Going in, everyone knew that Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 would be the longest prologue in film history. Most of the really important action takes place in the war that consumes most of the second half of the book. Fortunately, Writer Steve Kloves and director David Yates understand that there’s a more subtle war going on in the first half of the book – a war of emotions and, particularly, fears. While we get a fair bit of action in Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, what is most important is that we get to watch Harry, Hermione and Ron face their fears and forge their resolve.
The film opens with Harry [Daniel Radcliffe] and Hermione [Emma Watson] leaving their families for what might be the last time – something that is especially poignant in Hermione’s case as she casts a spell to remove all traces of her from their lives and memories to protect them from the gathering dark forces.
Because Harry is still a minor, he still has a magical trace on him so that he can be found if he misbehaves or gets into trouble. A gathering of friends [Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks, Fred and George Weasley and others] convene to take care of that and make it impossible to follow Harry – by transforming into copies of Harry and heading out in all directions.
In what might be the last chance for a few moments of happiness before the coming war, everyone gathers for a wedding, but the reception is interrupted by Death Eaters and our three stalwarts o on the run.
Deathly Hallows Pt 1 is all about sorting out fears and getting past the kinds of angst that have plagued various of the three over the course of the series. As a result, there a lot of scenes where nothing much is going on – in terms of physical action, at least. Harry, for instance, has to be reminded that people aren’t just choosing to fight and die for hum – this is bigger than any one person, even if he is the chosen one. Ron has to deal with his feelings of inferiority – and fear that Hermione isn’t really in love with him. For Hermione, the problem is one of accepting that, no matter how prepared she is, she can never be ready for everything.
I’m sure some critics will dislike Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 because it doesn’t have a neat, three act structure – even as they accept that it only represents half of the final book in the Harry Potter series. For me, I see it as a solid – and occasionally brilliant – first act. It introduces a few new elements – the animated segment that tells the origin of the Deathly Hallows is one of the film’s moments of genius – gives the characters an opportunity to deal with their fears and prepare for What Is To Come. It also presents the first big moment of sacrifice and the first instance of unexpected betrayal. And then it ends on a suitably dramatic moment.
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 does what it needs to do – it sets the stage. As prologues go, it’s pretty impressive.
Final Grade: A-