‘Deathly Hallows’ shifts tone, explores book’s darker themes

Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando

Perhaps the most important thing to know about “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” is that it is a vast, marked improvement over the last film in the series.
It is the first of the films that actually feels epic, and also the first to feature a palpable sense of dread. Dark and difficult times do not just lie ahead; in the vivid, beautifully realized world told through the eyes of director David Yates, they are already here.
Despite the film series’ habit of trimming down the plots of the novels, doing the same with “Deathly Hallows” would have been impossible and an affront to readers. Therefore, much of the film sets up the action for the second part (to be released July 2011).
While many of the most important plot points of the novel made it onto the screen, it is mostly exposition that establishes the context of Harry Potter’s final showdown with Voldemort. The film adheres far more closely to the plot of the novel than any of the other films, and it treats the novel’s more emotional scenes with appropriate gravitas, unlike in some of the earlier films.
The Harry Potter series boasts one of the finest casts ever assembled, and the two notable additions, Bill Nighy (Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour) and Rhys Ifans (Luna’s dad, Xenophilius Lovegood), are incredibly strong. Standouts in this film include Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort and Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. While it would be futile to comment on the acting of the lead trio, it can at least be said that Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint have improved, and Emma Watson has toned down the “eyebrow acting.”
The wizarding world has definitely shifted in tone since the first film. This world is incredibly bleak and in the future looms the final battle between the forces of good and evil. The film captures this atmosphere fantastically, and it is appropriately dark and joyless without ever becoming dull. For both die-hard fans and casual viewers, July 2011 cannot come soon enough.

Sarah B. Pilchick may be contacted at sbpilchick@themiamihurricane.com.

Rating: 3.5/4 stars

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

Directed By: David Yates

MPAA Rating: PG-13