The best 'Potter' yet 

'Deathly Hallows' raises the stakes.

THE BEST POTTER YET: Ralph Fiennes stars as Voldemort.
  • THE BEST POTTER YET: Ralph Fiennes stars as Voldemort.

To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't care much for the first few movies in the "Harry Potter" series. Too slapstick. Too precious. Too childish. Too obsessed with the latest CGI goo-gaw, at the expense of character and pacing and plot. While the later films were fair-to-middlin', the main problem was that actor Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the boy wizard, just wasn't all that good back in those days. He just never sold the character's anxiety and fear, and thus the danger of the books largely fell flat on screen.

With age, however, comes maturity and skill. The latest installment of the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" is almost completely on the shoulders of the three main protagonists: Emma Watson (who plays young witch Hermione Grainger), Rupert Grint (who plays Ron Weasley) and Radcliffe. They succeed brilliantly. The result is a film full of tension, pain, and the real emotion that was sometimes lacking in the other stops along the Harry Potter Express. While the early Potter films were clearly meant to be kid flicks, this one is — to its credit — most definitely not. In a word, this is the best, most complex Harry Potter film yet.

With Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) dead, struck from the highest tower of the school by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), the magical world inhabited by Harry Potter and friends has fallen into chaos and evil is taking over. Soon after the film opens, there's a very tense scene in which Harry and a group of wizard protectors fly into an ambush, with several long-running characters of the series killed or maimed by forces loyal to evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Though Harry knows what he must do — find and destroy seven magical objects called Horcruxes, which contain the dissected soul of Voldemort — the adults around Harry are so protective of him as The Chosen One of prophecy and legend that they won't let him make the sacrifices necessary to bring the endgame. Worse yet, they keep getting killed while trying to protect him, leaving Harry to deal with the guilt of a young man whose friends sacrificed their lives so he could be safe.

Meanwhile, those loyal to Voldemort have seized control of Hogwarts School and The Ministry of Magic (a kind of wizard Department of Homeland Security, complete with secret courts and jails), and have started an effort to cleanse their world of those with non-wizard blood, which the new regime has decreed renders them racially impure. Because of all that, Harry decides to go it alone, disappearing into the world to live off the magical grid while trying to find the Horcruxes before Voldemort becomes so powerful he can't be stopped. His old friends Hermione and Ron insist on joining him, however, leading to a lot of tension, heartache and action as the three friends literally journey into the wilderness in scenes that are as close to Frodo's quest from "Lord of the Rings" as the Potter series will ever get. Meanwhile, their crusade leads them to learn of The Deathly Hallows, the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world, which Voldemort covets as a way to make himself immortal and omnipotent.

As I said, Grint, Watson and Radcliffe are excellent here as the three put-upon friends desperate to protect each other and save their world from evil. The three come across at all times as stripped bare in a way we've never seen them before, genuinely terrified of what's around the corner but pressing on in spite of every instinct they have. The amount of care Radcliffe, Grint and Watson are allowed to lavish on their characters owes a lot to the fact that — unlike other films in the series — "The Deathly Hallows" never makes it to Hogwarts, and that's a good thing. The Potter films have often felt encapsulated within its protected walls, with the school serving as a kind of safe house where Dumbledore and those loyal to him were always ready to step in and save Harry's bacon if things really got serious. With the school and Dumbledore out of the picture, however, the effect is multi-fold. Harry and friends are free to explore the rest of the world, both magical and non-magical, but they are also completely on their own. This leads to moments of real tension, where you find yourself waiting for an adult witch or wizard to swoop in (Deus ex Magica style) and save the day. When that doesn't happen — when Harry and friends are allowed to fail in their quest, at least for awhile — it's a genuine shock. Fold into that an emphasis on character over special effects, and some scenes where I honestly wanted to look away (such as when one of the beloved figures from the series is tortured for information, screaming in pain while literally being branded to mark the character as racially undesirable), and you've got the darkest, most emotional Harry Potter film yet — a film that's less about spectacle and more about the limits a person, even a young person, can push himself to if the lives of his friends are on the line.

In short: Definitely catch it, even if you're not a fan.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by David Koon

Readers also liked…

  • Gay diamonds

    Scenes from Rodeo in the Rock.
    • May 7, 2015
  • Not much to 'Love'

    In Judd Apatow's new Netflix original series.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Movie Reviews

  • Not a princess

    'Moana' subverts the Disney 'wedding bell' formula.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Through a glass, grimly

    'Black Mirror' is science fiction set five minutes in the future.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Fear and wonder

    'Arrival' makes room for 'linguistic relativity.'
    • Nov 16, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Woeful

    • If the UA could get the SEC to stop all games if at any time…

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Woeful

    • The Mizz loss was worse than getting beat by Louisiana-Moron

    • on December 2, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation