Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part I

With the slow, familiar strains of “Hedwig’s Theme”, the leitmotif that shepherds us into the world of Harry Potter, we’re once again immersed in the magic and adventure of the wizarding world. If for some reason you forgot where the story left off at the end of The Half-Blood Prince, the mournful dirge that plays as Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley prepare to meet reminds you that their world has changed drastically.

Like returning to your childhood home, it all looks familiar, but everything feels different. Gone are the school preparations, the train ride to Hogwarts, uniformed students jostling about, the easygoing camaraderie between our favorite trio, all the whimsical elements we’ve come to expect in a Harry Potter movie. Instead we have unease, sorrow and anger taking turns in the form of Hermione, Harry and Ron.

The Deathly Hallows Part I is the first of a two-part adaptation of the final book of J.K. Rowling’s popular series. Just like the anticipation of getting the seventh and final book, my excitement at screening this movie was tempered with the dread of seeing the series end. I actually did not have high expectations for this installment as the first part of the book was slow-paced and, not unlike another movie about wizards and elves, had a lot of walking and searching. But instead of one elusive ring, Harry, Hermione and Ron are searching for three Horcruxes, objects in which Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort has implanted a part of his soul in his quest to achieve immortality. While they seek clues to the remaining Horcruxes, they learn that Voldemort seeks one of three Deathly Hallows, three sacred objects, the stories of which are revealed in a beautifully mesmerizing shadow-puppet sequence.

Director David Yates balances dark action with solid storytelling and arresting cinematography. Daniel Radcliffe is in turn sympathetic and charming as the heavily burdened hero. Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley brings most of the movie’s humor again, but he’s most impressive when he becomes believably tortured and resentful when the dark magic of Voldemort’s Horcrux takes over. Emma Watson gracefully infuses the normally astute and self-assured Hermione with weary resolve and poignant anguish. The most charged moments are of course when the trio share the screen with the dark wizards, the most notable played with relish by Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort and Helena Bonham Carter as his most ardent minion, Bellatrix.

Having waited what felt like an eternity for this installment, it seems almost cruel to be made to wait until next summer for the conclusion. But that’s the only real complaint I can make about this movie. Widely and wildly anticipated, Deathly Hallows Part I will not disappoint.

4 out of 5 stars