Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Talk about dark.
Penultimate means the second-to-last in a series, which is what this film obviously is. Even though this and the next film are part of the same story, this film is still considered to be the second to last. I remember when the book was released, and it was a smashing success, everyone who was everyone and their mom had to own the book. It had an amazing and mysterious title, it was a thick book, and it was the final story in the Harry Potter series. Would Harry Potter die? Would he defeat Voldemort? What exactly is the “Deathly Hallows” anyways? All of these questions and more were obviously answered in the book, but only half of these questions were revealed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
Lord Voldemort has taken over Hogwarts, and has transformed the school and their views into a racist dictatorship of sorts…somewhat reminiscent of Hitler himself. Harry is in danger, as Voldemort searches high and low for any sign of Harry and his friends. Each time they narrowly escape Deatheaters, Harry, Hermione, and Ron have a plan – to seek out each of the Horcrux’s and destroy them one by one. Everything starts to piece together when they learn of The Deathly Hallows, a collection of three artifacts that when combined, makes the wizard invincible. Harry and the gang now has quite a few things to face in the coming days.
Holy night vision goggles, Batman! Is this film dark or what? You give a definition for “dark”, and you have just described this film. It’s physically dark enough to have trouble seeing much of anything most of the time and it is also thematically dark. Even though it’s a tad difficult to see, you can tell that the rest of the visuals are done perfect. It is shot beautifully. The change in scenery throughout the film is a great as well as fresh change of pace for the franchise. The movie looks awesome, there’s absolutely no doubt about it.
What about the story? Well that’s hard to really dive into. It’s split in half, so it clearly doesn’t feel whole. The characters have a rock solid goal, and the film really feels like it’s coming in for a landing. The landing being a perfect and epic finale, but we’re not there yet. So we settle for second best, which is stretching out an epic tale…for once, I’m okay with that. As a movie on its own, you can’t see it without seeing the second half. I’m not much of a fan of films that can’t be seen as standalone, but in this case, that was the intention, so I’ll let it slide.
The series as a whole up to this point, while they differed, still followed a very basic structure. Start in Muggle world, take a train ride, gain a new Defense against the Dark Arts instructor, learn some neat stuff at Hogwarts, play a little Quidditch, play in the snow, epic end battle, end credits. At this point, that’s what you’d come to expect, and if that happened in the finale, I would have surely been upset. Instead, we get a major change in scenery and a better look into Harry Potter’s unfiltered determination. I loved it, and I easily place this film as a “must-see” Harry Potter film.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a great example of what a penultimate film should be. It’s clearly getting ready for a satisfactory close. Preparations are being made, people are starting to go missing, to start dying. It is getting darker and darker, and at this point we must remember one thing. It’s always darkest before the dawn.