That time of year has arrived once more, but as Potter fans fill theaters (too many dressed in makeshift Hogwarts robes), it is with a mix of anticipation and dread. It’s fitting then that Deathly Hallows Part 1 captures the desire and despair that comes with seeing a much-loved franchise concluded.
Jumping straight in where Half-Blood Prince left off, Harry’s friends must move him to safety with the help of some Polyjuice Potion in an epic escape/chase sequence. From there, no place is truly safe as the band contends with Death Eaters, Snatchers and, at times, each other. In the end, it is down to the three kids, now grown up, who must head out in search of the remaining Horcruxes and destroy them to rid the world of Lord Voldemort.
Even before the book was published, the word “darkness” was heavily associated with Deathly Hallows, and the film portrays it perfectly. Regular characters meet their demise, relationships between Harry, Hermione and Ron are stretched out and laid bare, and what began as a light-hearted adventure almost a decade ago now explores the complexities of love, death and responsibility. Even the locations where the three spend their time pondering and preparing for what lies ahead are as bleak as they are stunning. Their absolute isolation frames the task at hand, but their beauty enthralls and gives hope.
Admittedly, now is probably not the best time to hop on the Potter bandwagon. Though certain elements of the film leave enough for the uninitiated to figure out what’s going on, only veteran fans will appreciate its impact and self-referential nature. Everyone, however, can appreciate the humorous moments of the film. Hermione’s bottomless handbag and Ron’s befuddled attempts to appease her are among the top picks and are a testament to the way J.K. Rowling blended her magical realm with the real world.
The greatest thing about the Harry Potter franchise is the way that it has grown up with its audience. In watching the Deathly Hallows Part 1, you’re barely watching a film about magic anymore. It’s a proper adult film, with scenes comparable to moments in gangland classics (the boardroom scene at the beginning) and war epics (the new Minister of Magic’s persecution of mudbloods and pretty much every fight sequence).
At times, the light treatment of the source material is evident, but we’re long past the point of comparing print and screen when it comes to Harry Potter; the films are almost separate entities. The choice to split the final film into two might seem like a shameless commercial move, but it isn’t. Part 1 has set up the conclusion brilliantly, and no one, in Hogwarts robes or not, can wait for Part 2.