‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One’ (2010) review: The beginning of the end

‘Part One’ a slow, demoralizing start to the long-running series

Four thousand and one hundred pages. Six movies totaling about 15 hours. Sixteen years since the first book release. But alas, all good things must (eventually) come to an end.

For all the splendor and wonder that Harry Potter brought, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” is a bittersweet first step in saying goodbye to a series that has defined an entire generation of readers.

In those 4,100 pages, J.K. Rowling has cast a spell so powerful that myriad readers, both hardcore and recreational, fell victim to its seduction, its fantasy, its message that perseverance, hard work, faith in friends and, more importantly, one’s self pays off. And despite misgivings that the books-turned-movies might not generate the same passion, the same yearning, the previous six feature films have become a family’s DVD staple.

Directed by David Yates (who directed “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”), the film continued its dark, abysmal trajectory of Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) ascent to power. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his close companions, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) depart from the formerly safe halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry into a less-than-forgiving world of deceit, mistrust and over-the-shoulder glaces everywhere they go in their quest to destroy the Horcruxes that keep Voldemort alive and to gather more information about the elusive Deathly Hallows.

Sans a few cheap thrills, Yates expertly boils the core essence of the first half of the book into what it was designed to be: a demoralizing, soul-crushing endeavor to defeat a seemingly undefeatable foe. Old conflicts collide between Harry and Ron, long an issue simmering in the background of the main plot. Danger looms after every apparition. Self-doubt, once just a distraction, now runs rampant. Nothing is as it seems, but that doesn’t detract from the very real danger all three of them are in.

A slow introduction worked to build anticipation for Part 2, released July 2011 (a fitting tribute: Harry’s birthday is in July). When the final scene flashes, a sense of suspense and emotional investment course through you, gearing you (albeit hesitantly) for the final installment in this decade-long relationship. Maybe by then we’ll be ready to say goodbye to our magical friends.

Four stars out of five.

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