Friday, November 19, 2010

'Deathly Hallows' is more spectacular, brooding than ever

By Steve Crum

Spectacular and increasingly brooding as ever, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 marks the near end of the series and--we assume--franchise. (Spinoffs, anyone?) It is, for the 11 souls unaware, the film version of J. K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter novel. Forgive the half-truth. The grand finale (Part 2) plays mid-July, 2011.

Yes, Deathly Hallows 1 is a cliffhanger that abruptly, yet elegantly, concludes after nearly two and a half hours, Do not look for a ”To Be Continued” insert, however. This lack of story resolution will still disappoint Potter fans, even though they knew it was coming. Anticipation is everything, isn’t it? When Star Wars originally baited us to wait three years between chapters, it was a killer. Prepare for more pain.

The Potters have now stretched through seven magical films, or eight including the second half out next summer, over the last decade. Even more incredible is its three main stars have not totally outgrown their characters. Of course, their book counterparts also aged. In either case, these more mature Deathly Hallows actors are a long stretch from retirement age.

Each Potter episode offers its own character revelations, its own visual dazzles. Deathly Hallows is the most foreboding and shocking of them all, Steve Kloves, who has written all the Potter screenplays, has faithfully adapted Rowling’s final chapter to emphasize the book’s tensions on the race to resolution. David Yates’ crisp, fast paced direction helps.

Among the myriad delights, Deathly Hallows features multiple Harrys, a clever, fun ID safeguard for our central wizard boy. Essentially, Harry’s clones guard Harry’s life. In addition, there are group scenes and interactions of all Hogwarts’ good guys as well as all its villains, including the giant serpent. (It becomes more than a mere man eater here.) Central to Deathly Hallows hype is the well publicized death of one of the major characters. I don’t know about Part 2, but there are at least three well knowns who violently kick off (SPOILER DANGER) in Part 1. Enough, maybe too much, said on this grim point.

Briefly, the story follows two plot lines, one being the Dark Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. The grand old wizard academy has transitioned from a warm, eccentric, learned institution of wizardry to a cold, dungeon-like, warehouse of evil. Quidditch has given way to Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Unfriendly skies, indeed.

Harry, Ron and Herione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) team to finish the late Prof. Dumbledore’s quest to find the rest of the Horcruxes to defeat Voldemort. Despite sparse hope to succeed, they race cross country to attain the Deathly Hallows trifecta: The Elder Wand (buried with Dumbledore), a Resurrecting Stone, and The Invisibility Cloak. (Another spoiler: Michael Gambon has a cameo as Dumbledore.)

It is no shock that the friendship between Harry, Hermione and Ron is further tested, since that has been the case in every Potter movie so far. However, this time around, their comradery veers toward tragedy. Just a side note: As the three actors have aged since the first Potter film premiered in 2001, so have their acting skills. Unknowns then, they are forever a well known, vital part of the Potter legacy. There will no doubt be a rerun of this and similar nostalgic thoughts in my Part 2 review next year.

Maybe I am a bigger Harry Potter fan that I have thought all these years.

A TRIVIA TONGUE IN CHEEK: Look for an Equus poster on the background wall in the London diner scene with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Daniel Radcliffe starred in that very play.
GRADE On an A to F Scale: B
The Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 trailer:

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