Warning: Spoilers ahead!!
I’ve been wanting to see a Harry Potter film be split into two parts for years now, ever since Prisoner of Azkhaban which cut out huge portions of the plot leaving a confusing, if beautifully crafted, movie. Of course, when I heard that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be two movies it felt more like trying to wring money out of the cash cow. And perhaps it is, but for the first time ever, I feel that there’s a Harry Potter movie that’s true to the book.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t problematic story moments. It felt odd that the director, David Yates, didn’t make time for an explanation about Voldemort’s name being taboo (thus truly making him “he who must not be named”) but spends five minutes on a silly will-they/won’t-they moment with Harry and Hermione. But for the first time, I didn’t feel as though a viewer who had not read the books would walk away confused because something crucial had been left out.
If I’m entirely honest, the moments that I least enjoyed were moments that didn’t really occur in the book. For instance, Harry, Ron and Hermione being chased through the woods by the snatchers felt wrong somehow. It wasn’t because the director felt the need to add another chase sequence, but more because it didn’t make sense. In the book, they didn’t have time to react before they’re surrounded, whilst in the movie they run away instead of grabbing hold of each other and disapparating.
Another movie moment that didn’t sit right with me, personally, was Hedwig’s death. In the movie she is hit by a killing curse while trying to save Harry. It was a nice, heroic death, but it was quite the departure from the tragic, almost pointless death of Hedwig in the book. She was a casualty of war. Because in real life, unlike movies, not everybody gets to die the heroic death saving someone’s life. But this is a personal disappointment to me, and most readers probably won’t feel the same way I do- they may even relish the fact that she died saving Harry.
However, there is a lot to like in this movie, and what is done well, is done very well. The animated scene in which Hermione reads the story of the Three Brothers is genius in its execution. The mis-en-scene throughout is overflowing with detail, making me wish I were watching it at home so that I could pause it and study some of the scenes more closely. The effects are fabulous too though it wouldn’t have justified a 3D release so I’m glad they weren’t able to do that.
The action is non-stop. I particularly enjoyed the duel in the cafe in London. You could almost replace the wands with guns and the scene would be not at all out of place in any number of non-magical movies. Some may have problem with that, but I thought it added to the idea that Voldemort was not just a threat to wizards, but a threat to the muggle world as well.
The performances are all top notch in this movie. The three stars in particular have all grown into their roles quite nicely, with Rupert Grint particularly stepping up his portrayal, as Ron’s mind slowly gets corrupted by the horcrux in the locket. If you don’t believe just how far the (no longer) child actors of Harry Potter have come, just go back to the Philosopher’s Stone and you’ll see what a dramatic difference there is between their performances in that movie, compared to the Deathly Hallows.
A lot of reviewers will tell you that this is a dark movie, and they’re not wrong there! I have to wonder however, if those that complain of its darkness have actually read the book! In addition to themes of fascism there is torture and murder abound. Would I recommend this movie for kids? Absolutely not. But then the Harry Potter books are designed for readers to mature along with the characters in the series. Who I would recommend this movie for is any Harry Potter fan looking for a reasonably faithful adaptation to a wonderful book.
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