The Harry Potter film franchise, much like the fanbase that continues to support it a decade later, has matured with each and every entry into the series and just like any child growing up there have been bumps along the way. There have been high points and low points but each successive film has enthralled audiences and driven their desire to see how the ultimate showdown between good and evil will end. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is that grand finale and it is here, kind of.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is like no other Harry Potter film before it. For one, the film mostly takes place with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) on their own, outside the friendly confines and structure of Hogwarts School For Witchcraft and Wizardry. While Harry and his two best friends have always been the primary focus of the series, it is even more evident now without the benefit of the strong supporting characters and fortunately they do a fine job in keeping the viewer engaged in the unfolding drama.
Harry and friends are put on the run very early on and a good portion of the film involves the three of them camping or hiking in the wilderness alone while trying to avoid Voldemort’s Death Eaters who are actively searching for them. So much of the film is spent in the wilderness that the film could have been called Harry Potter and Friends Go Camping and nobody would have really batted an eye. This is not to say that there is not some excitement and adventure to be had, because there is and it is some of the most intense action to be put into a Harry Potter film to date. However Part 1 is certainly more Fellowship of the Ring than it is Return of the King, it is a lot of buildup to a future payoff that is not in this film, as such the pacing feels off.
With that said, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is going to leave people in a state of flux. This of course was expected, after all the film has been marketed from the get go as the first part of the stunning conclusion. Unfortunately Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 forgets that it itself is a stand alone film and as such should work as one. Sure you can and should expect it to end on a cliff hanger that drives you back to the theater for Part 2 but the abrupt end to this film feels like the reel ended and not an entire film. The problems mostly arise from the source material as there is no great stopping point but I feel director David Yates and his team of screenwriters could have done a better job fashioning something more than the awkward, almost teaser trailer ending that was presented as the films ending.
While it may sound like I am being unduly harsh towards the film in it’s pacing and ending, I did truly enjoy my time watching it. Yates has delivered the best looking Harry Potter film to date featuring some of the the most magical camera work the series has seen. The action scenes, of which there are a good handful, are exciting and tense with the camera making cuts at just the right moment to accentuate the adrenaline fueled sequences to their maximum potential. But as much as the film had me on the edge of my seat, it just is not a very good film by itself.
I have little doubt that Yates and the rest of the Harry Potter crew will deliver the stunning conclusion that everyone is waiting for but until then fans are left with half a movie and that is somewhat disappointing. If you are a hardcore Harry Potter fan, you have already seen the movie and more than likely enjoyed it immensely but if you are just a more casual fan, you may want to wait until Part 2 is released and see the two films back to back as they were obviously intended to be show.
3 out of 5.