Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
The Harry Potter franchise begins its final descent in this heroic, dark beginning of the two-movie end.
As the curtain opens on the beginning of the end for Harry Potter, the dour words of new Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour (who, it turns out, will fill the post but briefly) ring in our ears: "These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has faced no greater threat than it does today."
Indeed, the dark shadow cast by Lord Voldemort grows longer by the day. With Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore out of the way, the Ministry of Magic soon falls to Voldemort's control. Next, Hogwarts slips under his thrall. It's only a matter of time before the flickering light of hope carried by Harry, Hermione, Ron and the surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix is extinguished by Voldemort's cunning plots and chilling resolve.
Racing against time and the ever-present specter of the Dark Lord's Death Eaters, Harry and Co. devote themselves to three overlapping tasks: locating and destroying four remaining Horcruxes, each of which contains a portion of Voldemort's soul; finding the fabled Sword of Gryffindor, which is capable of damaging one of the Horcruxes; and unraveling the mystery of the Deathly Hallows, a children's fairy tale about three magical gifts imparted by Death to three brothers.
To everyone's surprise, the Deathly Hallows are real. Together, the mighty Elder Wand, the Cloak of Invisibility and the Resurrection Stone would make their possessor immortal and invincible. Thus, it doesn't take a magician to guess who else might have some interest in laying his claws on these potent talismans.
Harry has to get to them first.
But it's hard to solve riddles when you spend most of your magical energy zipping from one desolate wilderness hideout to the next—just to stay alive. Even as Harry and his friends struggle to decipher cryptic clues regarding the whereabouts of the fabled Deathly Hallows, old Voldy is—as always—one step ahead … and one step closer to putting pesky Harry Potter out of his magical misery.
Throughout this series, Harry, Hermione and Ron have grappled with the intertwined themes of sacrifice and trust. This time around, the film's removal from Hogwarts places even more weight upon these important virtues. These teens are on the verge of adulthood, and at virtually every turn everything is at stake.
At one point, half-a-dozen characters take a potion to make them look like Harry—and act as decoys—as they hope to move the now 17-year-old wizard without Voldemort detecting it. Everyone, it seems, is willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the war against evil.
And war, it turns out, is the right word. Increasingly, Harry and his band's heroic resistance mirrors something you'd see in a movie about the British underground in World War II. Augmenting that comparison, Voldemort is pursuing a racial cleansing policy in his pursuit of a pure wizarding society. Those suspected of being half-bloods or Muggle-born are subject to inquisition-style questioning, torture and death.
So, indeed, it seems a just and righteous resistance.
After the death of one friend, Harry momentarily believes the sacrifice of others on his behalf isn't worth it: "Nobody else is going to die—not for me." But his comrades convince him that it's not for him but for the good of everyone struggling against Voldemort. Even the free elf Dobby risks his life to get Harry and his friends out of Malfoy Manor's dungeon.
Elsewhere, Harry's devotion to his deceased parents is illustrated when he visits their gravesite. Likewise, deep bonds of affection connect the members of the Weasley clan, again emphasizing the inherent goodness of family. Finally, the wedding between Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour puts one last exclamation point on the theme. Harry's girlfriend, Ginny, questions why they should even bother. But Harry reminds her that it's precisely because of the war that they must hold on to good things like weddings and family.
Plugged In has had much to say about the use of magic throughout the Harry Potter series. We've parsed the difference between kinds of magic, as well as "good" characters using magic in unethical or immoral ways … or at all. We've shared some ideas on how we should think about this issue as Christians, given Scripture's unequivocal prohibition of it.
The magic on display here mostly falls into offensive and defensive modes, with its most frequent usage coming in the form of wand attacks. But incantations continue to pop up too. Hermione keeps moving herself, Harry and Ron around, teleportation-style, to evade pursuers. Once they're in an isolated area, she sets up a protective magical screen of enchantments that keeps them invisible. Instead of killing two enemy wizards who've attacked the trio, Hermione uses an "obliviate" spell to erase their memory of the event. (She also uses that spell to erase her parents' memory of her completely, the motivation for which isn't commented upon onscreen.)
Harry and his allies use a potion to disguise the members of the Order of the Phoenix, Ron, his brothers and Hermione as Harry. Later, Harry, Hermione and Ron use the same potion to pose as folks who work at the Ministry of Magic, slipping in without detection. In the same deceptive category, Harry steals a Horcrux worn by Dolores Umbridge.
Harry, Hermione and Ron take turns wearing the Horcrux, but the evil item exerts a heavy weight on them, making each irritable and tired. (It's similar to what happens when Frodo and Sam carry the Ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Before Harry and Ron can destroy the Horcrux, they must open it … releasing that dark portion of Voldemort's soul. After doing so, the black amorphous, cloud-like entity tries to tempt and deceive Ron. (More on that later.)
An animated segment relates the legend of the three brothers and their encounter with Death. They build a bridge over a river, and Death feels cheated. Because they've outwitted him, they demand the three gifts of the Deathly Hallows as described above. Two of the men die prematurely. One brings his beloved back from the dead. (They both suffer for it.) One lives a long life before giving the Cloak of Invisibility to his son and voluntarily turning himself over to Death. Of note: The Deathly Hallows is illustrated by a symbol that pictures a circle in triangle, vertically bisected by a line.
