Potter casts spell in “Deathly Hallows” film

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is probably the least accessible, most demanding Harry Potter film to date. It requires the audience to have knowledge of the storylines, relationships and mythology previously developed in the series, and to accept a deliberately inconclusive ending. The main characters spend a lot of time wandering around not knowing what to do, and by the end of the film they haven’t accomplished much. New mysteries are introduced, old plotlines are left open-ended, characters are left in limbo and we have to wait eight months for all this to be resolved.

Despite all this it’s a well-made movie and it will still satisfy a huge audience of Harry Potter fans worldwide, a testament to the series’ innate charm.

Deathly Hallows is second to last movie in the series and the first not to feature Hogwarts, the school for witchcraft and wizardry that usually serves as the setting for Harry’s adventures. Instead the film finds Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione camping out in the wilderness, on the run from the corrupt government of the wizarding world, which has been taken over by Harry’s archenemy Voldemort and his minions. The trio spends most of the film searching for magical artifacts called Horcruxes, which are supposed to be the key to Voldemort’s downfall. If none of that means anything to you, then this movie is probably not going to do much for you.

Following the story’s natural progression, this installment is one of the darkest and most adult in content, but is still lightened periodically with a genuine sort of humor that rises mostly from the audience’s familiarity with the characters and a whimsical depiction of magic. Director David Yates manages to move the action along at a decent pace, while still taking some time to focus on the central friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. All three main actors give their best and most sincere performances to date, and the supporting cast (featuring more big-name British actors than most movies could ever dream of hiring) does a fine job as usual.

Deathly Hallows is a somewhat unique phenomenon, in that it’s targeted at a pretty specific audience for a big-budget movie. Viewers who have little to no familiarity with the Harry Potter franchise will likely not find the experience fulfilling, since it’s about the furthest thing there is from a stand-alone movie. Those who have seen most or all of the previous movies and are familiar with the storyline so far will probably be entertained, if a little confused at spots. But the viewers that will get the most out of the movie are the ones who already know what is going to happen in it, having read all seven books in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series.

The truth is a lot of people who watch the Harry Potter movies are watching as more of an extension to the books than anything, an extra visual dimension to the story we already know and love. For the past decade or so the books and films of the Harry Potter series have been released periodically, creating a pretty unique situation in regards to the loyalty of its fan base. Many of us have grown up with Harry. We came upon the books and movies when we were in early elementary school, and are now reaching adulthood just as the final content of the series is released. We are the kids who have witnessed the ballooning of Harry Potter into a global sensation, who secretly wished for our Hogwarts acceptance letters to arrive on our eleventh birthdays, who know all the rules to Quidditch and which house the Sorting Hat would put us in. We have watched Harry and his schoolmates grow from children into young adults, a transformation that mirrored our own.

In many ways these last movies mark the end of an era, which for many fans happens to coincide with their own passage into adulthood. And people of all ages and tastes, people who like to read and people who don’t, people who like fantasy and those with other interests, have become invested in this story in some way or another. Hardly anyone growing up after the books became popular has been able to escape at least a basic awareness of the Harry Potter mythos. Our generation’s familiarity with Harry’s world is to me very comforting and unifying, and it makes the series’ end a particularly bittersweet occasion.

Deathly Hallows is trying to give us a memorable and satisfying conclusion to a saga that has captivated millions of people and kept them interested year after year, and judging from Part 1, it will succeed. This movie is the beginning of the end of a shared experience that was truly fun and meaningful while it lasted. I appreciate it for fulfilling my expectations, and I think you will too.

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