New 'Potter' an effective sequel
When you've got fans in costume, lines reaching out the door, and one night's ticket sales at a single theater netting $14,000, it can only mean one thing.
"Star Wars" is back and bigger than ever.
But Thursday night's midnight screening was literally a different story - and saga -
altogether. The end is beginning, as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" hit theaters for the first installment of the sensationally popular series' conclusion.
Appropriately, "Deathly Hallows" is one of "Potter's" more bittersweet entries - bitter in the sense that it's somehow devoid of the inherent wonder and, well, magic of its predecessors; but sweet in that its actors have literally grown into their roles, delivering emotional and thoughtful performances fitting for the material.
Beautifully shot and effectively paced, "Deathly Hallows" works well as a prelude and a standalone film. Though the studio's motives are blatantly obvious (Why make $125 million with one opening weekend when you could make $250 million with two?), the installment tactic offers director David Yates ("Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince") breathing room to develop his characters and effectively set the tone for the final act.
Develop he does, and darkly at that, with brooding, isolation and persecution joining the likes of teenage angst for the most moody (not necessarily mad-eyed) entry in the series. That sense of jovial wonder has been replaced with a nervous urgency, mirroring the action on screen but detracting from the series' colorful atmosphere. Though disappointing in some respects, it's also befitting of our protagonists' seemingly hopeless journey.
With the benevolent Prof. Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou") gone, the evil and eerily noseless Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, "In Bruges") has set his nefarious plan in motion.
Both the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are now under his influence, young wizard Harry Potter has been declared Undesirable No. 1, and the muggle (non-magical) world will soon suffer for it.
With hope growing dimmer by the minute, Harry and best pals Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince") embark on a desperate journey to secretly defeat Voldemort by way of destroying the last remaining horcruxes - magical (and malevolent) knickknacks in which the dark lord has placed pieces of his soul.
But they'll have to find them first, and with only a handful of vague hints to guide them, our heroes and their friendships are put to the test.
In the process (and through a particularly cool shadow-puppet sequence from animation director Ben Hibon), they learn of the Deathly Hallows - three mystical objects that could spell defeat or victory for Voldemort, depending on who possesses them.
"Deathly Hallows" is a standout from its predecessors, but in a gradual way. As its characters have matured, so has the plot, lending the action to much darker devices, including the deaths of several characters.
Performances are top-notch, especially from Fiennes, who revels in the badness of it all, along with Helena Bonham Carter ("Fight Club") as demented witch Bellatrix Lestrange.
Abbreviated appearances from series favorites, including Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane, "From Hell") and Prof. Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, "Die Hard"), also detract from the familiar tone
There are, however, a few glimpses of yesteryear's wonder that bring some much-needed light to the story, including Harry, Ron and Hermione infiltrating the Ministry of Magic by way of toilet, a return visit to the ever-so-strange (and surprisingly durable) Weasley household, and even more fun with polyjuice potion, that crafty little concoction that allows its drinkers to assume the form of others.
With "Deathly Hallows," the "Harry Potter" series is quickly assuming the form of epic, and, for its countless fans, a July 2011 grand finale can't come soon enough
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone and the Parkway Theatre in West Jefferson.
For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies. For pictures from Regal's midnight showing, visit http://www.facebook.com/mountaintimes.