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HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (PART 1)

SYNOPSIS:
Harry, Ron and Hermione ((Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint) set out on their perilous mission to track down and destroy the Horcruxes - the keys to Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) immortality. But there are Dark Forces in their midst that threaten to tear them apart. The long-feared war has begun and Voldemort's Death Eaters seize control of the Ministry of Magic and even Hogwarts, terrorizing and arresting anyone who might oppose them. The Chosen One has become the hunted one as Voldemort's followers look for Harry with orders to bring him to the Dark Lord ... alive. Harry's only hope is to find the Horcruxes before Voldemort finds him. But as he searches for clues, he uncovers an old and almost forgotten tale-the legend of the Deathly Hallows. And if the legend turns out to be true, it could give Voldemort the ultimate power he seeks. Harry Potter is drawing ever closer to the task for which he has been preparing since the day he first stepped into Hogwarts: the ultimate battle with Voldemort.

Review by Louise Keller:
This latest Harry Potter is for the aficionados, delivering great ambience as an ominous and expectant tone hovers over it throughout. In many ways, the strength of this final chapter is also its weakness, in that the story almost drowns in the texture of its tapestry. Also, it's far too long. Never mind that it has been split into two films and the expectation of a grand finale cannot be realised, the fact that Harry Potter is no longer confined to Hogwarts and his new adventures are scattered in different locations, albeit striking, works against it in that we feel dislocated and are never really sure where we are. Shrouded by its amazing special effects however, the film looks wonderful through the lens of Eduardo Serra and under the assured direction of David Yates as it delivers what must be a faithful echo of J.K. Rowling's book.

Hermione (Emma Watson) takes centre stage for much of the story in which she, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Ron (Rupert Grint) search for the Horcruxes - keys to the evil Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) immortality. Fiennes, with an eerie nose-less face and gruesome long nails thanks to extraordinary make-up and special effects is a great presence with far too little screen time. Watson has really grown into her role as Hermione, the highly logical wizard of the central trio, who is the best at casting spells and is responsible for the fact that they constantly find themselves in different locations. She is also at the centre of the underlying rivalry between Ron and Harry for her affections, which offers a few touches of humour.

There's a slithering giant python that likes human flesh for dinner, grotesque yet endearing dwarf-like creatures with massive ears, chin and nose and Helena Bonham Carter's theatrical Bellatrix Lestrange who livens things up with oversize hair, big eyes and enthusiastic venom. Highlights include the claustrophobic scene in which Harry is trapped under the ice when he dives to claim the missing sword of Godric Gryffindor.

The film is jam packed with wondrous ideas and great characters from the detailed imagined reality of the Harry Potter series. The story however, is often jumbled and confusing, without a tangible dramatic arc to propel us to a thrilling finish, leaving us somewhat high and dry. We have to imagine that is yet to come in the final film which you may (or may not) anticipate with relish.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There is a troubling line towards the end of Harry Potter 7 Part 1, when an emotional Harry says to Ron and Hermoine (after a death I won’t disclose): “I want to bury him. Properly. Without magic.” I may be reading too much into this line, but it seems to me that the implication is that a burial using magic is not proper. This for characters whose entire reason for being wizards is to use the powers of magic?

Apart from this curiosity, the film offers an abundance of visual magic, wondrous images of places and objects and exotic characters (some of them human) and of course, Death Eaters – albeit briefly. They’re being saved up for Part 2. Which brings me to my major complaint: at 146 minutes Part 1 is already too long. Indeed the story is stretched beyond thin, seemingly to give the film gravitas by making it long and at times ponderous. Yes, slow.

In some ways the maturing of the characters has something to do with this; as they become more aware of the importance of their mission – to keep Harry alive – they also take on the heavy overcoat of responsibilities, which they tend to discuss. There is a strong female voice in this chapter of the screenplay which turns the focus onto Hermione. She is the one, both boys admit, who does spells best. She is the one capable of saving the situation when it gets dangerous. Except for one crucial scene in a frozen lake ...

High production values don’t quite make up for the elongation, which tends to water down the impact of the story. Nor does the complexity of the storytelling help; it isn’t really that complex, but so many frills are added that it seems impenetrable. David Yates makes a hash of the big chase scene in the woods, giving us no idea of where any of the characters are in relation to each other, in a frantic blur of movement that generates the opposite of thrills. 

Luckily there are a few giggles and there is fun with morphing characters, plus a few entertaining action scenes – perhaps not enough. The problem with our heroes having such rich source of magic power is that there is hardly ever any sense of real danger; they’ll spell their way out, we are sure.

On the whole, fans might have been better served with a tight combination of Parts 1 & 2. It feels rather like the producers are milking the franchise, which could generate resentment. But the film is saved from the doldrums by the high calibre performances from all the cast, which we are used to, but that doesn’t diminish the value.
Published first in the Sun-Herald

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HARRY POTTER SPLASH PAGE

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (PART 1) (M)
(UK/US, 2010)

CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Richard Griffiths, Harry Melling, Bonny Wright, Ian Kelly, Michelle Fairley, Fiona Shaw, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Helen McCrory, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Timothy Spall, Graham Duff, Peter Mullan, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Imelda Staunton, Toby Jones, Rade Serbedzija, Miranda Richardson

PRODUCER: David Barron, David Hayman

DIRECTOR: David Yates

SCRIPT: Steve Kloves (J.K. Rowling)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eduardo Serra

EDITOR: Mark Day

MUSIC: Alexander Desplat

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stuart Craig

RUNNING TIME: 146 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 18, 2010







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