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Rated 4.56 stars
by 1473 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Get a Move On, Potter!
by Richard Jack Smith

There’s such a random quality to the action sequences in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 that no matter how devoted the audience member, most are likely to feel robbed of some much needed context.

Harry and his friends need to find the remaining Horcruxes if they have any hope of defeating Lord Voldemort. With the notable absence of Dumbledore and an even darker slant on the tale, director David Yates makes the classic Peter Jackson error by losing control of the tone. Any sense of logic becomes passed over as the individual pieces of the puzzle refuse to mount up.

Insufficient time is devoted to the performances, even with the three principal actors. Daniel Radcliffe may be showing signs of emotional atrophy, trying to eke out as many “moments” from the film as he can. After seven movies, he will no doubt be looking forward to other challenges. The same goes for Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, who look and sound more uncomfortable with each new outing.

In terms of villains, Helena Bonham Carter provides a wiggy creation with Bellatrix Lestrange. As Voldemort, Ralph Fiennes appears only twice, with some brief flashes of his evil-doing spread throughout.

Where is John Williams when we need him? Composer Alexandre Desplat creates many incidental pieces, more abstract than solidly crafted. In many ways, his writing recalls the work of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard on The Dark Knight (2008). Yet where Williams evokes a strong emotional response in the audience effortlessly, Desplat tries too hard. His themes mimic other composers leading to unoriginality, a lack of imagination and a not particularly memorable outcome. For the first film in the series, Williams put together a whole universe of melodic ideas, as yet unsurpassed.

The key contribution comes from Eduardo Serra. His cinematography enriches the experience with carefully framed character close-ups as well as lighting schemes reminiscent of the great oil-based painters. Interior sets benefit from his attention to key and fill lighting sources. Also, his choice of lenses feels consistent with the work he brought us in Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003).

The Potter films have gotten really dark since The Chamber of Secrets (2002). Not only that, the pacing has gone to pot. Richard Francis-Bruce achieved such an emotionally uplifting tempo in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) which no editor has been able to match since. At several points in The Deathly Hallows: Part 1, I wanted to scream at Harry and urge him to “get a move on.” Overall, the film moves slowly, perhaps too slow for this critic.

(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality.)

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