By Ethan Wennberg
No more Hogwarts, no more school, no more training. This time, it’s for real.
The latest film in the Harry Potter franchise takes a rapid departure from the feel of the previous six installments, ditching the old formula completely.
With so much going on, it might be easy to get lost in, or overwhelmed by, the details. I’m delighted to say that this is not the case. Director David Yates has refined his directorial skill and style, making a Potter film that capitalizes on the extended running time and flourishes on detail. While his previous two Potter flicks were criticized for the alteration or deletion of events in the book, Deathly Hallows: Part One masterfully creates a world alongside our own that is easy to become invested in. Likewise, the extended time allows greater character development, making it easy to become emotionally invested in the characters.
Yates has constructed a splendid transitional film that does a wonderful job of continuing the story in a new, inventive way while setting everything up for the final film of the franchise. Tonally, the film is considerably darker and more mature than the previous six, utilizing suspense as a key element throughout. Yates maintains the magic in a new way by grounding it in reality rather than fantasy, with action scenes that include, what amounts to, a wizard car chase and a shootout in a diner with wands rather than guns.
However, the film has several inherent drawbacks that prevent it from achieving greatness. Although the infamous “camping” scenes from the novel are condensed, the length of this portion of the story translates from the page to the screen. While every scene in the second act is crucial to the story, the film drags somewhat—much like the novel. The film also lacks exposition, which is to be expected from one half of a full, two-part film, thus feeling less whole, it is not quite as gratifying as a result.
For those who have read the books, this movie captures the spirit and the feel of the novel and will not disappoint. For those who have not, it is still a standout achievement in the franchise and a great film, although the second act may drag a bit. For those who are new to the series, do yourself a favor and watch the previous six films before viewing, or else prepare to be hopelessly lost.
With beautiful cinematography, thrilling action, true drama and character development, Yates ultimately delivers a film that is not only action-packed, but also emotionally and visually gratifying.