Without those lovely wide-eyed kids, the magic looks like ordinary special effects.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I is a disjointed ‘road movie’ and a huge letdown. The JK Rowling paraphernalia—witches, broomsticks, elves, magic potions, wands, toadstools—was never original and borrowed enormously from English folk and literary traditions of the supernatural.
But the Harry Potter franchise had one huge asset, and that was innocence. It had lovely, curious, witty, intelligent kids who grew up wonder-eyed at the incredible beauty of the English countryside and who could well believe that it was magical enough to actually be possessed by magic. And if there was magic, there had to be a school to teach it, perhaps even an elite public school that reinforced the English class system—Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Hogwarts.
It is this innocence that has been lost in this film, as the kids, and the actors who played them, have grown up. Harry (Radcliffe) is gangly and looks like an awkward undergrad on his first date. When described as ‘the chosen one’, the term is laughable. Hermione (Watson) is not the stunner she was just two films ago. Ron (Grint) is moody and unpredictable, and his tantrums about what he perceives as Hermione’s special relationship with Harry look totally put on.
What this fall from innocence does is to finally break the Harry Potter spell. As this lengthy first part adaptation gets going, the magic tricks stop working and look like ordinary special effects. When Harry does battle with his wand, he reminds you of Luke Skywalker with his ‘lightsaber’ on an intergalactic mission.
Above all, the narrative is jerky, slow and deathly boring. Midway, you lose track of why the trio are on the road and what they are looking for. Easily the most disappointing of the Harry Potter films, Deathly Hallows: I, erases the willing suspension of disbelief that made the previous films work so well.