A jump-inducing protective spirit inhabits a house. When Harry dives into an icy pond to retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor, the Horcrux around his neck tries to get away and nearly drowns him. Speaking of the sword, Harry is led to it by a spirit-like fawn.
Dumbledore bequeaths magical gifts to Harry and Ron in his will; Harry receives a snitch from his first Quidditch competition. Ron is given a Deluminator, a device that acts as a magical source of light.
Interestingly, Harry says that he wants to bury one deceased character without the help of magic, as if that process is somehow more pure or respectful.
After the Horcrux is opened, the ghastly specter within shows Ron a vision of Harry and Hermione kissing, a deceptive image intended to turn him against his friends. By Harry Potter standards it's a fairly racy scene, as we see the two passionately intertwined. Their shoulders and a bit of their torsos are bare, implying that they're naked and embracing as lovers.
Ginny asks Harry to zip her dress before the wedding. We see her bare back as Harry does so. Harry and Ginny kiss. When Ron poses as a man working in the Ministry of Magic, the man's wife believes it's actually him and kisses him. When Fleur poses as Harry, he takes his shirt off, then the bra she had been wearing. ("Don't look at me, Bill," she says.) Harry's shown in his boxers when he dives into the frozen pond. One of Hermione's dresses is low-cut.
There are five major battles with Death Eaters and/or Voldemort's henchmen. Several involve intense "firefights" between the good and evil wizards wielding their wands. The first attack comes when Harry is trying to escape with Hagrid on a magic motorcycle with a sidecar. The pursuit ends up going against the grain of a busy London freeway, and we see several automobiles in careening accidents. That battle claims the life of one ally, and Ron's brother is badly wounded. (We see blood on his face and neck.) Another attack claims the life of a friend who's on the receiving end of a thrown knife. And in still another melee, Ron's arm gets badly shredded by an enemy. (Hermione treats the wound with magic.)
Arguably more disturbing than these scenes are several that imply torture and cold-blooded murder. A sobbing teacher from Hogwarts is suspended above the table where Voldemort and his lackeys strategize. In the end, the Unmentionable One shoots and kills her with his wand, and his giant snake, Nagini—it's implied—eats her. (The snake shows up in another frantic battle as well.) In the same scene, Voldemort is annoyed by the screaming of—presumably—someone who's being tortured and/or killed. Similarly chilling are Hermione's desperate screams while Bellatrix Lestrange carves the word "MUDBLOOD" into her arm. We don't witness the cutting, but we see its bleeding results.
Harry sees nightmarish visions of Voldemort menacing, attacking or torturing various people. We see a brief flashback to Harry's parents' murder at the Dark Lord's hands. Voldemort desecrates Dumbledore's grave. In the story of the three brothers, one of them hangs himself and another has his throat slit.
Crude or Profane Language
One or two uses each of "oh my god," "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "p‑‑‑." A handful of British profanities, including "bloody" and "blimey."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Guests drink wine at Bill and Fleur's wedding.
I walked into this not-quite-conclusion (the first of two films to chronicle the seventh, and last, chapter in the Potter saga) expecting to wade through significant spiritual issues with regard to Harry's tormented savior role. But that theme from the book is either being avoided in the movie adaptations or it's being saved for Part 2, because what we have here is little more than a straightforward, plot-driven setup for the big finish. Harry and Voldemort, as has so often been the case in these movies, are scrambling for strategic advantage in their deadly endgame. And while there's lots and lots of magic tossed about, it mostly carries the weight of weaponry.
The result, underscored by the somber moments of loss in the wake of comrades' deaths, resembles a war movie more than it does the whimsical, sometimes frivolous magical adventure of earlier installments. There's no frivolity here at all. Just a battle that must be won—at any cost.
The threat of torture lurks around every bend. Listening to Hermione scream as an enemy carves letters into her arm is just one such moment. And the implication of genocide and ethnic cleansing can't help but evoke comparisons to Nazi Germany.
And then, on the other side of the content coin, we have a surprisingly suggestive dream sequence in which Harry and Hermione embrace sans clothes. Though it's reported that director David Yates found a way to let actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson keep some clothes on while filming the scene, he clearly wanted to imply something more risqué. "I didn't want to put them through complete nudity," Yates said. "I didn't think it was necessary, because we were going to put some smoke around them." AP reviewer David Germain said of the final print, "Though they were partly clothed, the scene leaves the impression that Radcliffe and Watson are stripped naked."
Suffice it to say that naked, torture and genocide aren't words we typically trot out in our Harry Potter movie reviews. But we're not completely surprised to be using them now. The books and the movies both grow progressively darker as the titles are ticked off. Before the light at the end of the tunnel can find Harry, his author and other guardians insist that he must first succumb to the darkness.
That does mean, though, that there are flickers of hope. We're given the sobering reminder that for good to triumph over evil, brave men and women must shoulder their responsibility to fight and, at times, sacrifice all. That's a strong statement … delivered in a vehicle deserving of an equally strong disclaimer: This isn't your children's Harry Potter.