I have a confession to make. I am something of a Harry Potter apologist: because of my love of the original books it has often been difficult to see anything but the good things with the film adaptations (and even the later books), but I promise I'll endeavour to remain as objective as possible here. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One certainly has its flaws- and there were certainly those who will be disappointed- but what it lacks in frenetic pace, it more than makes up for in other areas, including an injection of artfulness that the previous film never seemed able to achieve despite its obvious aspirations. And there is a lot more to be said of the film than the perpetually regurgitated assertion that it is darker than the last film; a lazy critique at best that gives no insight into the merits of the film, but which seems to have followed this film franchise, for better and for worse, since its inception way back in 2001. This penultimate instalment has been criticised as ponderous and meandering, a stagnant, po-faced set-up to the finale with an impenetrable script and little excitement to grip the attention over its huge two and a half hour run time. But I think that criticism is slightly misplaced. The decision to split the final book into two parts was always going to cause difficulties for the film-makers: the book has no natural mid-point, which could be escalated with some form of third act crescendo to provide a fitting end to the first last film, and the result was always going to seem something of a whimper in comparison to the films that went before. The decision to offer an expansive, double-headed finale does allow for every loose end to be tied up, without scrimping on important scenes, or dispensing with too many characters frivolously (some do suffer that however, as discussed below). This is an intentional slow-burn, big on visuals and atmosphere, and the development of that much-vaunted Darkness, designed to make the events of the second part all the more pronounced and affecting. And thanks to some wonderful cinematography (both real and CGI-enhanced), the film's visuals do the trick, adding a bleak and sparse tone that fits the wilderness section at the heart of JK Rowling's final book. One criticism of the franchise that I have always resisted until now was that the triumvirate of young lead actors- Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson- are a world apart in terms of talent from the sparkling array of British acting talent that makes up the adult half of the cast. None of the three were ever really impressive to my eyes, and it seems now that they were perhaps simply limping under the weight of their characters and the comparatively shallow depth any of them (particularly Ron and Hermione) were afforded by the scripts of the first six films. In this seventh, characterisation of the three is one of the most notable differences- which of course was a necessary development since the action widens focus to make Hermione and Ron leading characters alongside Harry, rather than merely his side-kicks.With this added depth, Watson in particular impresses a lot more, and Grint seems less prone to the irksome face-pulling that had up to this point been the one identifying characteristic of his performances. The further development of the three characters also goes some way to addressing the removal of two of the definitive characters from proceedings. Dumbledore of course is no more, which in itself is a tragedy but it was his dynamic with Harry in the sixth film that stood out (and also boosted Daniel Radcliffe's performance) and the vacuum created in the wake of his death is painfully obvious as the film heads into its second act. The second missing identity, and the most difficult for the film to deal with is that of Hogwarts, the setting for 90% of the action in the first six films. The school gave the films' action a frame, and the architecture of the sets provided the perfect atmospheric accompaniment to that action as well- without that stability, there was always going to be the potential for the tone and the action to meander aimlessly, so for me, the mid-point of the film, where the three young charges hide out in the Wilderness represented the most difficult passage. But, as I said, the tone is perfect, and the visuals great: I just didn't enjoy the section in the books at all, and found myself yearning to skip pages to get back to the real action- the film version didn't inspire that feeling, but I still feel it could have been abridged. That mid-section of the film proves the value of the grand approach that had up to this point defined the franchise, with almost innumerate characters, elaborate sets, occasionally frantic action and the cream of recognisable British talent. With those aspects stripped away, and the focus shifting to that of an Apocalyptic road movie, the film stutters and loses its grip on the audience. Thankfully it doesn't last too long (as it does in the book), and the action gets a much-needed shot in the arm with the appearance of the Snatcher gang, lead in fantastic style by Nick Moran doing his best impression of a hoodlum Adam Ant. For a franchise that has for so long been defined by its characters, it is mildly irritating to note the disdainful way certain of them are treated here- the deaths of Moody and Hedwig are both barely touched on (though the script gives the owl a far more noble end than the book did), and one of the best characters of all- Fenrir Greyback- is relegated to a stooge in Scabior's Snatcher Gang, despite his status as one of the most menacing villains of the whole book series. And the less said about what happens to the Dursleys the better- there is no small redemption for them, as in the book, and they are effectively simply swept under the carpet and off the screen effortlessly. One of the Deleted Scenes actually does offer a bit more, and would have been an intelligent addition to this sequences, but it inexplicably never found its way into the final film. The new character additions are thankfully well-handled and uniformly well-cast: Bill Nighy is suitably grim and taut as Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister of Magic, Rhys Ifans is great fun, and perfectly frenetic as Xenophilius Lovegood, the wonderful Peter Mullen is delightfulyl menacing as Yaxley. Elsewhere. Nick Moran shines as Scabior and the three actors who are charged with playing Harry, Ron and Hermione in different bodies (thanks to Polyjuice Potion)- David O'Hara, Steffan Rhodri and Sophie Thompson- cope impressively with their unenviable task, copying mannerisms perfectly and obviously having fun with their aping. To have the majority of the main, and best-loved characters stripped away from 80% of the film might have been catastrophic were it not for the successes of this new batch. In the end, the film ends in the middle. Lovely sentence that, almost poetic. And it's true- it was always going to be more appropriate to consider Part One as a bridge to the finale, which will feature The Battle of Hogwarts, the one event that this entire eight film long journey was leading towards. We will be back at Hogwarts (eventually), and while the past frivolities of Quidditch and House Points are definitely confined to the past, there will be some comfort to see the three leads back among friends, facing enemies together. To that end it does reasonably well, though the first and last sections should have been given more focus, and the middle Wilderness passage could have been shorter (or less grim), but as a stand-alone film it doesn't really work as well. No-one coming into this film with no prior knowledge of the films/books will understand what is going on (even despite the wholly obvious attempts to recap without being too blatant), and it is just too dark and grim to get any huge enjoyment out of it without the right context. The Deathly Hallows: Part One is definitely the closest of all Harry Potter adaptations to the original text- which is occasionally the root of its faults, because large passages of that last book are the worst that Rowling committed to the page. But it is still an entertaining experience- the tone and the pace may be different, but it doesn't mean they are bad, it's just that the film sticks out as very different from the rest of its predecessors, and difference in a franchise this big is often considered suspicious. I enjoyed it, and I think the film looks incredibly good- the acting is also definitely a lot better than it has been in previous Potter adaptations, but I have to say I am a little glad it is out of the way, because this was the first time my excitement for a Harry Potter film outweighed my actual enjoyment of it. Now for the real finale, and that irresistible show-down I've been waiting for for what seems like forever.


