Six years have passed since Harry Potter was sitting alone under the stairs without a care in the world. Now the world has changed, darkness has fallen and Harry and co must leave home and go on a quest to find a way to defeat the mighty dark lord.
Voldemort now controls the magical world and the only way for our dynamic trio to defeat him is to destroy the remaining shards of his soul, known as Horcruxes.
At one point our teenage heroes wear one of the Horcruxes as a locket around their neck, which makes them slowly become overcome with anger and rage, not entirely unlike a certain ring, and you can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just put it in their pocket instead.
If you’re thinking it all sounds a bit familiar, then cast your mind back to 2001; a group of heroes travelling in search of a way to destroy an item of jewellery to defeat an evil overseer? Hmmm…
Throughout the Deathly Hallows there’s a distinct Fellowship of the Rings feel. This isn’t automatically a bad thing of course, as director David Yates embracing the picturesque landscapes and dynamic camera work which gave the films such an epic sense of scale, but the sense of foreboding and ever-increasing darkness soon takes its toll.
The film itself begins the climax to the boy-wizard’s story solemnly, with Harry, Ron and Hermione all leaving home for what they know will be the final time. Particularly heart-breaking is the moment where Hermione wipes her parents memories of her, to protect them, and her face fades from the picture frames across her muggle – that’s non-magic – home.
The universe which author J.K Rowling might not be exactly the same as the one which we’ve got to know on screen, but fans will notice plenty of familiar touches crammed in between the lines, and the absence of Alnwick Castle (or Hogwarts to those in the know) mixes up the hum-drum school year formula and turns the film into a non-stop chase movie.
As ever, those who’ve read the books will understand far more of what is going on (Snatchers?), but the usual tension between the main characters and ample amounts of Polyjuice potion hurry things along. With Obi Wan/Gandalf/Dumbledore gone and Sirius long since departed, Harry has noone to guide him.
There’s a real sense of the group really not knowing what to do for the first time, which adds to the sense of helplessness and world-ending which Yates is keen to push.
The supporting cast are the usual high standard, with new addition Bill Nighy sublimely asserting his authority as new Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour, and the return of Dobby the house elf is sure to be a hit with younger fans.
It’s Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson that we’ve all grown up with though and they all continue to be as effective as ever, though Radcliffe still lags behind the rest, but Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) really stands out from the ‘evil minions’ crowd, even over Ralph Fiennes’ chilling tones.
With the story only being half over it’s hard to build to a climax, though Yates succeeds in creating a impressive and lasting closing image, but the two parts demand watching together to give a real sense of finale. The film is an effective beginning to the end, but not exceptional, the closing chapter will either prove its worth or see the series fall short of the mark.
James Michael Parry