By MADELINE MCDONALD
Seven movies in, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” finally proves how amazing the book series actually is.
Past “Harry Potter” films haven’t always lived up to their potential. They just couldn’t seem to manage telling the story as well as the books did, leaving hardcore fans feeling let down and casual viewers confused as to what all the fuss is about.
However, this first half of “Deathly Hallows” has managed to capture the complexity and greatness of the fantasy book on film. They might have split the book in half, but it was certainly a good move to make.
The fatter Harry Potter books are usually too big to squish into one movie and still be faithful. Splitting this final chapter into two films has allowed for much more detail to translate from the pages to the screen.
Some scenes feel like the words came to life, like Harry and Hermione’s trip to Godric’s Hollow and Snape’s meeting with Voldemort and his Death Eaters at the Malfoy’s manor.
Other aspects of the book that weren’t that pleasant to read actually end up playing out out better on film. The endless wandering through the British countryside and angsty camping that was so tiring in the book is thankfully minimized here, for instance.
The movie also manages to cut off at a point in the story that makes some sense, so viewers are left begging for more at the end instead of feeling confused.
“Deathly Hallows” didn’t always read like a scary story, but it definitely was one. This film definitely tries to bring that fear out into the open. Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s visit to the Ministry of Magic to try and find the first Horcrux is both gripping and horrifying.
Getting to actually watch Lord Voldemort’s terrifying rule play out onscreen makes for a dark and disturbing film that finally seems to reach out to its older viewers.
Characters die gruesome deaths and face bloody injuries. Magic isn’t just the glamorous, sparkly power summoned by Latin words used to unlock doors and banish Dementors with happy memories anymore. We see a much darker side of the “Harry Potter” universe, where witches and wizards abuse their powers and hurt people.
Strong characterization also helps elevate this movie beyond previous films in the series. For the first time, the characters really feel like the ones we read about for years in the books.
Maybe it’s just due to the actors having matured and gotten comfortable with their roles or maybe it’s because the stakes are higher for Harry and his friends in this movie. Whatever the reason, their performances feel a little more genuine than before.
The usual “teen wizard angst” associated with “Harry Potter” books and films feels almost completely absent here. Worry and fear drive Harry, Ron, and Hermione now. They have purpose now, a real sense of duty toward their quest to find and destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Perhaps they’ve finally grown up.
All in all, this is probably the best “Potter” film yet. It greatly improves upon its predecessors and manages to tell its book’s story to the best of its ability all while making you laugh, scream, cry and wish there was more. Luckily, there is.
The final movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” will be showing up in theaters on July 15, 2011, so mark your calendars.