Only two movies left. Then we can move on to bully some other beloved franchise run by an idiot.
Part one of Deathly Hallows is often bullied by the fanbase. It’s slow-paced, it’s dull, there’s not much going on, and a lot of the stuff in it doesn’t make sense. These are the points often brought up in regards to this film. And these are the points that I’ve been making for years.
Then I watched it again for this review. And you know what? I actually kind of like this movie now. My issues are still present. But looking back on it, I never realized just how strong this movie’s strengths are!
With the death of Dumbledore, nothing stands between Voldemort and total domination. Nothing, of course, except Harry Potter. With the world slowly turning against him, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must now go into hiding and hunt down Voldemort’s Horcruxes, the magical artifacts that contain fragments of the Dark Lord’s soul. Can our three heroes defeat Voldemort and his armies on their own? Or has Dumbledore sent them on a suicide mission?
Firstly: I think that splitting the story of the book between two movies was an ingenious move. It lets this movie set the stage for the grand finale easily and smoothly without leaving the audience hungry for more. It also lets the pair of films completely adapt every single event and detail from the book without leaving anything out, which is absolutely necessary for this particular story. And it gives breathing room for the second part to do what it needs to in order to end this story as it needs to end. Plenty of other series have tried this same approach but I don’t think any of them understand why this one did it in the first place.
Now, to address one point: yes, this movie can be a bit boring at times. But I think that dullness is fought off wonderfully by the character drama. This is the first time in the series where we see just how miserable this war of Harry and Voldemort’s makes the whole world and we can feel it like a semi-truck is hitting us full-on. Our three main heroes and everyone around them are completely miserable from start to end and we can see that both in the writing and the visuals; you can literally see the effect it has on Harry, Ron, and Hermione over the course of the film.
With the exception of the wedding. Why would you have a wedding in times like these? With the most wanted man in the country, Harry Potter, attending? And why would you make it public? And set it in a place that the Death Eaters attacked literally one movie ago? Are you completely stupid or do you all have a shared death wish?
That critique aside, I feel like the miserable tone really adds to the performances here. We can see just how well the main three actors have grown with each other. This film shows us the darkest, lowest points of each of these characters and the actors portray it flawlessly. We can see exactly how comfortable they’ve grown with each other over the years while playing these characters and it makes their performances incredibly compelling. Whether the stress is getting to them and they’re screaming their heads off at each other or they’re simply sharing a quiet moment of contemplation and love with each other, these three are absolutely wonderful together.
I also love the relationship between Harry and Hermione in this movie. It’s very rare that a story explore a completely platonic friendship between a man and a woman and this one does it very well. When Ron leaves, the two are left completely alone together and we can see just how much the two rely on each other. Not because they’re considering banging in the tent, but because they understand, respect, and trust each other on such a deep level. It’s an incredibly small thing that doesn’t last very long, but I found it to be profoundly powerful and emotionally engaging!
This movie also has plenty of tense and exciting setpieces to keep the audience engaged. The opening chase sequence where everyone has to disguise themselves as Harry is a ton of fun; I love watching Daniel Radcliffe pretending to be everyone else in the cast. And the main three breaking into the Ministry of Magic to rob Umbridge is also a blast! I wish that Umbridge played a larger role in it, but the final escape scene is incredibly tense and dramatic! If you just want magical action, this movie does still have some stuff for you!
That being said, the action isn’t perfect. The camera shakes so violently during action scenes that it’s hard to tell what is actually happening half of the time. Plus, the movie is so dark and devoid of color that it really isn’t interesting to look at almost all of the time. If it weren’t for the creepy animated aestetic of the Deathly Hallows story book scene and the phenomenal music, I’d say that this is one of the worst looking movies in the series.
Like… why does Dobby look better in the second movie than he does in the seventh?
It’s easy to see why people don’t like this movie. Hell, I didn’t for the longest time. But upon revisiting it, I do think it’s a stronger movie than I gave it credit for. Yes, the issues I and others had with it are still present. But overall, it’s actually a fairly solid and engaging flick.
And again: it sets the stage for the grand finale perfectly. And hoo boy, what a finale it is.