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Does 'Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows' mark the beginning of the end for Hogwarts?

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Writing a review for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a fairly tricky endeavor. This is because reviewing the film is comparable to reviewing half of a movie. More so than other “two movie” finale films, Deathly Hallows feels polished and well accomplished, but a bit too incomplete. Perhaps the second half will fuse to make a beautiful epic whole, but this first part stands as good, not great.

The Deathly Hallows is easily the darkest Potter movie to grace the screen yet,'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' photo: Warner Bros. steeped in a palette drained of color, as well as an atmosphere of general despair. Now that Hogwarts has been uprooted, Dumbledore (spoiler) has been killed, and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has taken over the ministry, the remaining warriors’ band together in a cohesive effort to protect Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) from being captured and killed.

It’s not long, however, before Voldemort and his dementors are hot on Potter’s trail, sabotaging him and the elder Weasely’s wedding. Using a transportation spell, Hermione (Emma Watson) moves herself, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Harry to a safe place in downtown London, where the dementors can’t pick up on his scent so quickly. The spell is used frequently throughout the duration of the film to send the heroes to safety.

Meanwhile, the trio attempts to figure out how to locate the horcruxes, magic orbs that must be destroyed in order to revoke the power of the dark forces. They manage to obtain one, and in an attempt to pulverize it, realize the power the tiny amulet holds is strong, and can have a toxic effect on anyone that touches it. With the help of special gifts awarded by the late Dumbledore, the three attempt to locate the rest of the horcruxes, and use these gifts to eradicate them, all while facing extreme trials and tribulations within themselves and each other along the way.

At this point in the game, audiences who have taken the ride with Harry, Hermione, and Ron have grown to care about them considerably. This film will only strengthen that investment and will likely even turn on newcomers to their warmth and chemistry. One thing director David Yates exudes is a knack for character and emotion. His character driven moments carry just as much weight (if not more) as his thrilling action pieces. The psychological journey of these heroes is never shortchanged and the picture therefore is rich and textured to a fault.

Sadly, though, for being a two part film, Yates and company didn’t seem to remember that there should be a balance between the two, otherwise you merely have buildup and climax. Part 1 is too much of the former and at times this adventure gets too caught up in a languid pace (the screening audience was noticeably antsy), and that’s partly due to the film’s narrative nature. Yates tries to compensate with a half baked cliffhanger ending, which instead comes off forced. Deathly Hallows will also likely lose anyone who hasn’t seen one of these films, as it frequently gets caught up in “Potter Speak” (muggle say what?), which will likely distract that part of the audience from getting caught up in the adventure. Also, the film does lack a bit of cohesion, crammed with a myriad of loose ends. These questions may be answered in part two, but more of an even distribution would have helped.

Still, for all this nitpicking, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows remains a fine film, the kind of polished, visually beautiful, and emotionally deep fantasy that runs circles around crap like Twilight. There is also a stunning hand drawn animation account of the Deathly Hallows folklore that really brims with vibrance. It remains to be seen if Yates and company will hit an all out home run with the conclusion of this beloved series, but as it remains, watching Harry Potter and friends evolve and mature has been a journey for this generation, and one for the ages.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

Photos: Warner Bros.