Feature

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Finally, the first half of the last chapter of J.K. Rowling’s hugely popular literary series. The second half and final goodbye come in July.

Directed by David Yates
(PG-13)

***

The time has nearly come to close the curtain on the screen journey of the world’s favorite boy wizard, said Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly. The latest Harry Potter movie breaks in two the seventh and final book of J.K. Rowling’s hugely popular literary series, leaving until July the work of the final goodbye. Still, every frame of this “assured and beautiful” adaptation is “haunted” by the fact that the end is approaching. The film opens with a warning from the wizard world’s Minister of Magic: “These are dark times, there’s no denying.” At the close of last year’s installment, the evil lord Voldemort was on the verge of a complete takeover. Here, the burden falls to a nearly-17-year-old Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione to defeat Voldemort by hunting down several magical “Horcruxes” where he’s stashed pieces of his black soul. It’s grim business, but it results in the series’ “most cinematically rewarding chapter yet.”

The movie is bleaker than it probably had to be, said Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter. Deathly Hallows’ darkness makes it the “least characteristic” of the Potter films. Gone are the wizard school Hogwarts and the “joy of youth” that came with it. Gone are the magic and sense of adventure that made this series the highest-grossing franchise of all time. Instead, we get Hogwarts dropouts Harry, Ron, and Hermione out on their own and using most of this long film’s midsection to ponder their next move and sulk about the challenges they’re facing. Not needing to pack the final book’s dense story into one film, director David Yates seems instead to reproduce the novel page by page. His approach drags the film “toward ponderousness.”

Deathly Hallows shouldn’t be bashed for doing what it’s supposed to do, said Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. Though “downbeat and unimaginably sad,” the film leaves audiences wanting more, whetting their appetite for next summer’s finale. Goodbyes are never easy, but one thing that eases the pain is seeing “just how magnificently” the series’ trio of young stars—Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson—have matured as screen performers. Radcliffe’s Harry has grown into a serious but charismatic young man wise enough to truly cherish his friendships, while Watson has become “a literal spellbinder.” Being just half a story, Deathly Hallows is “best enjoyed by hard-core Potter fans.” But some of its pleasures will stir any viewer.

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