JK Rowling managed to draw the curtains on Harry Potter with the third-shortest tome in her seven-strong series.
While Deathly Hallows came in at roughly the same length as Half-Blood Prince, it was a mite shorter than Goblet Of Fire – and a marvel of brevity compared to back-breaker Order Of The Phoenix.
However, finding it hard to bid adieu to its mega-bucks cash-cow, Warner split the last book into two films, a shame for a film franchise that has to date expertly pruned the stuff no one (bar hardcore Potter-ites) cares about.
Fortunately, David Yates, who streamlined Phoenix’s bulk into manageable movie size, keeps the Hogwarts express firmly on track with shrewd omissions and a sharp-eyed focus on the final destination. There’s no turning this lumbering franchise beast in any radical new directions, but nor is Yates merely a safe pair of hands.
Warding off cobwebs and creakage, he’s proving a master of mood and atmosphere, handling Hallows’ horror and hormones with equal panache and wrapping the tale (the first to take place almost entirely outside Hogwarts) in a handsome cloak of gloom.
In Part 1’s plus column, count an early, spine-chilling death eater summit, Rhys Ifans’ crafty stint as Xenophilius Lovegood, the skillfully handled death of a beloved character and a daring raid on the Voldemort-occupied ministry of magic, one of the series’ finest set-pieces.
In the minus row, nothing else comes close to topping that whizzy episode, while an encyclopaedic procession of past characters and an overlong stretch in wilderness isolation (during which the key trio run, squabble and dance to nick Cave) cement Part 1’s inevitable status as a sumptuous stoppingoff point.
Harry Potter 7A is a long intake of breath at the summit before the (hopefully) thrilling plummet down the other side.
Every HP disc-drop heralds a raft of extras to satiate Potter-philes, and Hallows is no different. There are the expected brand plugs – a look behind the soundtrack; a cast trip to the grand opening of ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ at the Universal Orlando Resort.
But elsewhere things get refreshingly offbeat: a round of golf with Rupert Grint and his bezzie Potter mates, plus another featurette centred on the leads’ ‘running competition’ while shooting their flight from the Snatchers in Swinley Forest.
Blu-ray owners get all the above plus the interactive ‘maximum movie mode’, doling out cast/crew titbits while the film runs. It also revisits big scenes from previous movies as an appetite-whetter for the final battle teased in Part 1. So close, yet so far…
Until Part 2 descends this summer, Hallows 1 can be nothing more than a promising prelude to the tectonic death duel to come.
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