Billed as The Motion Picture Event of a Generation, we at HeyUGuys wouldn’t want anybody to miss out. As such, here’s our recap of seventh book in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. So, without further ado, previously on Harry Potter…
What a beautiful place… to be with friends.
Having watched just about every father figure he has ever had unceremoniously Avada Kedavra’d, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is eager to complete the rest of his imperative mission alone; to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes (shards of He Who Must Not Be Named’s soul). With Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) resolute in their loyalty, however, the trio are soon wandering the streets of muggle London bereft of any safe place to hide. Securing a Horcrux from the Ministry of Magic, our heroes’ progress is stunted when it quickly proves immune to normal magic.
Injured in the escape from the Ministry and buckling under the influence of the locket Horcrux, Ron struggles to cope with trio’s lack of direction, fleeing the camp after having grown increasingly jealous of Harry and Hermione’s apparent closeness. In his absence, Harry and a distraught Hermione visit Harry’s birthplace in a desperate search for answers, hoping that the Sword of Gryffindor – a weapon capable of felling Horcruxes – might be hidden there.
Leaving Godric’s Hollow with another tidbit of information and eventually regrouping with a repentant Ron (who helps Harry retrieve the sword from an icy lake before destroying using it to destroy the locket), the three of them visit Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) regarding a strange symbol he was sporting at the wedding of Bill (Domhnall Gleeson) and Fleur (Clémence Poésy), one which has since cropped up in a book left to Hermione in Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) last will and testament, the headmaster’s old letters and the graveyard where Harry’s parents were burried. Introduced to the story of the Deathly Hallows, three items which give the bearer dominion over death, the trio are soon on the run again when it turns out Lovegood has been compromised. Certain that Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) is after one of the Hallows – the near-omnipotent Elder Wand – Harry realises that he is runnig out of time, a certainty that jars with their capture and imprisonment at the hand of the Malfoys’.
Having vowed at the end of the last movie not to return to Hogwarts for their final year, but to instead track down each of Voldermort’s remaining Horcruxes, it was clear that this would be no ordinary slice of Potter. Though we may begin – as is custom – with a stint at the Dursleys’, the usual hijinks are replaced with a sombre tone as the muggles are shipped off for their own protection. Intercut with scenes showing Hermione and Ron saying one last farewell to their home comforts, composer Alexandre Desplat intricately unites these pre-title sequences with an ominous score which foreshadows the trials ahead and the cumulative gravity of the trio’s plight.
And what a plight it is. Opening with a daring rescue from Privet Drive, one that costs two lives and a Weasley’s ear, the scene is barely set when Harry and Hagrid are thrust into the thick of it atop Sirius Black’s enchanted motorcycle – last seen in the very first movie, almost exactly a decade before (sniff). This is followed by an escape from a Burrow-set wedding and an escape from the Ministry of Magic, a series of accomplished set pieces which shock as much as they impress. Lying in the middle of an autumnal forest, soaked through with blood, it really is harrowing stuff watching Harry choke and Hermione calm a wounded Ron.
Split in two to accommodate the sizable plot of J. K. Rowling’s final tome, this first instalment of the finale doesn’t suffer to the same extent as its predecessors from the transition from page to screen. While it is undoubtedly a welcome change to view the whole story rather than just an abridged, time and money-sensitive interpretation, what’s more of a relief is David Yates’ quieter and less invasive innovation. Gone are the fan-baiting omissions and needless additions, replaced instead with a series of timely and well observed character beats which – if anything – improve on Rowling’s own take on the story.
Each of the central three characters get their own moment to shine, with Ron charmingly lost in a world of Shaftesbury Avenues and cappuccinos, Hermione delighted with her own brilliance (if less than impressed at her hair-dressing skills) and Harry stepping up to the plate to console his heartbroken friend in dance. These are small moments, but they conspire to flesh each character out in the face of the cacophony of loss and destruction awaiting them in Part II. That we don’t see Hogwarts once lends proceedings a freshness and freedom that sets it apart from its predecessors not least in terms of setting but in terms of palpable jeopardy and suffocating dread as well.
While the saga’s cinematography has drawn some attention before, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is without a doubt the best-shot instalment in the series (courtesy of Eduardo Serra), if not one of the best-shot films of last year. Whether framing massive action set pieces, establishing shots or fleeting character nuances, the film is an absolute wonder to behold. Panning across a room-full of Harrys at different stages of Polyjuice transformation and detouring into the horror genre for an inspired snake attack and Horcrux…thing, the diversity on show is simply astounding. This is never truer than in the animated sequence illustrating the story of the Three Brothers, a breathtaking excursion from the main narrative that radiates true artistry.
Making no allowances for Harry Potter laymanism, it really does feel as though the end is nigh. The story has reached a critical mass, bringing together plot and characters from each of the preceding instalments so that they might advise, inform or die in the name of narrative. Ollivander (John Hurt) is plucked from his wand shop in Philosopher’s Stone, Dobby (Toby Jones) returns for the first time (in the films, anyway) since Chamber of Secrets, Lupin (David Thewlis) crops up from Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire‘s Fleur Delacour is marrying Bill Weasley, Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton. Boo!! Hiss!!) apparently survived the Order of the Phoenix and our very own Half-Blood Prince (Alan Rickman) nearly steals the show with an expository cameo towards the beginning.
With Part II looming this cumulative character base will only grow, the prospect of the titanic Battle of Hogwarts promising to juxtapose the contemplative nature (amid explosions, obviously) of this opening chapter with the wall-to-wall action of the next. Having grown up exquisitely, the Harry Potter franchise has outgrown its standing as a mere adaptation, it is – without a doubt – a phenomenon in its own right, uniting national acting treasures with a standard of storytelling and post-production unmatched by the rest of the summer season. Spanning ten years, eight movies, four directors and a worldwide box-office gross of over six billion dollars, the Harry Potter franchise is unmatched in its ambition, like the Sword of Gryffindor only taking in that which makes it stronger.
This is it then, it all ends here. While Part I can only truly be judged in conjunction with Part II it nevertheless justifies the decision to split the final book into two films through its sheer magnificence, a near – heck, whole – masterpiece of family genre entertainment in its own right. Moving, engaging and utterly inspiring, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is a high watermark and tough act to follow. With the trailers and TV spots for Part II promising dragons, giants and lashings of resolution, this really, genuinely promises to be the motion picture event of a generation. Not bad for a story about one boy and his lightening shaped scar.
Lumos: Both of the key torture sequences had to be trimmed in order to obtain a 12A rating, with Ron and Hermione getting away lightly at the hands of Scabior (Nick Moran) and Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter) respectively.
Homenum Revelio: Despite the filmmakers’ best intentions, not every character that is set to appear actually turns up onscreen. Among the MIA is Stanislav Ianevski’s Victor Krum. Although the scenes were shot, they failed to materialise as part of the final edit.
Check up with the other films so far in the Harry Potter Retrospective here.
Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsTM – Part 2 is in cinemas now
Harry Potter Years 1-7: Part 1 Box Set is available on Blu-ray and DVD now