Here we have the beginning of the end of the most lucrative franchise in cinema history. We first met these characters on the big screen in 2001, and have seen the actors and the films themselves grow since then. I have a deep, personal love of J.K. Rowling's books, and haven't always been completely pleased with their adaptations to the silver screen. Last years Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the first one that in my mind really captured so much of the magic of the books into the movies, but even it had so much that was cut from the novel. Splitting the mammoth final book into two parts was a good idea here, as even though many things were cut out, few of them are truly missed. Although Deathly Hallows, Part 1 certainly feels like the first half of a story, it also succeeds admirably as a movie.
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson as the three leads have truly grown a lot since their first forays into our lives. Radcliffe had, in my mind, more than a few awkward line readings and uncomfortable times in the series, but as he has become a man he has also become a better actor. He gives Harry weight and depth as a character, and not in just a "good for a kid actor" sort of way. Grint, who's buffed up in the past couple of years in addition to his normal growth, keeps Ron's role as the comic relief of the trio, but also adds some layers to Ron, the love and anger and friendship that the role needs. Emma Watson, whom I've thought was the star of the group since the fourth movie or so, again soars here. There's a scene in the first few minutes of the movie, when Hermione wipes herself from her parents memories, when Watson conveys all of Hermione's psychological conflict in just a look, and director David Yates gives us a great shot of Hermione walking away from her house, and maybe her family, forever.
Yates, returning for the 7th and final movie after also helming numbers 5 and 6, again gets things right as far as the balance of character and action, giving us some of the same small moments that make Rowling's books so delightful to return to, as well as the big action scenes that a blockbuster of this type requires. I've heard some rumblings from some people that the movie moves too slowly, but I didn't feel that way in the slightest. I thought the 146 minutes flew by wonderfully, with only some of Dumbledore's backstory that I can think of that I really missed seeing. Yates and his cinematographer Eduardo Serra do maybe go a little too heavy on the handheld sometimes. I'm thinking mostly of the chase with the Snatchers, which felt very Paul Greengrass-y (like his terrible handheld work on the last two Bourne movies), but mostly the movie is gorgeously shot, whether in the forest, on the beach, or in the Ministry of Magic, the movie looks terrific, surely to get Serra his third Oscar nomination. My favorite part of the movie though, had to have been the animated sequence detailing the "Tale of the Three Brothers", done in an updated take on the animation of the legendary Lotte Reiniger's paper cutouts. Such a beautifully done piece.
So we get what I feel is the best Harry Potter movie yet, and with next years conclusion to the series again coming from David Yates, I feel in good spirits about the final adaptation of some of my favorite books. From my remembrance of the novels, there will certainly be a huge amount of action for those that feel this was a little light on conflict. I feel like this is the movie event I was missing this summer, when it felt like the only greats we had were Inception and Toy Story 3. A wonderful piece of entertainment, with some very good performances and wonderful visuals, I loved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, and can't wait for Part 2.