.” HA! Hermione: “Why I choose YOU over The Chosen One?” Smart girl), but Harry and Hermione topless and making out! So strong! Many parents hated this part. I don’t think it’s that offensive. Also, why are you taking your kids to see Deathly Hallows? Have we not picked up on the darker tones of the series by this point?
Horcrux is gone. The children decide to visit Luna Lovegood’s father, Xenophilius, who is insane and Welsh, just like the actor who plays him, Rhys Ifans.
Al the while, you see, Hermione has been putting some stuff together in her wee head, and realized that she’s seen the same symbol in the book she was given by Dumbledore, as well as on a necklace Xenophilius wears. The chil’en pay him a visit and we get a spectacularly animated story showing the history of the Death Hallows, which were three objects given to three brothers as a reward for vanquishing Death: a wand more powerful than any other – the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and an invisibility cloak. Hmmm, and invisibility cloak, you say…?
Now it all makes sense. Voldemore hates death and he’s clearly after these artifacts, namely the wand.
Turns out Luna has been kidnapped by Death Eaters and Xeno is trying to capture Harry and Co. to negotiate a prisoner swap. The trio escape, but are eventually captured by some Victorian-era-meets-Blade-Runner sort of mercenaries, and taken back to Malfoy Manor. Hermione is tortured by Bellatrix. Harry has been carrying around a shard of mirror in his sock (with zero explanation before this film. He just has it). He repeatedly sees who appears to be Dumbledore in the frame of the mirror shard. He asks whoever is in the mirror to help them. In just a moment, Dobby appears! Ah, Dobby!
Dobby has been in the books intermittently up to this point, but film-wise, he’s only in Chamber of Secrets. I’m glad the filmmakers left him in here.
The silly house elf escapes with Luna, a goblin, and Ollivander, the wandmaker. He then returns to help Harry and Ron get the rest out of there.
Wormtail is in the house. Dobby stuns him as he opens the cage to the dungeon. With him knocked out, Harry and Ron head upstairs to raise some hell. But Wormtail is not dead. His silver hand is supposed to kill him for allowing Harry to live! Man! Death count ruined! Maybe they’ll fix this in Part 2….
I love watching Dobby trash his previous masters’ place. He blows away Lucius a few times, disarms Narcissa, and Harry physically takes Draco’s wands. All is well! The gang disapparate, but not before a spinning dagger, thrown by Bellatrix, enters the apparation (?) stuff. I kinda hate this part. It’s overdone. Slow-mo dagger? Very obvious self-eulogizing by Dobby? I know what is coming next, so it makes it a bit heavy-handed.
The kids are on the beach. Everyone is safe!
Except Dobby. He took the knife. He dies in Harry’s arms. This is, perhaps, the most innocent death in the Potter series (well, besides Hedwig, but she can’t talk), and it’s heartbreaking to watch Dobby die while Harry moans and asks for someone to do something. I know that Harry Potter himself is a bit of a Christ figure, but Dobby really drives home the idea of selfless sacrifice right here.
And now we get an awkward shot of Voldemort creeping into Dumbledore’s tomb and stealing his wand…. the Elder Wand!
That was an excessively long explanation. Can you imagine trying to do that all in one movie? We still have over a third of the book left!
I love Deathly Hallows. It is paced well. It covers a ton of territory. It is pretty faithful to the book, but not in a lame Chris Columbus sort of way. Sure, some of the extra book stuff might have been nice (the aforementioned wussiness espoused by Harry, some extra use of Polyjuice potion – but that would have left us with long stretches without actually seeing Daniel Radcliffe, a greater sense that the entire wizarding world is being persecuted, etc), but overall, Yates hits his stride with this film.
It is unbelievably dark, both in tone and the color palette. Seriously, try watching it on half of a computer screen in a normally-lit room. There are portions when you can barely see anything because the color palette is so grey!
Deathly Hallows suffers the most from not feeling complete, but since that is sort of the nature of the beast, I can’t hate on it too much for that. I don’t mind the extended stuff in the wilderness as the kids mope around, unsure of what to do. It is refreshing to have a Potter film that doesn’t just blast at a breakneck pace at the sacrifice of nuance. I suppose, though, given the overall slower nature of the Half-Blood Prince film, fans might have been a bit put off by an hour’s romp in the wilderness.
This is a very worthy entry in the Potter canon. I look forward to watching Parts 1&2 in order to really see how they play together.
I can’t wait for Part 2! I’ll post a review of it tomorrow, after seeing it tonight. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed all seven reviews thus far.