From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1" - B

Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality. 146 minutes

This "Potter" is a leisurely, dark but entertaining journey

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” is all about anticipation. Much like the classic Carly Simon pop song of the same name once used to describe ketchup of all things, it could also aptly describe the latest big-screen installment of J.K. Rowling’s literary icon. Slow, leisurely but embodied with a rich, distinct flavor, the first part of the finale serves its purpose well: to set up the penultimate installment next summer; saying that it leaves you hanging is an understatement. This Hogwarts-Quidditch-free outing is a stripped down one: less clutter, better acted, bleaker and more cerebral than previous outings, it takes its time; non-fans will feel the 146-minute running time, while true fans will only be more eager for Part 2 next year.

Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) power is growing stronger. He now has control over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) decide to finish Dumbledore's work and find the rest of the Horcruxes, which are Voldemorts key’s to immortality and destruction. But little hope remains for the trio and the rest of the Wizarding World, so everything they do must go as planned.

The seventh film in the “Harry Potter” series, it is dark, low-key and the most understated of all the Potter films, if that’s possible. There’s still considerable entertainment value, even if some of it feels a little sluggish at times. Fans will love it, non-fans will appreciate it, if not endure it; all the while it prepares the audience for the final – truly the final – act of the book, which has spanned 10 years to Potter emerge into an adult. David Yates, who directed the previous installment, again tackles this one along with stalwart “Potter” screenwriter Steve Kloves, who has the unenviable task of condensing Rowling’s dense, thickest novel of the series into a film. This Potter outing takes it time, probably too much so at different points, but it comes together for a resounding climax that answers a handful of questions but leaves many more until Part 2.

The best thing about Part 1 of “Deathly Hallows” is that underscores the chemistry of the three leads, who anchor this film more than they ever have. This outing purposely reduces clutter and special-effects, taking it completely out of Hogwarts as more or less a road trip for the three, and becoming more of a character study, which accounts for some of “Deathly Hallows” slow-going. Radcliffe continues to develop Potter into a strong character, though Grint and especially Watson are effective as his pals, who get as much screen time and importance to the story. Of the rest of the large, mostly British cast, Fiennes makes the most memorable impression as the film's scariest character, the dark Lord Voldemont.

The production values are typically high, and the special-effects, sets and music are all first-rate. There’s a memorable episode that has the three taking on different bodies, and a scary one involving a rather large snake. As with the other “Potter” films, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 10 years of age, and not just for the dark, intense content, but the extensive 2 ½ hour length that would make it a patience and endurance test for any young child and parent. The climax is exciting, but eager fans will literally be left dangling until next summer.

Anticipation can be a great thing. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” only lays the groundwork for what will be surely be an explosive showdown between Potter and Voldemont, with death in the mix somewhere. This outing is an entertaining, albeit leisurely epic fantasy journey that’s about to end, so savor it while you can.