As the last chapter of the Harry Potter saga commences, the evil Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) control over the Wizarding world has grown after the death of Dumbledore. His Death Eaters are searching for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) because his death is required to restore Voldemort to his full power. Unfortunately, the numbers of those fighting for good are dwindling. Harry can't stand being responsible for the loss of any more life, and with his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), they head off in search of the remaining Horcruxes, which contain portions of Voldemort's soul, in order to destroy them.
The problem is they aren't sure what to look for, although Dumbledore has bestowed upon them gifts that contain clues. They hide away in the wilderness but also follow up leads that take them places like inside the Ministry of Magic, a well-done action sequence, and to Godric's Hollow, where Potter's parents used to live. At these locations, they are searching for items such as the locket of Salazar Slytherin and the Sword of Gryffindor, while trying to stay out of the clutches of Voldemort and those working for him.
Darkness so permeates the world in Deathly Hollows that there's hardly any color in Eduardo Serra's cinematography and Stuart Craig's production design. Though slightly surprising for a Hollywood blockbuster, it's a great choice by director David Yates and all involved, as the bleakness the characters experience is palpable.
Also unusual are the scenes of waiting as the trio bides their time. They allow for some of the better character moments in the film, and better bits of acting by the main three, as their emotions and frustrations dealing with the enormity and difficulty of their situation plays out between them. Rather than existing just to move the plot along, the scenes created realistic, intimate moments the audience was eavesdropping on.
As in the other films, the battle between good and evil is not waged lightly. Following author J.K. Rowling's lead, screenwriter Steve Kloves has some characters pay the ultimate price for their involvement. While the story is very serious, Kloves finds plenty of moments of humor that derive naturally and don't clash with the film's tone. The only problem I had, and I am not sure how this played out in the book, which I read upon its release three years ago, but there are one time too many instances where someone shows up out of the blue and saves the day. While being in a world of magic better explains how these moments could occur, they still felt too easy.
As Part 1 in the title gives away, the story does not end here. As the film concludes, both Potter and Voldemort have moved closer to their ultimate goal of destroying each other. The final showdown will take place in Part 2 set to be released on July 15, 2011. It was very good to revisit the world of Harry Potter, but I can't help but wonder if the entire experience would be more satisfying without such a long time gap between seeing both parts.
Article first published as Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 on Blogcritics.