Here now, is the full, in-depth review of this working cut of the film. Again, a warning to readers: this post will contain explicit spoilers for the first part of the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" film.
Also, check out the latest episode of PotterCast here for a quick rundown of some main moments in the "Deathly Hallows: Part 1" film. A live Q&A PotterCast recording will take place sometime this week! Stay tuned to Pottercast.com
for recording dates and times. Also, if you were in attendance at the screening, please do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on the film!
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be among about 500 fellow moviegoers at a test screening of the first part of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" film. This event traditionally happens in Chicago about three months prior to the release of the film; it was by a bit of luck and some very good friends that I was able to attend. On hand at the screening were director David Yates, WB President and COO Alan Horn, and producers David Heyman and David Barron, who observed a focus group of select moviegoers following the movie. The film itself, which ran approximately two and a half hours, was a working cut, which meant that some special effects, such as CGI, were not yet complete. We would also be watching the film with a temporary soundtrack of music and scores from various other films. This, however, did not diminish the power or enjoyment of the film in the slightest. Knowing they have yet to add Desplat's score to the picture only builds anticipation for how spectacular the finish product will be.
While some parts of the story told in the book were cut from the film or condensed, the main essence of the story remains. The film was paced perfectly, and balanced the action of fighting a war with the human and emotional toll of the journey very well. The look of the film stayed inline with the dark, gloomy, despairing colors of grey and black which were seen in "Half-Blood Prince." It is clear that danger is in the air at every turn. The human emotional and physical toll also comes across in each scene. Wide sweeping shots of the expanse before them show just how alone the Trio are on the road.
The actors, particularly the Trio, give their best performances to date; practically disappearing into their characters. Jason Isaacs brings the character of Lucius Malfoy to new levels as an unshaven, groveling creature before Voldemort, while Rhys Ifans plays the desperate father who will do anything to get his child back to a tee. Bellatrix Lestrange plays a more prominent role in this film than in the past, which allows actress Helena Bonham Carter to show the sadistic and frantic side of Bella even more. We do see Dobby again, who makes his return at Grimmauld Place helping Kreacher bring Mundungus to Harry for questioning. The next time we see him, he appears in the cellar of Malfoy Manor to rescue Harry and his friends.
The film begins with the eyes of Rufus Scrimgeour speaking to the wizarding press about his government's pledge to protect the liberty of its citizens during this dark time. This leads into a sequence which shows Harry, Ron, and Hermione at their respective homes, preparing for the journey ahead. Harry watches the Dursley's go, Ron and the Weasley's prepare themselves emotionally for the coming months, and Hermione performs the obliviate spell on her parents. In a very sad realization for both Hermione and the audience as photos of the family on the walls and mantelpieces are wiped of Hermione's presence as the spell takes effect. She then walks from their house and down the empty street away from the former home of Wendel and Monica Wilkins.
We are then transported to Malfoy Manor, where Snape walks through the iron gates of the towering estate and through the house to the Death Eater meeting. Charity Burbage's tortured body looms over the Death Eaters throughout the scene, which adds an extra level of creepy to the whole scene. As I said above, Isaacs gives a stunning performance which plays so well with Fiennes, who lets Voldemort toy with Malfoy, snapping the silver handle off Malfoy's wand and throwing the broken piece on the table. Throughout the film, a series of dreams/visions/memories tell the history of the horcruxes (the ones that we know of) and of Voldemort discovering the Elder Wand. Flashes of the previous films, including Dumbledore falling from the Astronomy Tower and Tom Riddle give us this background, while we get our history of Grindelwald and Gregorovich from Harry's link to Voldemort's mind.
The Seven Potters scene was nearly complete in this cut. The transformation takes place in a single 360 degree camera shot, with each character transforming into Harry in their own unique way. Fred and George shrink about a foot, Mundungus grows about a foot, and Fleur gets Harry's eyebrows as the first thing on her body to change. When the Seven Potters are waking around the room in their original character's clothes, they are distinguished by their original voices and mannerisms. They then strip to change into Harry's outfit. The production went all out here- even having Fluer's Harry take off a white, lacy bra in order to change clothes. Once in the air, we see the Death Eaters dive on the Order like bats, swooping in casting spells and curses. Death Eaters take Harry and Hagrid on a chase down the highway, diving in between cars, and even doing a flip around a tunnel ceiling.
As for Hedwig: she does die. In a change from the book, Harry lets Hedwig fly away before the Order leaves the Privet Drive. During the battle, right before Voldemort appears, she flies back on the scene in an effort to help Harry fight the Death Eaters. A Death Eater casts the Avada Kedavra curse on her, and she falls to the ground. It is Hedwig's appearance alongside the real Harry that clues Voldemort into his identity.
At the fully reconstructed Weasley House, Scrimgeour arrives before the wedding to read the will of Albus Dumbledore and hand out the three bequeaths. Ginny and Harry share their only kiss in this part of the film here, which is interrupted in a hilarious way by the bandaged-ear George. (Yes, the 'Saintly' joke remains verbatim in the film.) Harry begins to become uncertain that he knew Dumbledore, with the help of Auntie Muriel and flashes of newspaper headlines about Rita Skeeter's upcoming book, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. Then, Kingsley's patronus appears, announcing Scrimgeour's death and the fall of the Ministry. The Trio make their escape, this time with the aid of a strong-looking Lupin urging Harry to "GO!" and battle Death Eaters Rowle and Dolohov in the cafe once they reach London.
