“The Ministry of Magic has fallen. The Minister is dead. They are coming.”
The Scoop: 2010 12A, directed by David Yates and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.
Tagline: Nowhere is Safe
Summary Capsule: The beginning of the end for the long-running battle between good and evil, as personified by a flat-faced magic-using psychopath and his teenage nemesis.
Louise’s rating: 5 out of 7 horcruxes (that we know about).
Louise’s review: I’m going to assume I don’t need to go over the story of Harry Potter. Reviews of previous installments in the story are here, here, here, here, here and here, and there’s lots of plot there for you to read if you want to do so.
This film is rather hard-going for all concerned. It’s a grim, fearful slog, and for most of it we don’t know what we’re doing or where we’re going. The only two characters who seem immune to the grind are Lord Voldemort, because he’s driving events (mainly murdering innocents), and Dumbledore, because he’s dead and, as they say, well shot of the situation. Everyone else has no choice but to suffer through it.
Let’s take the antagonists, the witches and wizards who are supposedly on the side of Voldemort. Voldemort is now in charge of the Establishment, i.e. the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts School, so his followers are acting openly and in positions of authority. So why do they look so tired and frightened? Maybe they’re realizing that it was a lot more fun being a Deatheater when they weren’t actually under the thumb of a fascist tyrant? Maybe it was better when they could talk about restoring him and exulting over the Muggles, but actually they were free to live their own lives unmolested?
So to the protagonists’ allies, the witches and wizards fighting for peace between magical and non-magical folks, in addition to just law and happy order. In other words, the side of Good. Well, they’re in a fix as well. Early on, they lose control of the Ministry and have to go underground. Fear and suspicion and the shadow of death hang over them. Neutral or chaotic characters fare no better.
Finally, to our protagonists. Harry, Ron and Hermione have been tasked with finding and destroying the horcruxes which protect Voldemort. Voldemort has divided his soul into several pieces and hidden them in these seemingly ordinary objects, and while they exist, he cannot be completely killed. The problem is that they are beginning this quest with little idea of what the horcruxes are and with no way to get rid of them. The audience spend most of their time following these three as they get increasingly frustrated with the job at hand, the war and each other. There’s a lot of camping, plans which don’t quite work, and a rather aimless feel. The climax, when it does come, is the result of outside influences rather than any decisions or realizations they make on their own.
This then is Deathly Hallows Part One. The main thrust is the search for the horcruxes, and the growing realization that Voldemort is searching for the legendary Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world. The children obviously would like to find the horcruxes before Voldemort gets his hands on the Elder Wand, or he realizes what they are up to. On a wider scale, the wizarding world is at war, and it’s bigger than just Harry. The grown ups who give their lives at his side are not just doing it for him, and at the same time, he doesn’t have the experience or the power to combat Voldemort all on his own. Additionally, we learn more about the secret history of Dumbledore and Ron has to deal with six years of being perceived as a sidekick, an afterthought and an also-ran.
From an audience’s point of view, it’s hard. It begins quite well, with a diverting CGI-heavy scene featuring seven decoy Harrys and Bill Weasley’s wedding, but from then on it’s pretty much unrelenting misery. There are some good sequences, such as the infiltration of the Ministry using Polyjuice Potion (very reminiscent of when they broke into Slytherin Common Room back in book 2) and an unexpected dance. Hermione’s story of the Deathly Hallows is beautifully animated and definitely the highlight of the film. Mainly, however, it’s ARGUEARGUE GLOWER PITCHTENT HORCRUXHORCRUX COINCIDENCECOINCIDENCE WOODS. That doesn’t mean to say it’s not enthralling if you’re invested in the story and have followed it this far. Daniel Radcliffe gives in my opinion his best performance as Harry yet (and maybe that’s precisely because the plot leaves him alone for more than five minutes). Dobby returns and Rhys Ifans appears as Luna Lovegood’s dad Xenophilius, bringing back fond memories of both Spike in Notting Hill and The Lizard from Amazing Spider-Man. That’s quite a job for one performance.
I would say that it is only really worth you watching Part One if you are a confirmed fan of the franchise and would watch it no matter what anybody said. When I saw it for the first time I was left panting for the next bit of the story, but it doesn’t really bear repeat viewings. Otherwise, I would advise you to familiarize yourself with what the Deathly Hallows actually are, and see us later for Part Two.
- Bill Weasley is played by Domhnall Gleeson, the son of Brendan Gleeson, a.k.a. Mad-Eye Moody.
- No Hogwarts! No Hogwarts at all!
Moody: Fair warning, it tastes like goblin piss.
Fred: Have a lot of experience with that, Mad-Eye? Just trying to diffuse the tension.
Voldemort: Severus, we were beginning to think that you’d lost your way. Come, we’ve saved you a seat.
Luna: I’ve interrupted a deep thought, haven’t I? I can see it growing smaller in your eyes.
Bellatrix: You stupid elf, you could have killed me!
Dobby: Dobby never meant to kill. Dobby meant only to maim, or seriously injure!
If you liked this movie, try:
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- The Hobbit parts one, two and three
- Breaking Dawn parts one and two
This came off the worse in the splitting-up of the seventh book, I think, with lots of padding (most of it camping) that really saps the narrative momentum and makes the middle sag. It also bears the withered fruit of poor screenwriting decisions from Half-Blood, which forced it to introduce and re-introduce a bunch of characters who had been cut out of movies 1-5 but were now suddenly important.
But it does have Dobby getting waxed, which is a pleasure we never got with Jar-Jar Binks, and for that I’m willing to let all the rest slide 🙂