Nov 17 2010 Ellesmere Port Pioneer
And so it begins – the final chapter of JK Rowling’s best-selling fantasy saga, which holds the honour of the highest grossing film franchise of all time.
Cleaved in two for creative and commercial reasons, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows follows on from the shocking events of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) facing the renewed threat from Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and the Death Eaters.
David Yates, who directed the sixth film, strikes an even darker, gloomier tone for his imagining of the seventh book, leavened with occasional flashes of humour, such as when Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) warns his fellow wizards the magical Polyjuice Potion tastes like something unsavoury a goblin might produce.
Screenwriter Steve Kloves remains faithful to Rowling’s hefty tome but is allowed brief moments of artistic licence.
Thus, we see Harry and Hermione tenderly dancing together and Voldemort preys on Ron’s insecurities and jealousy by taunting him with a vision of a naked Harry and Hermione locked in a steamy embrace, their blushes spared by swirling tendrils of smoke.
The third film is certificate 12A for a reason.
Even more startling is a stylish animated sequence that recounts The Tale Of The Three Brothers from Hermione’s copy of The Tales Of Beedle The Bard, which explains the meaning of the Deathly Hallows.
The nefarious Lord Voldemort and his followers, including Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), continue to grow in power, threatening everything Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and his followers hold dear.
With Hogwarts in disarray, Harry, Ron and Hermione embark on a perilous quest to track down the mysterious Horcruxes and stop the forces of darkness from taking a stranglehold over the wizarding world.
Originally intended for release in 3D, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 will only screen in traditional 2D after the technical wizards at Warner Bros were unable to convert this first instalment to the eye-popping format in time for the worldwide release on November 19.
In some ways it’s a blessing because the film’s running time of 146 minutes would mean eye strain for younger audiences.
That said, Part 2 will definitely screen in 3D, ensuring Harry, Ron and Hermione conclude their epic quest with a bang.
Several sequences in David Yates’s film have clearly been designed with the format in mind, such as when Voldemort’s snake Nagini springs at the camera, fangs bared.
Similarly, the opening battle over the skies of London and through motorway traffic would be even more breathtaking with audiences swerving in their seats to avoid oncoming traffic.
Radcliffe’s limited acting range draws unwelcome attention and he is unable to convey the grief of his teenage hero.
Meanwhile, Watson blossoms, capturing the heartbreak of a Mudblood who may lose everything in the final reckoning, and Grint provides comic relief as well as mild sexual tension as Ron wrestles with his feelings for Hermione.
Fiennes glowers with menacing intent behind his flawless make- up and Yates seamlessly melds visual effects and live action, not least with the reintroduction of Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones).
Part 1 concludes with good and evil evenly balanced, both sides having suffered losses in pursuit of ultimate victory.
The release of Part 2 on July 15, 2011, seems an agonisingly long way off.
STAR RATING: ****