Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

When I started this blog twelve years ago, most of the Harry Potter films had already been released, so they were not featured posts here, with the exception of the final film in the original series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2“. I did visit a 20th Anniversary screening of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” just last year, so even though it was a revival visit, there is a post on it. I continue to write about the Fantastic Beasts series, but probably with less enthusiasm as I go along, next months entry does not have me particularly excited. Today however, I saw “Deathly Hallows Part 1” and this gives me an opportunity to go back to the original series and fill in another entry for this blog.

Starting with “Goblet of Fire”, the Potter series grew grimmer with each episode. Of the last five films, this movie is the most despairing and saddest of the movies. It impressed me when it first came out in 2010, and I must have watched it at home four or five times over the last decade. Upon first viewing I felt it was a bit incomplete, but this is a movie that gets better with each additional visit. When the book of the Deathly Hallows came out, we complained about the three hundred page camping trip in the middle. It seemed long in the film as well, but on reflection it is handled extremely well by screenwriter Steven Kloves who did all but one of the original films. This is an adaptation that should have received awards attention because they ended up spitting the book perfectly into two films and each one got all of the essential information into the story, in spite of some of the complex written paths that had been laid out. 

It is true that a large segment of the movie is essentially the three main protagonists in a tent, it doesn’t feel that way. First of all, the movie starts with two great sequences, one of which is so sad it might bring a tear to your eye. When Hermione obliviates her parents memory of her and she walks away from her home, you know this will not be a happy story. The escape from Privet Drive with all of the Harry poly juice variations is thrilling and contains a great deal of humor. It is finished off however with the loss of a beloved animal and maybe my favorite character in the series. When the story transitions to more narrative and exposition moments, it does not linger over all the talk. The wedding scene has enough snippets of information without bogging down the story, that we will be able to follow some of the threads later in this film and in the next. 

The raid on Gringot’s happens  in part Two, but we do get a very effective sequence where Harry, Ron and Hermione, penetrate the now conquered Ministry of Magic, to recover the locket Horcrux. There is tension and humor and some great special effects moments in this segment, and it all happens before the camping trip. Even when they are hiding out in the woods, there are some good scenes. The dance of sadness between Harry and Hermione is a moment of relief from the doomsday scenario the characters are feeling. The trip to Godric’s Hollow is also in this part of the film and it is atmospheric as heck and just what the movie needed at that point, and finally, when Ron returns to the fold and he and Harry destroy their first Horcrux, it is visualized in a disturbing manner that also suggests how adult the story has become. 

Hogwarts is a memory at most in this film, we never visit there directly, although there is a brief moment on the Hogwarts’ Express. We are as isolated as the characters are from what is happening in the world, with the director and screenwriter deciding to hint at those events only through some headlines in the Daily Prophet and the radio signal from other outcasts from the school. The most beautiful moments in a bleak film are done in animation, telling the tragic story of the three Brothers and the origin of the Deathly Hallows, it is a terrific sequence that stands out for it’s creativity at exposition in an interesting manner. 

The most dramatic moments of the film come at the conclusion as a narrow escape is accomplished at an exorbitant cost. The antagonist of the film has achieved his goal and our heroes are dejected at the conclusion of the film. In spite of how dismal the horizon looks, the story still suggests there is a path to success and that is, the only thing the audience can cling to at the end. I will add that the score by Alexandre Desplat, who was new to the series, was amazing. The music matched the mood throughout the story and it often made some of the tougher sequences emotionally bearable. 

So this is probably a little late for most of you, but as I said, I did not get the opportunity the first time around. “Half Blood Prince” is my personal favorite of the original eight films, followed closely by “Order of the Phoenix”. “Deathly Hallows Part 1” would be next and as I wrote earlier, it gets better every time I see it. Next week, a second shot at “Deathly Hallows Part 2” .

The Lost City

This one should be short and sweet, it is a popcorn picture that for the most part succeeds and It’s not trying to do anything too innovative. This is a combination Romantic Comedy/Adventure film, and if you hear the title of “Romancing the Stone” in more than one review of the film, there is a reason why, the premise is exactly the same. A romance writer gets caught up in a real life adventure and finds the man of her novels in the real world. The pitch for this movie would be word for word the same as the 1984 film.

Instead of Kathleen Turner we get Sandra Bullock, who may be just a little too long in the tooth for this kind of film, but she gets a pass because she is talented, funny, and has a long history of Rom Coms behind her. Channing Tatum is turning into a great utility player who can be both a romantic lead and a comic foil, and he is both in this movie. If you watch the trailer, you might for a moment believe Brad Pitt is the hero of the film. Pitt is great, don’t get me wrong, he steals a scene with just his voice while doing his trademark munching,  but he is in the film very briefly. 

The big surprise is that Daniel Radcliffe, is a great villain and he has a wicked sense of comic timing in some key scenes. That’s right, Harry Potter is the Voldemort of this story, if Voldemort was a victim of sibling rivalry and had a sense of humor. Even the moments where he plays it straight are pretty effective so good on him. I don’t know why Da’Vine Joy Randolph is new to me, when I looked at her IMDB page, she worked in like eight TV series in the last couple of years, anyway she was very amusing as Bullock’s agent, who takes a serious responsibility for her client. 

A lot of the best bits of humor are spoiled by the trailer but there are a few additional moments that you can still be surprised by. One of the things that surprised me were the clever lines that came every few minutes, directed at our culture of Instagram addicted, barely literate, and now aging millennials. You may find yourself the target a a few barbs here and there. Speaking of sibling rivalry, the movie was co-directed and co written by brothers Aaron and Adam Nee, who look to be in charge of the Masters of the Universe movie that has been promised for the last couple of years. If you are looking forward to that film, you should probably check this one out to get a sense of how these two visualize a story and try to bring humor to it. 

Except for one brief bloody moment, the film is mostly cartoon violence and you can feel pretty safe taking your teens and your Mom to see it. Just be sure you get the refillable bucket of popcorn, because this will keep you munching throughout and enjoying a couple of hours of empty calories for your eyes as well as your stomach.