Confession: I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book. I know, I know. At first HP seemed like a fad, and by the time I realized that there was actually something to the series, it seemed like it was too late. I’ve only seen little bits of the movies when my boyfriend re-watched them on cable, and honestly? I usually fall asleep somewhere between his explanation of what a Dementor is and his disquisition on why it’s important that someone gave Dobby a sock.
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to miss out on THE movie event of 2010, so I went with my BF and bought SEVENTEEN DOLLAR tickets for the Enhanced Theater Experience.
When the movie began, even the Warner Brothers logo was gray and rusty, a sign that we were in for horror and sadness. (My BF pointed out that the first couple movies were technicolor flicks meant for kids, and that the more increasingly somber colors of the movies matched the increasingly darker themes in the books. He got shooshed.)
Deathly Hallows, Part 1 finds our heroes in a post-Dumbledore world, where the evil wizard Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters are rapidly taking over the Wizarding World, and even the usually clueless Muggles are heading for the hills. The Order of the Phoenix, a.k.a. the good guys, are reduced to hiding like members of the French Resistance. After the Death Eaters crash a wedding (literally), Harry, Ron and Hermione apparate to London, and spend the rest of the movie on the run, hunting for Horcruxes. These magical objects contain pieces of Voldemort’s soul, and allowed him to come back after being killed when Harry was a baby. Then, the trio finds out they’re also looking for the Deathly Hallows. And, uh, trying to figure out who Dumbledore’s childhood friends are, or something. And arguing a lot, because a Horcrux they’re carrying makes them ridic cranky-pants. (Think Frodo and Sam, but less hobbit-y.)
I am happy to report that you don’t 100% need to follow all this to enjoy DH1, if “enjoy” is the right word for a movie that’s all full of despair and killing. Screenwriter Steve Kloves keeps the exposition to a minimum, letting the drama of each moment speak for itself.
In one of the opening scenes, where Voldemort and the Death Eaters sit at a big table discussing their evil plans, you could give an Oscar to everyone at the table. Ralph Fiennes is terrifying, Helen Obama Carter is crazy creepy, and Lucius Malfoy wears his horror and torment like a blond shroud. Emma Watson is especially outstanding as she struggles with serious choices (like erasing her parents’ memories of her so they will be safe, or moving on when they become separated from Ron), and Rupert Grint has traded in his bumbling insecurity (or most of it, anyway) for simmering rage and bottomless hurt. Daniel Radcliffe has transformed to a grim hero, though he has a brilliant comic moment when he plays half a dozen of the other characters magically disguised as himself.
From what I hear, the book was sometimes hard to follow (because of all the characters) and sometimes hard to swallow (because of all the despondence and arguing). In the movie, however, all the characters are there in front of your eyes—who was Mundungus again? Oh! That guy!—and the script wisely trades excessive talking for moments of silence and gravity. (ZOMG… the scene where Harry and Hermione dance in the tent? Yay!) There are moments of creepy horror, tense chase scenes, stirring speeches, an amazing animation sequence, and yes, more than one cry-cry scene. (Oh, the end! Oh! Oh!)
So, okay. You got me, Potter fans. I’m all about reading these frickin’-frackin’-razza-brackin’ books after all.