Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I was a great set-up for the finale, but on its own I didn't feel the same magic I did with the rest.
It's year seven at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but this year will be a year like no other. Harry, Ron and Hermione will not be returning to school and instead will be carrying out the late Professor Dumbledore's master plan - capture all of Voldemort's horcruxes so that Voldemort will no longer be immortal. Voldemort's power has grown exponentially over the last few weeks and Harry is getting restless. His 17th birthday is fast approaching and when it finally arrives, the protection afforded him by his mother's sacrifice will be no more. Therefore the Order of the Phoenix has decided to move him early to try and keep Voldemort off the scent. The move goes wrong almost immediately and Harry must deal with the loss of even more people he is close to. Following Bill and Fleur's wedding, the intrepid trio is forced to go on the run, hiding in various places across the country, trying to stay out of the line of fire. But with each passing day, the lack of horcruxes is slowly driving them apart. And when they learn the secrets of the Deathly Hallows, the group foresees a danger like no other - what happens if the world's most dangerous wizard gets history's most dangerous weapon?
Warning - this review is going to be full of spoilers so don't bother reading it if you don't what to know what happens in the film.
It's strange having a Harry Potter movie not take place, at least partially, at Hogwarts. It makes the movie feel less like a Harry Potter movie and more like a road trip. So to me, as big of a Harry Potter fan as I am, and as much as I knew what was going to happen, the movie felt a little less magical than the others. That being said, the filmmaking has gotten better and better each of the last few movies and they did a good job setting us up for the final film in 2011. The film, as all of them do, cut some corners as far as the story. I liked the opening sequences with the multiple Harrys trying to get the real Harry to safety. That was the one sequence that really stood out to me as far as action and excitement. I thought the way they handled both Hedwig and Mad-Eye's death however was a little flat, almost an afterthought. Considering what they had the characters go through when Dobby dies later in the film, you'd think they'd show Harry a little sadder about the death of his one constant connection to the magical world in Hedwig.
The biggest problem I had with the movie is that they had a lot of chances to have exciting scenes, but instead cut them short. The wedding sequence where the Death Eaters attack lasted about 10 seconds before Harry and company escaped. The battle in the diner shortly thereafter was well done at least. But the sequence where the three heroes go to the Ministry to track down the horcrux annoyed me because... where was Harry's invisibility cloak? It didn't make an appearance the entire movie! And considering this movie is called the Deathly Hallows and the cloak is one of those Hallows, how could they not show it? What sense does it make having Harry walk in to the Ministry, knowing the Pollyjuice Potion could wear off, and not have him keep his cloak on him? And we're supposed to believe that most wanted man in the world could escape from the Ministry without anyone stopping him? There were just so many small plot points that normally don't matter that felt like they did matter in this film than in the others. Some of it might be because I just re-read the book again a few days before seeing the film, so I could remember more clearly what was missing, but I don't feel the attention to detail was there. Other scenes that could have been more exciting were when Harry and Hermione visit Godric's Hollow and Nagini attacks. Where was Voldemort during that scene? Again, the logic escapes me - was Nagini going to kill the two of them? Because Voldemort clearly says in the beginning that he was the one that needed to kill Harry. And what happened to Snape's hair? He reminded me of the female characters from That 70s Show. His hair looked washed and conditioned. That's not how Snape's hair is supposed to look damn it.
Besides the opening 30 minutes, the one scene that I thought looked really good was when Ron saves Harry from drowning and destroys the horcrux. The entire sequence where the horcrux tries to poison his mind was impressive, even if I didn't really need to see a naked Harry and Hermione making out. Which actually reminds me of a scene a little earlier where Harry and Hermione dance with each other in the tent. I know what the scene was trying to do, because I had read the book and I know the characters inside and out. But if you've only watched the movies, it kind of looked like Harry was trying to put the moves on Hermione. Frankly, while I can see why some people would like the scene, it didn't do anything for me. The other thing I liked about the film was simply the interaction between the three leads. They've all grown into much better actors and work extremely well with each other. It felt real watching them traipse around the country together and looking out for each other. I also liked the scene in the Malfoy house where you really saw the three of them care for each other. As Hermione was being tortured (and while disturbing, Emma Watson did a tremendous job in that scene) watching Harry and Ron work together to figure a way out was impressive. Didn't like what they did with Pettigrew, but the rest of the scene worked really well.
I wish they had done more with the Hallows vs. Horcrux story line, but it also felt like that might be saved for the next movie. I think my favorite scene in the film was the animated sequence as Hermione read about the Deathly Hallows while they were all sitting in the Lovegood house. The ending of that scene was yet another chance for them to add some excitement and action and instead they cut it short after a few seconds. But that animated sequence did a great job of getting the entire story across and letting the viewer know what they're in for. The look that the three shared when the invisibility cloak was mention was perfect. Though again, had they SHOWN the cloak at some point during the movie, that would have been better. I think not having a definitive ending also hurt the movie but that was to be expected because we all knew the movie got broken into two parts. I thought where they broke the film was a smart place to do it because it is definitely a cliffhanger, though I don't understand why Dumbledore would have been buried on some random island somewhere. I think had the movie been extended by about 15-20 minutes (and at 2:26, this film was one of the shorter ones so they could have added scenes) and been a little more exciting in places, it would have been better. What I find interesting is that this movie covers about 2/3 of the book, which means the final film will cover the last 1/3. I'm hoping that means the massive battle sequence in Hogwarts will last a good hour because it certainly deserves to.
All that being said, as those of you who read my reviews know fully well, I'm highly biased towards these films and probably shouldn't be grading them, but what can you do? For everything I've said, this is still a Harry Potter film which means in the whole scheme of things, I'll probably watch it 2-3 more times in the theater before buying 2 different Blu-ray versions and watching it a couple of more times before Part II. I can say one thing for certain - if you're a Harry Potter fan you will love this movie because it does a good job of moving the story from book 6 to book 7 and setting you up for the massive finale. Yes, I wish they had done more with this one, but I can't complain too much, now can I?
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, as big a Harry Potter fan as I am, I felt a little let down by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. It just didn't click with me like all the other ones did. I felt like not enough attention to detail had been spent on this one, and the subtractions they made from the story were small, but significant. Maybe the director's cut DVD will have more footage that will help the story make more sense. But for the true fan, this is a great way to prepare for the final chapter in what has been an amazing ride.