The film looks great in high-definition, which is especially impressive given how dark it is. There's that word again. But in terms of the palette's darkness, the transfer is near perfect, with shadows and tones delineated well enough that the lack of light doesn't lead to you watching a pitch black screen. Likewise fine detail and texture are excellent, along with skin tones, and there is very little sign of post-production tinkering. The special effects also look great, especially in the Three Brothers animation sequence, which was a bold choice, but which stands out as a visual triumph. Sound-wise, we're looking at perfection here: the mix is hugely immersive, and engaging, particularly in the action-heavy sequences (the battle in the sky between Death Eaters and The Order of the Phoenix sounds incredible) and dialogue is given appropriate clarity and precedence.


Lots of additional material, including Warner Bros recently-successful Maximum Movie Mode, which this time is hosted by Lucius Malfoy himself Jason Isaacs, exploring behind-the-scenes and additional information. I still think there was room for a normal commentary track to go alongside this, as I don't always want the Picture-in-Picture experience since it fundamentally interferes with the film itself. Typically excellent featurettes as well, and it was embarrassingly exciting to be treated to a sneak peek at The Deathly Hallows Part Two. Disc 1Maximum Movie Mode (168 mins): Jason Isaacs hosts this Picture-in-Picture feature packed with behind-the-scenes videos, optional "Focus Point" featurettes, interviews with members of the production team and actors, readings from the original novel by Tom Felton, facts and trivia, and several dissections of the plot, characters, franchise and the film's production. Focus Point Featurettes (19 mins): Segments include "The Last Days of Privet Drive," "Hagrid's Motorbike," "Magical Tents," "Death Eaters Attack Cafe," "Creating Dobby and Kreacher" and "The Return of Griphook." Disc 2Behind the Story Featurettes (32 mins): Five featurettes: "The Seven Harrys," "On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James," "Dan, Rupert and Emma's Running Competition," "Godric's Hollow and the Harry & Nagini Battle" and "The Frozen Lake". Additional Scenes (11 mins): "The Burrows Shed," "The Dursley House," "Dudley and Harry," "The Granger House," "Ministry of Magic Lifts," "Tent," "Rabbit Chase in the Forest" and "Ron and Hermione Skimming Stones". Exclusive Deathly Hallows Part 2 Sneak Peek The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Grand Opening (6 mins) Behind the Soundtrack (4 mins) BD-Live Functionality Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part One is available to buy on Triple-play Blu-ray (with a limited Steelbox edition also available) and DVD now.

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