By SAM MOODEY
Within the first ten minutes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, scrappy members of the Order of the Phoenix, each swigging some Polyjuice Potion to bubble into a doppelganger of Harry, transport the young wizard away from his childhood home in the world of muggles to ensure the safety of his magical migration.
This scheme serves several purposes right from the start.
It gives Daniel Radcliffe plenty of room to exercise his funny bone, which is appropriate as the film has very little time to be humorous later on.
More importantly, it acts a visual interpretation of the obvious truth that has made this franchise so successful: we are all Harry Potter.
We are all that alone and that misunderstood, and dare I say, we are all that magical.
The first part of this final installment is the most successful in humanizing Harry, placing him in between two very distinct and very real worlds, and making me root for the boy who lived.
Director David Yates controlled the pace and plot with grace and precision. The splitting of the book providing him the opportunity to expand moments, dwell on emotion and let our trio of kid wizards fully come into their own.
Yates’ vision of Potter’s universe is just as refined and consistent as ever, and he is aided in his efforts by his third cinematagrapher, Eduardo Serra.
Serra’s previous works include Defiance (the 2008 WWII picture starring Daniel Craig) and Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero thriller).
Serra’s melancholy style matched the film’s script rather perfectly. The hours spent by Harry, Ron and Hermione, in forests and moors were never monotonous, but beautiful and fresh.
Above all, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is an absolutely beautiful movie.
Speaking of beautiful, Emma Watson finally didn’t suck.
True, Watson wasn’t outstanding, but I should mention that I didn’t want to leave the theatre every time she was on screen.
For the first time, the three young actors fully lived in their characters, owning the screen in many well-performed moments.
Previous critics felt the film was too dependent upon the younger characters’ performance, under-utilizing the more credible older cast members.
Just like “Half-Blood Prince,” screenwriter Steve Kloves’ made gigantic revisions to the book’s narrative, most of which enhanced the film.
The movie felt more like a continuation of the previous film, as opposed to an adaptation of the first part of the seventh book.
I don’t remember Harry and Hermione having a dance number in the novel, but it was undoubtedly one of the strongest scenes in the movie, if not the entire series.
Keeping with our culture’s inescapable need to compare Harry Potter to “Star Wars,” I felt like magic acted much like The Force.
Both are kept largely undefined by the filmmakers (assuming we all just forget about those damn microscopic life forms called midi-chlorians that could detect the energy of The Force) so that they may constantly amend the rules to suit the needs of the particular narrative and the particular crisis.
For example, why can Harry ward off dementors and (spoiler-alert!) do pretty well against the most powerful wizard of all time, but not be able to heat up a chilly pond?
How can Luke lift a space-ship out of a swamp, but not get out of a freaking net made by teddy bears?
While it is fun to question these contradictions, we tend to do it too much.
It is not the duty of a boy wizard to be cooler than the last Jedi (though he is).
It is not necessary to wonder who’s more badass between Vadar and Voldemort.
Voldemort loses points, however, in the final scene of the movie, when he breaks into Dumbledore’s tomb to steal the Elder Wand, one of the titular hallows. He prances and hisses, but is less than menacing.
After assembling a wonderfully full movie, Yates seemed hurried to complete it.
The special effects are shoddy, the scenery seems inspired by an 80’s rock and roll cover, and the entire affair is thoroughly rushed.
It leaves me anxious for the next installment, but it felt like chomping down on that rogue bit of fat after an otherwise delicious turkey dinner.