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Harry Potter
and the
Deathly Hallows
Part 1

Okay, since I’m the new kid here (though I’ve been reviewing movies longer than the ages of the Jonas Brothers combined), I still need to let you know something from the outset before I begin my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (whose title sounds suspiciously close to a certain uneven Mel Brooks movie).

I haven’t read any of the Potter books. Not a one. I made up my mind I wanted to see the movie series as a movie series. I still don’t know who dies — well, who else dies now, and I don’t want to know. Can you tell I despise spoilers?

Anyway, to the half-movie at hand.

You know how you forgive very good friends the occasional shortcoming? You’ve grown up with them, you’ve spent a lot of time with them — you just like them, and you cut them some slack when they slack off a bit.

Now I’m not saying Potter 7-I is a bad movie. It isn’t. It’s very enjoyable, in fact. I left the theater smiling and anxiously awaiting 7-II.

But it becomes obvious by the third or fourth time some of the characters swoosh to yet another “safe” location that while the decision to split the last novel into two movies would gratefully keep us from sitting through a five-hour finale, that there was probably very little footage left on the editing floor to flesh this one out to a little over two hours.

I think probably everything that was shot was included. Actually the one scene I wanted to see was only mentioned in dialogue. And it involves birthday cake. But I digress.

The Hogwarsian Trio keeps growing into the best-looking young threesome in cinema in decades. Harry, Hermione, and Ron continue their wizardly odyssey and are just as entertaining and enjoyable as ever — though their cuteness is almost gone (except for Emma Watson), they have matured into nicely appealing.

As those of you who have read the novels (or seen the last installment) know, things are not going well in the world of wizardry. The good ones are on the run from the ever infecting Lord Voldemort and his bad ones. Our clan is taking severe and drastic measures to protect those they must leave behind, and to transfer Harry to a place to keep him safe until ... until, um ... until ... it’s time.

It’s an oddly rushed sequence which could have been paced for at least a little more sympathy, but then Harry can’t stay in one place too long these days.

What follows is a pendulum of good, evil, good with evil subtext, anti-gravity torture, confused allegiances, blatently undisguised fascism, and quick reminders of who all 48 characters are in the first fifteen minutes.

This is important though, lest the film fall into the trap of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, where there’s seemingly a battle every fifteen minutes and you’re not sure who’s fighting whom, why, or what happens if one side defeats the other.

This is obviously the first half of one movie. But hey, half a Harry Potter beats ninety-five percent of what we get from the movies in general.

Veteran Potter director David Yates once again leads us through some wonderful visuals and the world that is ours but yet is not.

I have to admit though, in this installment the chases on land, sea and air — well, not sea — are oddly uninvolving and chopped so much that there is no build or thrill to them. Remember the first Quidditch game in the first movie? How exciting that was? I missed that here. This time the chases merely serve to get people from one place to another quickly.

And that’s a prevalent device throughout this movie. People moving and popping around. A lot.

But between the globe-popping, the familiar and entertaining Potter tapestry remains intact.

Some of the stand-out sequences involve:

• The animated sequence in which the title of the movie is explained. Beautiful yet macabre, I was mesmerized by it and its unique visual style.

• One little musical scene in particular which says a great deal with no dialogue whatsoever. And it’s a tribute to these leading actors that they can now handle such a scene.

• A scene in an old attic involving something slithery. (Prepare to replace your popcorn)

There’s a lot of prep work going on in HP 7-I. Heavy duty prep work for HP 7-II. So while this really isn’t a stand-alone movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I will really gear you up for the series finale.

And don’t tell me what happens!

Ted Kopulos is a long-time Bay Area actor, writer and director who spent several years as movie critic for Greg Kihn's show on KFOX Radio.

Ted Kopulos

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