Harry Potter Part 1: The beginning of the end

On Nov. 19, at one minute after midnight, thousands of eager teenagers crowded movie theaters across the country, an uncommonly high percentage of them wearing robes and carrying wands. After hours of waiting, cheers erupted through the dimmed theaters; screens flickered to life as the camera swooped over the familiar street of Privet Drive. The massive group of dedicated fans gathered to view the beginning of the end of an era, the first half of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh installment in the “Harry Potter” series.

The final installment of the Harry Potter movies retains all the tension of the book. “Deathly Hallows” reads almost as a psychological thriller as the story progresses deeper into darker themes; Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two closest friends, the brilliant Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and bumbling but well-meaning Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), must abandon Hogwarts and travel the country searching for the Horcruxes that will finally allow them to vanquish Voldemort once and for all. To the detriment of other characters, the movie focuses entirely on these three. The story is full of more emotion than any of the previous “Harry Potter” movies, for the trio must deal with the trauma of living in fear for themselves and all the people they love. Unfortunately, much of the book is spent in a lonely tent somewhere in the middle of the woods, the only place that Harry can be truly safe; while this sometimes makes the book drag, the filmmakers did an excellent job of capturing the agony of life in hiding without actually devoting too much camera time to it.

In one of the only light-hearted moments of the movie, Harry and Hermione share a dance after Ron briefly abandons their quest. This moment has been rejected as too sentimental by some fans, but it serves to momentarily lift the nearly unbearable tension of their situation as well as cement the depth of their friendship. The story of the Deathly Hallows, which are the three objects thought to be a myth that Voldemort believes can bring him unconquerable power, is read by Hermione and illustrated in sharp, flowing animation. This scene is one of the most important because the Hallows are central to the story and must be explained; putting it in animation shows the artistic and creative take on the story that the whole movie embodies.

Of course, any review would be incomplete without mentioning the climactic death of Dobby, the faithful house-elf. He appears at Harry, Ron and Hermione’s most desperate hour of need to save their lives and sacrifices himself. While Dobby has not always been one of the most central characters, his bravery was a highlight of the movie, and his death was truly a tragedy.

My biggest complaint about “Deathly Hallows” is that it doesn’t include enough of Professor Dumbledore, who died in the sixth novel. Harry’s relationship with his headmaster had always been complex, but in the seventh installment Harry realizes that Dumbledore left him with a nearly insurmountable task and unnecessarily difficult clues and hints in order to destroy Voldemort, and his frustration grows. This was largely left out of the movie. Additionally, Harry’s tragic flaw has always been that he sees himself as alone in his struggle and is reluctant to accept help from those desperate to give it and Harry’s belief that the fate of the wizarding world rests entirely on his shoulders was not stressed enough.

“Deathly Hallows” is without a doubt the best Harry Potter movie yet. It stayed true to the book but still delivered an enjoyable movie experience to those who are not yet Harry Potter fans. Naturally, nothing can compare to the magic of reading the books and any fan must adjust his expectations for the movies, but “Deathly Hallows” was a triumph on many levels.

Some may complain about the book being split into two movies, claiming that Hollywood just wants to squeeze as much money out of the franchise as possible; however, I am willing to pay for the extra ticket to cling that much longer to the greatest cultural phenomenon of my generation.

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