Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 1. is a good film–a solid film, giving a good arc and screentime to all three of the main characters, and a host of others. There’s plenty of action, but this film also takes time to develop the story and the characters. I stood in line at the Yukon Cinema for two hours to get in to the first showing (-10 C)–so my standards had to go up for how good this film had to be. And I felt like, in the end, it was worth it.
You know the premise: Harry Potter and team are on the run from Voldemort. Nowhere is safe. Harry is out to find as many pieces of Voldemort’s soul as he can and destroy them. We aren’t at Hogwarts anymore. But the lessons, it seems, still go on–and the grades are worth more.
Some small spoilers follow—but nothing major. Read later after you’ve seen the movie. It’s just me talking about the really cool character arcs–but I do a bit of telling what characters do.
I was pleased at how much this film is about Hermoine. The opening sequence has her erasing the memories of her from her parents’ minds, and also from every picture in the house. She has, in effect, erased her existence in the Muggle world. The film highlights the extreme displacement the kids feel by not being in Hogwarts, and you feel it too. The camera shots from above the various geographies, rotate just slightly, giving you the feeling of being lost. And these students are lost, very lost. They are on the run, and no place is safe. Hermoine guides them through past memories of her childhood, and the movie plays out as a backwards rendition of those memories she has erased. Each place they disparate to, or jump to, is a place she alone remembers from her past. When she is tortured in the film, we realize how much she has always been in potential danger at Hogwarts, especially because she is Muggle born. While Draco Malfoy always carried the racism and bigotry into Hogwarts, because he was a child–he had no power to enforce that bigotry, and we assumed that it would be knocked out of him. Hogwarts has obviously failed a few times to instill responsible and compassion in its students. Voldemort carries this much farther. On a purity spree, he is trying to subjugate the world of Muggles under wizardry control. Hermoine represents muggles on the run, Muggles fighting back. She even helps save another Muggle-born woman who has been stripped of her wand in a courtroom scene straight from the Inquisition. We know that the imperative for the wizards getting back in control of Voldemort is to save mankind, not just themselves. And we realize that the last six books were about Hogwarts, a school that taught morality and self-control to people who had great, destructive and constructive powers. Hogwarts is what stands between wizards and witches taking over the world–young wizards’ and witches’ education is paramount to our safety.
Ron has a great arc as well, as his whole family is left fighting against Voldemort while he and Harry and Hermoine are trying to find the horcruxes. Every day he listens to the radio to see if his family is okay. And every day they don’t find a horcrux is another day that he isn’t doing something to stop the war. He feels guilty that he’s “doing nothing” and doubly guilty because he gets to be with the woman he loves all the time. This turns in him, and with the help of an evil horcrux which amplifies those feelings of betraying his family, it causes him to rage against his friends, and make a big decision. It’s a huge move for a major character. We know part of is the horcrux, but part of it stems from six books of Ron Weasley being seen as less than all of his siblings, and standing in the shadows of Harry Potter. He now has to play the hero–and while he wants to so badly, there’s a fear that it’s always just “playing” and that this playing is actually taking away from a larger duty he owes his family back home. His arc represents, to me at least, the wizarding families and the freedom they are likely to lose if Voldemort wins, and the sacrifices they make to keep people safe.
Harry, though frustrated as a leader, has a lot of moments to make good and bad decisions as he goes. I like that he learns that his friends are doing the best they can. They are counting on him to know what he’s doing–and sometimes he does and sometimes he’s just an 18 year old who is figuring things out as he goes. I like that he’s learning to be a leader here under trying circumstances and there are moments in the film that he shows how good of a leader he can be. We know the final film will explore even more of Harry’s character, and Dumbledore’s. I wonder how much they’ll bring out the relationship between Grindewald and Dumbledore. I’m very excited to see how Harry reaches what he has to reach in the next film.
Even though this film deviates from its normal Hogwarts school year–I was pleased to see that the way the earlier films marked the passing of time was kept in this one: holidays. So even though you are on the run, Harry, you still mark time the same.
Deathly Hallows does have some overtones of Lord of the Rings, as Harry searches for multiple objects, so that he can destroy them. The scene interrogating Creature about a locket gave me Gollum, Frodo, Samwise feelings all over the place. And the dream sequences of seeing Voldemort closing in on various people acted like Sauron’s eye in reverse.
And then come to the middle of the film, I was surprised and charmed to find such a finely animated film inside. When the story of the “Three Brothers” is read aloud by Hermoine, the film indulges in a beautiful moment of cinema. I was entranced. The short segment is worth its own short film status–and I would definitely be interested in seeing a film like this made from the stories in Beetle the Bard. If this was the director’s way of seeing if we’re interested in seeing that film–let me be the first to say, yes.
Overall, the film far exceeded my expectations, in that it brought out threads that resonated with the first six films, and managed to find humor in the darkest book of the HP series. It also gave such meaty character building parts to Ron, Hermoine and Harry–just when you thought you knew them, now you see them grow again. This is the perfect culmination movie.
Kudos to the folks at the Yukon Cinemas for decorating the theatre, keeping peace, for filming the line, and asking us trivia questions for prizes. Thank you for threatening any person who had cellphone nonsense during the movie with immediate expulsion. Please do this for every movie! I’m very proud of our how well Yukon Theatre did with the massive crowds, and regulating traffic. And they were all dressed in Hogwarts robes! Priceless.