By Phil Wallace

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, and you know the books by heart, then you will truly love Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part I. However, if you’re coming into this movie with a marginal amount of Harry Potter knowledge, then you will probably find the film confusing and draining.

Earlier this week, our very own Adam Spunberg took a poll of Picktainment writers and Harry Potter fans to rank the first six movies. In my opinion, this seventh installment would rank somewhere near the middle of the pack.

Of all the movies in the series, this one takes the fewest liberties and most closely follows the book. Of course, it’s easier for director David Yates to cover the text in depth, since he’s given two movies to work with. As a result, few details are spared from Harry, Ron, and Hermoine’s journey to find the Voldemort’s Horcruxes, and the film has a decided Lord of the Rings feel. But by effectively filming half a movie, one can’t help but leave a little unsatisfied as two and half hours of intense drama build up to a cliffhanger.

Even if you know the story, take my advice – brush on your Harry Potter knowledge before seeing this film. While JK Rowling was known for adding a few sentences as a reference point for previously introduced pieces of magic, this film offers little in the way of background information. In the meantime, I will do my best here to briefly update you.

For those who don’t remember, Voldemort created seven Horcruxes, which are pieces of his soul that must be destroyed in order to ultimately kill him. This is why Voldemort did not completely die when his killing curse rebounded on the infant Harry Potter. Entering the seventh book/movie, two Horcruxes have already been destroyed. The first is Tom Riddle’s diary, which was destroyed in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The second was Marvolo Gaunt’s ring, which Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore destroyed during the summer between the fifth and sixth books.

As we begin Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Albus Dumbledore is dead – having been murdered by Professor Severus Snape. Voldemort and his minions have effectively taken control of the Ministry of Magic, and begin an ethnic cleansing of sorts, as they look to eliminate anyone with muggle (human) blood. Voldemort is also obsessed with finding and killing Harry Potter, whom the Ministry declares is “Undesirable No. 1”.

For Potter, nowhere is particularly safe, so he seems to spend most of the story hiding in the woods with his closest friends Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger, while they figure out what the remaining five Horcruxes are and how to destroy them. In the first half of the story, they don’t get particularly far, and most of the film centers around the destruction of just one Horcrux – Slytherin’s locket.

It’s this long journey that gives the film it’s Lord of the Rings feel, as they travel through all terrains to find what seems to be impossible. You could argue that not much happens while they’re camped out in tents trying to figure out what is going on, and one person I saw the film with commented that it was almost boring. However, the actors Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Glint (Ron), and Emma Watson (Hermoine) have developed excellent on-screen chemistry by now, and their interactions are interesting.

This movie also has some of the best scenes in the series. In addition to having the strongest effects and some of the best action sequences, Yates brings to life certain parts of the wizarding world as well as we’ve seen. The scene where Harry, Ron, and Hermoine break into the Ministry of Magic is particularly well-done and arguably the most memorable part of the film.

The film itself builds up intensity in the journey to the point where it is almost draining. And while you know from the start that you’re getting half a movie, it’s hard not to feel a little unsatisfied when it stops at a place where tensions are still high.

This version of Harry Potter is not a kid’s movie (and neither have the last two been either). Harry Potter is now a dark thrill-ride that has adult appeal. But there’s a reason why the Harry Potter movies don’t get considered for Oscars, but the Lord of the Rings films all received Best Picture nominations. While still enjoyable, the Potter films lack the grandeur and true feel of adventure that we saw with Lord of the Rings. Also most of the Harry Potter books contain so much rich detail and nuance that they have never quite feel 100% right on the screen. Many of the previous movies seem to have rushed through rather interesting plot points.

Rushing is certainly not a problem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. Instead you get an intense thriller, albeit one that is impossible to understand if you’re not an ardent fan, and leaves you nearly exhausted by the end. It’s too bad we have to wait until July to see the second-half of this movie.

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