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January 23, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)


Published 23/11/10 at www.artshub.com.au

Daniel Radcliffe has always struck me as an odd choice for the role of Harry Potter; Radcliffe is awkward and dark-haired, which suits the role, but at age 10 he didn’t have the acting chops that could probably have been found among other actors who may not have looked so much the part. There is a particular deliberateness to Radcliffe’s movements that also makes it look as though he is aware of the camera, and once this is noticed, it is frustratingly hard to stop noticing it.

Thankfully, however, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 has confirmed that the Potter clan have more or less lost their more annoying acting foibles. Harry Potter is less twitchy, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) less of a comic caricature, and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) less whiny. They’re all more self-assured thanks to their age, and that makes for far more convincing on-screen performances.

Much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we can say this for a certainty; we’re not in Hogwarts anymore. The infamous school of witchcraft and wizardry garners only the briefest of appearances in this film. Much of the focus is on Harry, Ron and Hermione’s exile from the wizarding world, where they are living on the brink of society and coming to grips with the reality of their situation as young adults. Dumbledore, the late Hogwarts headmaster, is no longer around to provide the kind of sage advice that has saved them so many times before. In more ways than one, this is a film that confirms for good that the Potter kids are all grown up.

Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is back without a shadow of a doubt, mixing openly with his Death Eater disciples and torturing innocent muggles and the wizarding world alike. The Ministry of Magic soon falls under his influence, and as avenues of power begin to close up, Potter and friends quickly realise that they’re fighting an uphill battle to save their world from the total domination of evil. Voldemort is on a mission to track down the mysterious Deathly Hallows, and it’s a race against time for Harry, Ron and Hermione to track them down before Voldemort holds the key to killing Harry for good.

With a running time of over two hours, it’s surprisingly easy to sit still throughout this film; the plot moves along at a comfortable pace and the action sequences are well placed and carefully executed. David Yates, who has been director for four of the Potter films, tends to overuse the wobbly-shot-in-action-scenes technique a little too much, but the style offers the same results as it did in the oft-praised Bourne trilogies (not from the same director). Far from being a fantastical film about children and magic, sequences where the Potter gang are pursued by Death Eaters with wands are almost as threatening and realistic to the viewer as watching someone flee from gun-toting criminals.

As a result, it is clear the Potter films have progressed away from a children’s audience. Some scenes have a more sinister, frightening violence probably not intended for young children; in one scene, Voldemort tortures a wizard who is known for supporting muggle-wizard relationships, while Death Eaters watch on with nonchalance. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) also makes his standard appearance as Potter’s evil sub-nemesis, strictly controlled by the paranoid submission of his father Lucius (Jason Isaacs) to the evil overlord.

This film also has a much stronger undercurrent of sexuality in Deathly Hallows Part 1, best demonstrated when Ron’s jealousy of Harry and Hermione’s possible relationship underscores his confrontation with a demon. These are scenes the average ten-year-old most likely wouldn’t understand; but then again, they are not likely to understand the book on which this is based, either.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an impressive opening sequence to the final stages of the Harry Potter era.  The Potter films have grown up with their audience; this is a film for those who could read and understand the book when it first came out, so it’s not necessarily for the younger newcomers to the franchise. As one audience member said as the credits rolled, it wouldn’t be too hard to sit through another two hours of Potter if the offering is this enjoyable.

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