November 18, 2010 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Potter 'Hallows: Part I' is tense and entertaining but frustratingly incomplete

Tom Long reviews 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hal...
Tom Long reviews 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hal...: Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter

It's no surprise that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I" feels incomplete.

It is, after all, "Part I." "Part II," the end of the mammoth series, arrives in July and hopefully it will offer some sense of resolution.

But "Part I," alas, leaves us hanging.

Like "The Empire Strikes Back" or, even more so, the second "Lord of the Rings" film, it is a bridge movie, hovering somewhere between a beginning and an end.

In other words: Expect to be frustrated.

On the other hand, "Part I" is just as classy, entertaining and technically imaginative as the other recent Potters. There's plenty of humor, plenty of magic and even a bit of romantic stress, although there's also quite a bit of mulling and standing about.

In fact, Harry spends a good deal of this film not knowing what to do. He camps in a forest without a clue what to do; he camps on rocky hills not knowing what to do; then he camps in another forest, still wondering where the plot's supposed to go. If you want a film filled with camping and mulling, this is for you.

As with every Potter film since the first, this one's a bit darker than its predecessor, although that's been stressed so heavily over the years you'd think the screen would be pitch black by now. It's not; but the Lord of All Evil, or whatever, is about to take over the world, so things do get bleak.

As for the story, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) wants to kill Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) because Harry's the only one who might defeat him.

After a few early casualties and the reintroduction of familiar colorful characters, Harry sets off along with Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint, sure to have a long career) to find and destroy some artifacts and reclaim a sword.

The reason why is probably perfectly clear if you've read the book, but really who cares?

The first artifact they find is an amulet that acts a whole lot like a certain piece of jewelry from "The Lord of the Rings": It's unbreakable, addictive and it makes whoever's wearing it quite grumpy. Hmmmm.

And that's really just about all that goes on — our heroes run from the bad guy and look for mysterious things. Oh, and there's a bit of a three-way romantic tiff.

Considering how little goes on, quite a bit goes on.

We start out with multiple Harrys in a funny opening sequence, then later there's no Harry as the three take on alternate body forms. Helena Bonham Carter (has any actress done more this year?) gets to cackle and snap toward the end as Bellatrix Lestrange and the turtle-nosed Voldemort pops up here and there to scare the kiddies.

There's more than a bit going on politically as well, as Voldemort's lackeys impose a Nazi-like rule over the world of magic and the lines between humans and magicians take on even stronger racial connotations.

Yet still, "Part I" is "Part I," and it feels a bit stretched.

You can understand the studio — and the fans — wanting to hold on to this franchise as long as possible, but it might have been wiser to shoot the final book as one film, not two.

Then again, we'll never know. As it is, "Part I" is a fine bridge movie. Now let's get to the final destination.

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Magical millions

One thing’s for sure: Harry Potter is magic at the box office. A look at the domestic take for each of the previous Potter films.
"Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone" (2001): $317 million "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002): $262 million "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004): $249 million "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005): $290 million "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007): $292 million "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009): $301 million

Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) continues his quest to destroy Harry Potter. / Warner Bros Pictures photos
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