Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I

Visiting family in Ormond Beach, Florida, for Thanksgiving, and we all went out to see this tonight.  (It was a second time for my brother Dave, who saw the midnight showing a week ago with his daughter Cari.)  I've been seeing the films in this series as they are released, but stopped reading after about the 3rd or 4th book in the series, so I was not prepared for any of the plot in this first part of the 7th novel, and my memories of the 6th film are faint enough that picking up the thread of the plot at the beginning was not easy.

That said, I found less to enjoy in this installment than in the prior films, which all seemed to me to work as relatively self-contained pieces of fiction.  This time there are just too many obscure references that would only be understood by people who had either read the book or recently seen the 6th film, as a result of which I had difficulty figuring out what was going on at times.  The result was that it seemed to me a disconnected string of episodes, some quite incoherent.  I am assured by family members attending with me that it was easy to follow for those who have read all the books, and I take them at their word.

The focus is heavily on the three central characters – Harry, Ron and Hermione – to the extent that many favorite supporting actors had only the briefest of bit roles.  Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort was more present than ever, and I thought that too much physical presence from Voldemort detracts from his fierceness — in my view he should be more elusive and mysterious.  But that's me….

This had an enormous international opening — over $300 million in the first week — so clearly there was lots of pent-up eagerness to see it.  Whether the film will have legs is another question.  I'm wondering whether they plan to bring it back to theaters a few weeks before the final installment is released in July?  It might be a good strategy.  I might want to see this again close in time to the finale, just to sustain the continuity.  But ultimately what I'm waiting for is the complete DVD set – with extras, of course – so that I can view the entire series at my pace, maintaining continuity and more easily watching the development of the characters.  I think this will make a classic box set.

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