By Susan JAMES
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1’ starts with a bang and ends with a lightning bolt. The beginning of the end for an epic magical journey, this film is a satisfying step along the road. When we last saw our hero, played with panache by Daniel Radcliffe, he was at the top of the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), reeling from the death of Albus Dumbledore. The three were hatching plans to find and destroy the bits of Voldemort’s soul that make him impossible to kill. Now
the search has begun and the last two chapters of the saga (part 2 is scheduled for release July 11) follow the trio’s desperate hunt.
Director David Yates, who has helmed the Potter franchise since the fifth film, has been extraordinarily creative in giving each installment a special and unique flavor. The sixth film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009), had elements of a teen-age romantic comedy. Echoes of childhood still lingered in the Gryffindor common room.
“Deathly Hallows” switches gears completely. Both director and actors have left childhood behind. Part road movie, part magical quest, the film deals with grown-up issues in a grown-up way. Watching Radcliffe, Grint and Watson engage as characters that they have played for more than half of their lives is a special experience. With this film they’ve graduated from clever kids to compelling performers. Grint particularly has a new gravitas that serves him well in a stronger part flecked with more subtle emotions.
Something else that benefits the movie is its change of location, abandoning the cloistered classrooms of Hogwarts for the real world. Liberating the story from schoolwork and teachers, mentors and guardians adds to the ominous mood. The trio is on a mission to find and destroy the horcruxes that Voldemort created while at the same time dodging his minions who are trying to capture them. The only people they can rely on are each other and this closeness breeds both unbreakable bonds and emotional friction that play out in a dramatically charged way.
Welcome new faces in an already impressive cast of legendary British actors include Bill Nighy as the new Minister for Magic, Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood and Nick Moran as the evil Scabior. It is a compliment to the actors’ charisma that with only minimal time on screen, they make indelible impressions.
For readers of the books, most of the story is here although some of the back story has been simplified. For non-readers, you may have to ask a reader the meaning of that broken shard of mirror that Harry is carrying around, or who Regulus Black is or why Charity Burbage is hanging upside down over Lucius Malfoy’s dining room table. Better yet, just go along for the ride. It’s a stirring, stunning and exciting one. Warner Brothers and the powers who control the Potter film franchise have pulled off a feat never before equaled in movie history, eight quality films in 10 years. When the final spell is cast next July, more than one magical maven will mourn the end of the story.
Can you say finite incantatem?
See you at the movies!