By Emily Johnson – Editor-in-Chief
The Gateway joined an audience of roughly 400 people for an advance screening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” on Monday, Nov. 15 at Rave Motion Pictures Westroads.
If there’s one thing that Muggles worldwide can agree on, it’s that the latest movie about the Boy Who Lived is the bleakest and most sinister yet.
Whether fans, or merely along for the multi-billion dollar franchise ride, audiences who hit the theaters this weekend to see the first installment of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” will be presented with a very different scene than that of the shy young boy in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), who once led us to discover a fantastic, magical world that few book or movie series have managed to replicate, has grown up along with his audience.
Anyone who has been following the series could have predicted this turn, however, and the looming threat of war in the wizarding world doesn’t make this movie any less enchanting than the others. The last movie ended with the death of Harry’s mentor, Albus Dumbledore, and the death of the Minister of Magic (i.e. the Prime Minister of Harry’s world) thirty minutes into “Hallows” ensures the total overthrow and corruption of the wizard government.
Pursued by Voldemort and a tyrannized, panic-stricken society, Harry skips returning for his final year at Hogwarts and sets off with friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) to find and destroy Voldemort. The task is easier said then done, as Voldemort has divided his soul into seven pieces. With two pieces already destroyed, the trio traverses the world and uses tools Dumbledore left them to track down the four that remain before confronting the Dark Lord.
The enormity of this task is obvious, and is most likely why the screenwriter Steve Kloves (who guided all the films except for “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”) split the book into two films. The book is more than 700 pages long, and while that’s comparable enough to those it follows, its complicated plot line (and, no doubt, the extended publicity win for Warner Brothers) called for Part 2, which will feature the final battle over Hogwarts and be released next summer.
“Part 1” is perhaps the film that’s truest to the books so far, which makes sense, as it’s the only movie that had the time to be written before the end of the book series.
The audience gets the sense that the filmmakers finally know where they’re going, which should alleviate some nervous fan tension. I’m sure hard-core fans will still exclaim, “That wasn’t in the book!” like a few I heard when I saw the movie, but most dissatisfaction will probably be with the multiple jokes, spontaneous dancing and off-mark gossip that aren’t the books and appear to have no real purpose in the plot. There were a few too many pointless conversations and meant-to-impress magic that the movie could have done without.
Admittedly, I used to be one of those fans, but with the more sinister overtones of this film, it’s easy to see that the cheap jokes are necessary. Harry’s beloved owl Hedwig is killed twenty-five minutes in, the first touching death that gets the audience all choked up. Mad-Eye Moody is killed. Ron’s brother, George Weasley is badly injured. Voldemort’s servants, the Death Eaters, attack Bill Weasley’s (another Weasley brother) wedding. Death Eaters storm the Hogwarts Express, and the dementors are back to terrorize Muggle-born witches and wizards. Harry and Ron fight and break up their friendship for a while. Harry and Hermione visit his parents’ grave and are almost killed by Voldemort’s snake in a truly terrifying scene. Multiple people are tortured, including Hermione. In the most stirring moments, house-elf Dobby is killed while saving Harry and his friends. The movie ends with Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore’s tomb and getting one step closer to enslaving the world.
Things don’t look too good for Harry, and all there is to keep the characters (and the audience) from falling into a full-blow Lifetime movie channel, Kleenex-stuffed funk of depression is the dumb jokes that the Weasley twins crack, the filler of odd exchanges between characters and the moments of silence between the friends. There’s a lot of silence in this movie (reflecting the wide, open scenic wilderness shots), but it’s a good silence that contrasts the loud terror of the rest of the movie well.
All in all, the cast and crew did a great job pulling this movie together. While I know some fans are still going to groan about Harry swing dancing with Hermione and excessive spellcasting, I couldn’t be more excited to see how next summer brings the end of the epic.