Following six years of near-death experiences and a war brewing in the wizarding world, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the beginning of the end for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). After the untimely demise of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), our beloved trio who are left on their own must begin their search for the keys to destroying Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) — the Horcruxes that contain pieces of his soul. Unable to return to Hogwarts and finish their schooling, given that Voldemort and his Death Eaters have taken over every powerful location in the wizarding world, Harry and his friends are tasked with staying hidden, safe, and somehow destroying their seemingly unbeatable enemy.
Surely a controversial opinion; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the best film in the series. Yes, even better than Prisoner of Azkaban. Given that the final book was split into two films, the first part has more time to breathe and is able to translate more of the book onto the big screen. On all accounts, slowing things down and splitting the finale into two parts truly worked in favor of the series. And of course, who could forget that animated scene telling the story of the Deathly Hallows.
Most notably, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a much deeper dive into these familiar characters and their relationships with one another. Given that much of the film is spent with Harry, Hermione, and Ron camping out or planning a new adventure together, moviegoers are able to see how close they really are. In the other films, the relationship between the trio (while still incredible) felt a bit superficial because the focus given to them was not nearly as detailed as the books, and they were often too distracted to just bond. During this film, we can actively see the toll that this journey is taking on them, individually, and in their relationships with each other. We see how strong their love for each other is, but we also see their relationships tested.
There had been cracks in the trio’s friendship before, like when Ron gets angry with Harry in Goblet of Fire, with Ron accusing Harry of not telling him about his entry into the Triwizard tournament. But, could anyone really watch that and be on Ron’s side? No, not really… at least not in the film, and that’s something that just couldn’t translate with such little time to adapt an enormous story. In Deathly Hallows, when Ron leaves in a rage after his fight with Harry over the radio and listening to make sure none of his family members had been murdered by the Death Eaters, his reaction is far more understandable, and the viewers are far more sympathetic to his plight.
Because the focus was so entirely on Harry and trying to develop such a complex plot in the other films, other characters were rarely allowed real, emotional moments. That’s not the case in this film. It’s most noticeable with the trio, but even the others have their moments. There’s real grief from the Weasley family after George’s ear is cursed off, and just in general with their world crumbling around them. Harry finally is allowed time to sit with all of his losses, and even though it doesn’t play a major part in the film, it certainly shows Harry in a different light. The easiest emotion to see from Harry in the films was always anger, but there’s a sadness surrounding him in Deathly Hallows Part 1 that wouldn’t have been possible to show if the film was rushing to wrap everything up in two and a half hours.
The additional scenes that weren’t in the books add to this, too. For instance, showing Hermione wiping herself from her Muggle parents’ memories so they wouldn’t be in danger is glossed over with a quick mention in the books, but is such a vital display of the cost of the upcoming war in the film. And, after Ron leaves, Harry and Hermione’s dance scene is such a sweet moment of friendship between the two, giving them a small but much-needed break from the constant misery and despair of their situation. It’s so simple, but such a beautiful touch to give the characters (and viewers) an emotional break and improves the movie tenfold. It all comes together to capture the dark tone and utter seriousness of what’s going on in their world and what a major threat they’re facing. Sure, the other films show Voldemort to be a dangerous foe, but Deathly Hallows: Part 1 details how Voldemort is everywhere and on the brink of success. He’s sucked all of the hope out of the wizarding world, which contributes to how much pressure is on the trio to save the day.
What really brings Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 to the top of the list is that, for the first time in the films, everything and everyone is allowed to slow down a bit. The plot moves forward at an enjoyable pace without overtaking every other aspect of the film or overshadowing the characters and the beautiful relationships from the books. Instead of briskly darting to the end, the focus of this film is on interpersonal relationships. It allows time for things like Bill (Dohmnall Gleeson) and Fleur’s (Clémence Poésy) wedding and makes the risk of death even more frightening and heartbreaking to consider as their journey progresses. The characters, particularly the trio, are allowed to be emotional, while still being heroic. They’re allowed to make mistakes, take risks, and come close to losing everything (and really feel that near-death experience). And, splitting the book into two films allowed for the viewers to become even more invested in the story and the characters, making the end of the story in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 all the more powerful and impactful.
The other Harry Potter films are great, but Deathly Hallows: Part 1 benefits incredibly from the book being split into two films, with the final battle and end of Harry Potter’s story saved for the next movie. Little moments and well-developed main characters/relationships made the books a success, and that’s something that lacks too much in some of the films. While the plot with Voldemort was interesting, it wasn’t the main allure of the story. But, it became the focal point of the films from the start. The allure of the books was the wizarding world at large, and learning more about this mystical universe, the characters that inhabited it, and what was possible. With Deathly Hallows: Part 1, that is finally seen on-screen, particularly with the investigation into Dumbledore’s past and the history of the world as the trio searched for items that could’ve been potential Horcruxes.
Plus, with more time to explore, viewers are able to see much of the book on-screen. Scenes, characters, and interactions don’t have to be completely changed to shorten and simplify the plot. It feels like a love letter to the material that is being adapted, which is astounding considering the primary reason for the powers that be to split a book into two films is likely the money.
All eight Harry Potter films are currently streaming on Peacock TV.
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