Once at Grimmauld Place, Harry sends Kreacher off to find Mundungus, who returns with both Dung and Dobby. The crowd cheered when Dobby appeared on screen, and was further endeared at the elf when he and Krecher vie for Harry's attention. Mundungs' information leads them to infiltrate the Ministry, which also is presented just as it was in the books. Umbridge, portrayed by Imelda Staunton, gets to recapture her former sinister self presiding over a courtroom with a swirl of Dememntors revolving overhead. The Ministry now seems to be operation to create forms of propaganda against Muggles, which are being produced in mass quantities (When Muggles Attack). They've also replaced the former statue in the atrium with a new totalitarian-themed creation, which is made up of jumble of twisted Muggles holding up wizards on a pedestal. "Muggles in their rightful place," says Hermione."
Umbridge's office at the Ministry is filled with ornate gold carvings on the walls, along with the pink brick and purring cat plates. Mad-Eye's eye is seen in the door of her office, but it was not clear whether Harry takes it for or not. Upon escaping from the courtroom and stunning Umbrdige, they are chased through the Ministry and end up disapparating to the forest. Here we see a great performance by Emma Watson as Hermione who sobs over Ron's body as she mends his splinched arm. Bone and muscle in his arm are exposed before the dittany is applied. She then casts the appropriate concealment charms over the Trio and their life in the forest begins.
The first part of the "Deathly Hallows" films flows seamlessly and quickly through the story. No particular part moves too slow or too fast, but the greatly condensed 'camping' sequence does take its time; but, with good reason. This part of the film shows the progression of Ron's jealousy of Harry and Hermione's friendship, spurred on by wearing the Horcrux. Rupert Grint plays this very well, storming out of the tent and into the winter, leaving Harry and Hermione unsure of how to go on. Following his exit, a scene not in the books remains one of the most touching and poignant: In an effort to cheer up a sullen Hermione, Harry removes the Horcrux from his neck, and shares an awkward high school prom-style dance with Hermione to the Nick Cave song, "O'Children."
Harry and Hermione make their way to Godric's Hollow and come across the grave site of the Potters. The memorial statue at the house or in the square is not seen in this film, but Harry discovering their resting place remains an emotional experience. At Bathilda's, Hermione discovers the bloody cupboard where she was killed while Harry turns to see Nagini coming out of Bathilda's mouth, leaving what remains of her body and clothes in a pile on the floor. This particular shot was not complete in the film, for it was among the CGI effects yet to be finished. The fight with Nagini spills over into a children's room in the house next door, and leaves Harry bitten by the snake. Once they make their escape to the Forest of Dean, Harry lays unconscious for a few days, during which time he finds his way into Voldemort's mind and we discover more back story about Grindelwald and Gregorovich.
This leads into, perhaps, the most thrilling and emotional part of the film: the Silver Doe. Rupert Grint's performance is spectacular as he makes his return, pulling Harry from underneath the icy depths and destroying the Horcrux. After Harry opens the locket, a tornado of Voldemort's dark soul rises above Ron, unleashing spiders on the ground and taunting him. In a very sensual turn, silvery porcelain visions of Riddle-Harry and Riddle-Hermione appear in the tornado and taunt Ron's jealousy by sharing a long and intense kiss. In an effort not to truly represent the evil of Voldemort and the situation, the Riddle-Harry and Riddle-Hermione, in the swirling mass of the tornado, appear topless during the final seconds of their kiss before Ron swings Gryffindor's sword down on the locket, destroying it.
This intense sequence is followed by the reunited Trio seeking out more information from Xenophilius Lovegood about the strange symbol he wore at the wedding. In a truly spectacular animation, the story of The Three Brothers is told in a completely unique style where the characters of Death and the brothers transform from shrouded skeletons to semi-formed puppets to, finally, puppet like mannequins as they relate the tale. Hermione's voice reading the tale accompanies the animation, which lasts nearly three minutes. In my opinion, it is truly one of the best three minutes these films have produced. Xeno's broken state of mind is played beautifully by Rhys Ifans. The Death Eaters are called to the tree stump-shaped house by Xeno who says Voldemort's name, which is now tabooed. The Trio escapes briefly, but run into a gang of Snatchers, who chase them down in the forest. During this time, Harry also drifts into one final connection with Voldemort which shows the Dark Lord questioning an aged Grindelwald, who tells him the Elder Wand remains with Dumbledore in his grave.
The Malfoy Manor scene saw a few changes from what was in the book, none of which greatly altered the outcome of the story as it has been told in the films. For instance, Wormtail does not definitively die in the film. Rather, he is stunned by Dobby which allows for Harry and Ron to escape. Wormtail aside, Emma Watson's shrieking as Bella's character tortures her own (Bellatrix brands "mudblood" onto Hermione's arm) still gives me chills. Bellatrix continues to be in top form when she uses her wand as a whip to take the sword from the low-rank Snatchers who captured the Trio. The Malfoy's also get to show their complete desperation, with Lucius, drink in hand, talking a defeated Draco into identify Harry. Throughout this sequence the suspense builds until that final moment when the dagger is thrown by Bella and disapparates along with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Dobby to Shell Cottage.
Hands down, one of the most emotional sequences of this film was Dobby dying in Harry's arms on she shores of Shell Cottage. The burial of Dobby takes place on a bluff overlooking the sea. Harry digs the grave himself, and places the small House Elf in his resting place with Ron and Hermione. The final scene in the movie takes place at Hogwarts, on a small island just off the banks of the lake. Dumbledore's tomb is cracked open by Voldemort, who looks into the blank face of Dumbledore before taking the wand from his grasp and firing a lightning bolt into the air.
After the film, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Yates and Barron, who told me that Voldemort taking possession of the Elder Wand will indeed be where the first part ends, and that Desplat is currently finishing the score for the film. They went on to say they have not yet decided on a composer for the second part of the "Deathly Hallows" film, but they are starting the process of putting the final film together.