The rumours are true, the latest Harry Potter is the darkest and deadliest yet, but it's still a magical movie and a great addition to the cinematic franchise.
At this point in the Harry Potter saga, the seventh movie and final book The Deathly Hallows (split in two), there are lots of interesting characters and plot points to service and at the same time advance the story to an exciting finale.
Even though the movie is quite bleak, there's some great humour and endearing moments and that's mainly due to the chemistry of the three main characters and actors. They really have grown, literally and figuratively, and they feel more natural on camera, with even Daniel Radcliffe not trying too hard to be a good actor. Emma Watson really is a joy to watch and I hope to see more of her after the Harry Potter films conclude.
The movie has lots of action, from Harry's escort to the safety of the Weasley's Burrow, Death Eater attacks, to the trios infiltration and escape from the Ministry of Magic. The urgency of the woodland chase is especially dramatic and makes up for the seemingly overlong period where Harry and Hermione travel alone.
In addition to the film dragging in Ron's absence (he really does provide much needed comic relief at times), it's surprising how much the movie resembles the horror genre, from the snake Nagini's transformation from an old lady, to blood splattered ceilings and the realistic torture of Hermione. Hmm, when did this stop being a children's story?
Even though it was dark, one highlight of the movie was the animation used to relate the tale of the three brothers, wonderfully narrated by Hermione. It seemed refreshingly original and was a great visual relief from the bleakness of the live-action movie.
Something else I'm grateful for was not seeing the movie in 3D, although you could see where it would work effectively, like when the snake jumps towards the screen.
One thing the movies (and the books) often suffer from is the repetitious nature with which Hermione finds clues in an ancient tome after lots of waiting which then propels the story forward. Plus, with hordes of characters on both sides to contend with, we're also introduced to even more characters with historical significance in the wizarding world, non-Potter-philes must be totally mystified by this stage.
One criticism with the movie adaptations, which is really highlighted in this film, is the fate of the house elf Dobby. Having not really seen him since the second movie and having the equal rights for house elves storyline removed from the movie to streamline the narrative, his sacrifice in this movie feels less important and significance more forced. And for this fact I'm not sure whether it's powerful enough a place to end the first half of the final book.
Saying that, the movie isn't totally devoid of emotional weight. From the very start when Hermione is forced to wipe her parents memories to keep them safe (and when again she has to wipe the minds of Death Eaters to keep her friends safe), to Hedwig's sacrifice and Hermione's suffering, there's a lot happening in the movie.
Funnily enough after dragging for a while the film rushes to a climax at the Malfoy's mansion, which seems over too quickly, and rather than a really satisfying conclusion we're just left to wait until the final installment next July.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 is an entertaining and engaging film and deserves four **** stars, although you can't help but feel they've saved the best until last.
Roll on Part 2...