As any fan knows, the epic seventh Harry Potter book is being split into two movies, and while you get Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 this Thanksgiving, you won’t get the conclusion of the tale until next July.
That’s a little cool – since it lets the filmmakers explore with much more depth stories that have been criticized for being too abbreviated and stripped down in movie form – but it also kinda blows. Without any restraints to length, director David Yates is unchained and free to jam all manner of side stories and subplots into these two films. Where a single-movie finale would have been taut and hair-raising, based on a viewing of Part 1 of Deathly Hallows, one can see that these two installments will be overly bloated and, at times, a bit plodding.
Harry Potter 7.1 opens with the series’ darkest outlook yet, as things are looking so grim for our wee wizards that poor Hermione (Emma Watson, coming into her own and largely stealing the show this time out) has to wipe the memory of herself from her parents’ minds. Harry (Daniel Racliffe) is now fully on the run from Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), and it will take an army of good guys – including just about every character who’s ever appeared in a prior Harry Potter movie – to get him through another day.
That’s the plan, anyway. Things go rather bad for the forces of light, and HP7.1‘s body count rises quickly, with characters killed off at a healthy clip throughout the film. Ultimately this ends up as it should: Harry, Hermione, and Ron (Rupert Grint – sickly, puffy, and looking like he’s about to throw up for the entire film) are completely on their own, left only to their own ingenuity and prior six years of training to survive and escape the forces of evil.
Their quest is to find and destroy some things called Horcruxes – fragments of Voldemort’s soul that he’s also looking for, and it’s been so long since Harry Potter 6 that I only remember what they are because I looked it up online. Believe me: You need to be up on your Harry Potter film lore before you venture into this one. There are no helpful explanations throughout the running time, and you are expected to know your Potterisms completely or be left behind.
And you’ll find there is real drama here. Yates deftly balances some great action scenes (magic is finally a messy, bloody, deadly thing) with the growing personal dramas of our trio of young heroes as they face the crises of modern life – a modern life in which they are being hunted ruthlessly. Unfortunately, those moments are balanced by scenes featuring an awful lot of walking around: Harry and the crew readily admit that, for most of the film, they don’t know where they are going or what they are looking for. Good times!
They muddle along – with much of the story owing a serious debt to the history of the Nazis and propaganda, Brazil, and Lord of the Rings — and by the end, we’re left with the promise of plenty more hot Horcrux action to come, Voldemort recovering the most powerful wand ever made, and, well, the credits rolling. There’s not so much a cliffhanger ending here as there is a simple stopping of the movie. I’m certainly ready to see the final entry in the series just to see how it all ends – not that years of spoilers haven’t already ruined that for me – but HP7.1 hardly packs in a finale to send you home salivating for 7.2.
I figure you’ll go see it anyway. After all, we’ve come so far, why quit now?
Reviewed by Christopher Null