Those familiar with J.K. Rowling’s books will doubtlessly agree that the first half of the last volume is kind of an emotional slough. Here, Harry, Hermione, and Ron have effected an escape from the now-overtly threatening clutches of He-Who-Probably-Shouldn’t-Be-Named-Unless-Somebody-Decides-It’s-Okay. After that, they hang around, crabby and perplexed, camping out in forests magical and otherwise, sleuthing and bitching. It’s a slow slog, redeemed only by the book’s final and epic confrontations and twists. Just so you know, the movie well reflects the first pensive half of said novel, the dark night of the magic folk’s collective soul.
Which is not to say it’s entirely boring. In fact, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 contains exceedingly sinister stuff, darker than last episode’s death of Dumbledore, the prelude to all of this camping and Horcrux-hunting pre-apocalypse. Here, there are murders, poignant deaths, and a momentary but grandiose triumph of evil. And director David Yates employs considerable effort to spice up the proceedings with action scenes that are dire and bloody and a lengthy retelling of the Deathly Hallows legend via beautiful angular animation. Again, we are made even more willing to throttle Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). But this is the dark before the battle and the dawn, and it’s so alternately slow and violent it might not be suitable for the impressionable muggles in your clan.
In short, Hallows isn’t the best Harry, though it’ll do. Though the cast has only gotten better over the years in the company of Great Britain’s most intensely dedicated actors, including Alan Rickman, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy, the mood seems stilted. It’s weird to see Harry and Ron sporting day-old stubble, and Harry’s affecting dance scene with Hermione while Ron is gone just seems wrong on too many levels. One reason for feeling disorientation may be the complete absence of Hogwarts, the school as character, which will be made up, no doubt, in the final film. We have to make our bets now, though, based on this slightly balking film: Will the end make the books come back to life or leave us deathly sad and a little hollow?