Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

(11/19/10; Fantasy)
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Tom Felton, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Helena Bonham Carter
SCR: Steve Kloves; based on the novel by J. K. Rowling
DIR: David Yates
MPAA: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality.
2 hours 26 mins
BOX: $292,761,214

It might have initially seemed like a crass business decision to split the final Harry Potter book (out of seven) into two movies, but it turns out to be the right creative decision. After all, this epic chapter is where the entire series has been heading the whole time: the final war between boy wizard Harry Potter (Radcliffe) and the evil Lord Voldemort (Fiennes). The evil wizards want to reshape the world so they can rule over the non-magical folks. And that means ridding the world of Potter, otherwise known as “the boy who lived.”

I have to admit, I’ve always been at arm’s length with this series. I take each on a film-by-film basis, but can report this much: there will probably never be another line of films that so faithfully adapts a long-running book series with (largely) the same cast throughout and functions effectively as one long story.

Yates’ third Potter movie is more confident and ominous, largely due to the encroachingly dark tale; and partially because the actors who have grown up together as these characters deliver full-bodied performances. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have grown into good actors, perfectly at home among UK’s finest thespians, all of whom invest in this fantasy world with the gravitas of Shakespeare. Carter seems like an unhinged lunatic, which may or may not be a compliment – have you seen her dazed act on talk shows?

Yates handles the intimate scenes as well as the epic-laden conflicts and sporadic CGI. Most importantly, due to the extended running time, it all breathes quite nicely. And when Big Things permanently alter this world, they are given proper heft, such as the death that leads into this film’s cliffhanger.

If I’m being vague, it’s because devoted fans will already know every beat, before it arrives. And so, with the world of the muggles, half-bloods and squibs torn asunder, we proceed to Part 2 … (Warner Bros.)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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