Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
By Edwin Davies
November 25, 2010
For all its merits as both a literary and cinematic phenomenon, the Harry Potter series has always been hobbled, in both book and film form, by the fact that the pivotal event in its story, the return of Voldemort, happened at the end of the fourth book in a seven book series. Though the subsequent books saw important revelations that deepened the Wizarding World its readers so loved getting lost in and major character deaths that broke their hearts, it always felt as if the series was being put into a holding pattern until J.K. Rowling could finally take us in for the final battle. To put it in the universally understood parlance of The Simpsons, readers spent three books waiting to get to the fireworks factory.
Rowling dealt with this problem by creating compelling personal battles for Harry, Ron and Hermione to face over the course of the school year, such as Harry's battle of wills with the odious Dolores Umbridge, which gave a backbone to her increasingly lengthy and aimless books. She made it about the characters, rather than the plots, and it kept the books interesting because the readers had so much invested in the characters' stories by that point.
Under the direction of David Yates, who took over as the series' director for the fifth film, The Order of the Phoenix, and will see the series out with Deathly Hallows Part Two next July, the Harry Potter films have sought to keep people interested whilst they wait for the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort by stretching the boundaries of what a Harry Potter film can be. Last year's Half-Blood Prince, for example, took the largely successful decision to throw out the plot of the book in favor of turning it into a romantic comedy with wizards. This time around, Yates and series' screenwriter Steve Kloves go one step further by turning it into an arthouse film with wizards.
Following the death of Professor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) at the hands of someone he thought he could trust, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) finds himself increasingly isolated as the influence of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his hordes of Death Eaters grows. Fearing for the safety of the people he cares for the most, and desperate to see Dumbledore's work completed, Harry sets out with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) in search of the Horcruxes; items which have been imbued with part of Voldemort's soul, rendering him practically invulnerable until they are all destroyed.
The decision to split the final Harry Potter film into two halves created a unique problem for Yates and Kloves. Knowing that pretty much of all of the action is contained in the latter half of the book - in the last one hundred pages, to be specific - how were they to make the first half, which consists largely of Harry, Ron and Hermione traveling over barren landscapes, bickering and living in a tent, cinematic? Their solution was to make it a character study that delves into the fears, hopes and relationships of three characters that audiences have spent seven films and nine years following.