Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

When the screen faded to black at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows there was an audible protest from the audience. The fact that a packed house sat still for 146 minutes and begged for more when the credits rolled is probably the best recommendation I can give.

But they pay me to write more than a paragraph.

Director David Yates hits his stride with his third entry in the Harry Potter film saga. The story finds our beloved witches and wizards at their darkest hour — Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes; The Hurt Locker) has seized power of the Ministry of Magic and spends his days hunting down Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and orchestrating a muggle (human for you non-fans) genocide.

With the help of brainy and prepared Hermione (Emma Watson) and goofy buy loyal Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry goes on a far reaching search for the Horcruxes — pieces of Voldemort’s soul hidden in objects — in the hopes that destroying them will restore their magical world order.

As this is the first part of the final film, the stakes are high and the plot is dense. As a result, character does suffer, with many beloved characters relegated to mere cameos or dying off-screen. Book purists will also be disappointed that the film spends nearly no time at Hogwarts — where newly-instated headmaster Snape (Alan Rickman; Alice in Wonderland) is enforcing Voldemort’s policies.

But this movie is an epic, the ending to a seven-book series that has captivated most of the young literary world, and because of this plot comes before art.

That’s not to say that Yates and his plethora of legendary British stage and screen actors don’t turn in an enchanting movie. The three young adult leads have matured from adorable moppets to nuanced and believable actors. Their older counterparts excel at making their few minutes of screen time memorable. Fiennes especially seems to relish slithering before the camera to hiss out threats.

As for Yates, he’s taken the film’s dark tone and added surprising elements of art. Gone are the whimsical brightly lit halls of magic; replaced by dark, gnarled and sinister set pieces influenced by German Expressionism. His use of animation to explain the Deathly Hallows is a beautiful respite of Harry’s real world.

Coming back to the epic appeal of the movie: It ends much like Empire Strikes Back — with little hope and nothing to smile about. But this movie, much like Empire is merely set-up, wetting your appetite for the grand finale.

Now if only there were a spell that would make Part 2 come sooner.

Great Fantasy Movie • PG-13 • 146 mins.