Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
"Part 1?" Yes, baby. The freaking paperback was almost 800 pages, hence the split. Part 2 comes out next summer.
We All Know Who's In It, Any New Cast Members? Rhy Ifans plays Xenophilius Lovegood (Luna's father), and David O'Hara - from Braveheart, Wanted, and The Departed and who nobody probably cares about but me - plays Albert Runcorn.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three Dobbys out of five.
Tagline: "Nowhere is safe."
Better Tagline: "...but let's hang out in the woods anyway, just in case."
Brief Synopsis: As Lord Voldemort consolidates his power, he casts his net wider for the only person who can stand against him: Harry Potter.
Not So Brief Synopsis: Dumbledore is dead, and Harry, Hermione, and Ron must find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, thus rendering Voldermort...Voldemortal. Meanwhile, You Know Who has effectively taken over the wizarding world, and has set the Death Eaters and Snatchers loose to apprehend undesirables and track down Harry.
What The Hell Are "Deathly Hallows?" Three magical items (the Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone, and Invisibilty Cloak) given by Death to the Peverell brothers. Voldemort is actively searching for the wand, but appears to be unaware that the possessor of all three would supposedly become "master of Death" (which is probably more of a pain in the ass than it sounds).
"Critical" Analysis: I wasn't a fan of the first few Harry Potter flicks. They were kids movies, and necessarily so, but two hours of watching three children who (at the time) weren't very good actors gape at their incredible surroundings got old quick. It wasn't until the series got darker, especially with Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, that I started enjoying them.
Deathly Hallows is, unsurprisingly, the darkest yet. Snape is now headmaster at Hogwarts, the Ministry is patrolled by Death Eaters, and the Order of the Phoenix -- minus an early escape from Privet Drive -- are largely absent. And if all that made sense to you, you have my sympathies.
The film more or less unswervingly follows a pattern established in earlier movies, as the three principles embark on their search to unearth clues about the remaining Horcruxes (two of the seven have already been destroyed) as well as learning of the existence of the Deathly Hallows. Their investigations and protracted periods of hiding out are interrupted by a handful of combat scenes, reminding one of the old adage about warfare: hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror, or words to that effect.
The one thing I remembered from reading The Deathly Hallows back in 2007 was how much of the first half involved Harry, Hermione, and Ron moping around in the woods, and it's to director David Yates' credit (or not) that this is represented pretty faithfully. I understand the premise: we're basically setting the stage for the Battle of Hogwarts and the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. For readers of other fantasy, it's the equivalent of George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows, which you can take any way you like.
Yates has directed three Potter films so far, and I'm still trying to detect the stamp of the guy who made the excellent State of Play back in 2003. Unfortunately, the opportunity for individual directors to make their mark on these films has long passed. The last to do so effectively was Alfonso Cuarón with Prisoner of Azkaban (and to a lesser extent, Goblet's Mike Newell). The series is a nearly-billion-dollar-per-film juggernaut at this point, and all Yates has to do is coax decent performances out of his young charges (who have mercifully matured into halfway decent performers) and make sure the fantastical is a fair representation of what happens in the books.
The movie ends on a couple of down notes (another parallel might be The Empire Strikes Back): Voldemort's discovery of the Elder Wand in Dumbledore's tomb, and Bellatrix Lestrange's murder of Dobby during his rescue of the kids (and Luna, and Ollivander) from Malfoy Manor. And while it's a minor nitpick, I had a bit of a problem with the house elf getting five minutes of weepy screen time (seriously, my friend at the screening was crying) while Mad-Eye Moody's demise takes place offscreen and is mentioned only in passing.
If I may be permitted another Star Wars reference, it was like watching thousands of humans (and sentient aliens) getting blown up in rapid succession in Return of the Jedi, but letting the camera linger agonizingly over a fallen Ewok.
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And am I the only one who finds Bellatrix unbelievably hot?
See It/Rent It/Skip It: Rent it. Though it isn't like any of the Potter faithful will be able to resist lining up on opening weekend.
Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is in theaters today, and likely for several months to come.