The “Harry Potter” franchise is so faithful to the source material it wouldn’t dare change the title of any of its chapters.
Otherwise, audiences would be lining up to see “Harry Potter and the Endless Bickering En Route to Part 2.”
The latest “Potter” film, faithfully dubbed “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1,” is the weakest entry in the otherwise sturdy series – by a wide margin.
It’s an ill-conceived extension of the profitable franchise, one that already feels a few chapters too long.
It goes without saying that anyone new to the “Potter” films will be hopelessly lost and wonder what all the fuss is about. But even hardcore fans may share similar thoughts.
“Part 1″ finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) in flight mode, trying to escape the Death Eaters dispatched by Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Seems Voldemort and co. have infiltrated the Ministry of Magic and even Hogwarts Academy is no longer a safe haven for Harry and pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint).
The trio are desperate to find the horcruxes, tiny slivers of Voldemort’s soul which could rob him of his magical powers if destroyed. But where can the horcruxes be?
The film kicks off with a delirious chase through the skies as Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) escorts Harry from a massive Death Eater assault. But the action slows down considerably after that, leaving the three heroes to ponder their search and bicker over a battle plan.
“Hallows” holds great potential as both the ultimate set-up for the franchise finale and the chance to escape the confines of Hogwarts Academy. Instead, it squanders both opportunities and gives far too little screen time for the gaggle of supporting players who enrich each outing.
Blink and you’ll miss John Hurt, Imelda Staunton, Alan Rickman and a half dozen other sterling actors reduced to cameos here.
The teen leads remain endearing, but they’re forced to act out a poorly executed love triangle. Does anyone believe Harry suddenly has eyes for his comely partner in magic? The subplot betrays the elegant storytelling found in earlier installments.
Flickers of humor pop through the malaise, and a touching appearance by Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones) adds an emotional note to a film in dire need of one.
The film’s final 20 minutes deliver some of the series’ razzle dazzle, and Helena Bonham Carter proves what a wonderful screen villain she can be when untethered.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ might be the wham-bang resolution audiences deserve, but the first part of the franchise’s swan song is nothing more than a cinematic placeholder.
(Photo: Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1″ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture)