For the longest time, this was my favorite movie of the whole series, partly due to the huge event at the end of the film. This movie and the two parts of The Deathly Hallows, I watched well after they were released on DVD. I never watched them when they were in theatres, I never read the books, and I managed to stay away from any kind of plot points or reveals that took place in those films. I can’t really come up with a reason why I fell off of watching these movies, but I eventually got back into them and started by watching the last three films all back to back starting with this one and it instantly became my favorite.
While the movie still stands up as being one of my favorites, I realized that it isn’t my favorite overall. It has some of the best moments of the whole franchise and some of those moments are my absolute favorites, but overall the movie doesn’t hold up as well when looking at it as a whole. This movie manages to not have current Voldemort through any of the film, but does take time to focus on his younger self Tom Riddle. It’s when this movie really leans heavily on Tom and the overarching series story that the movie really feels at its best. Unlike some of the other movies, this one really lacks from not having anything interesting going on during the school portions of the film. It tries to spend more time on developing awkward love triangles and relationships that end up meaning nothing and honestly takes away from the focus.
I love that it starts immediately off with Harry and Dumbledore rather than starting with Harry at his Aunt and Uncle’s home. I was honestly getting a little tired of the repetitive nature of the start of these films, and really enjoyed that we were able to jump right into an important aspect of the story by being introduced to the new professor and old friend of Dumbledore’s, Horace Slughorn. He’s an interesting character that has a quirky and funny personality that’s performed amazingly by Jim Broadbent. His character and performance was a real highlight for me throughout the movie. I loved all of the moments where Harry is trying to get inside his mind to learn more about Tom Riddle. They had some fantastic back and forth that really hits its peak towards the end when Harry finally gets him to reveal the untampered memory.
Horace was surprisingly the only new character of importance that was introduced, but honestly this movie has a real problem with all of its characters outside of Harry, Dumbledore, and Slughorn. Ron and Hermione get some character development regarding their feelings for each other, but are ultimately placed in an arc of being stuck in a love triangle. It was a waste of the characters and happens for no reason other than to have some kind of drama. It’s so insignificant that even Harry doesn’t really care what Ron is doing or how it effects Hermione except for maybe one scene where they’re talking about their feelings. We also get a little development between Harry and Jenny that seemingly comes out of nowhere. I mean we all could tell that Jenny had some feelings towards Harry, all the way back to The Chamber of Secrets, but it all seems kind of out of nowhere and forced only so that we can have a love interest for Harry.
The rest of the characters are either underused or completely ignored all together and I found it to be an absolute waste. I understand that the story was putting more of the focus on Harry and Dumbledore and when it does that, it works, but there are opportunities for older side characters to have moments, but they don’t. Rather, they choose to give new characters more screen time than old ones that we are familiar with. Like I don’t understand what they need was for introducing a new student turned love interest for Ron and Hermione. It served the story for trying to create a love triangle because I don’t think there were any older characters that could have filled that role in the story they were trying to tell, but I felt that the whole point of trying to tell a love issue story was a total waste for the characters.
The only other character that has opportunity for some character development was Draco who we actually get to see as an agent of evil for the Dark Lord. While the concept is cool of actually getting to see him having something of significance to do, all the weight of what he’s doing is ruined from the very beginning of the movie. Snape makes an unbreakable vowel with Draco’s mother to protect him no matter what, so while seeing him prepare for his eventual attack on Dumbledore was cool, it had no weight because we knew that Snape was eventually going to have to take over. It takes away from any feeling that he was actually going to carry out the ultimate deed of killing Dumbledore and ultimately felt like a waste to focus on him at all. The only somewhat interesting part was when he and Harry were going at it in the bathroom and I wish it could have gone on longer.
This brings us to the actual quality parts of the movie. Everything going on with Harry, Dumbledore and Slughorn continuously became the most compelling parts of the movie. One part in particular was absolutely hilarious and might not be agreeable among everyone but I enjoyed it, that part being when Harry drinks the liquid luck. Daniel Radcliffe plays a different version of Harry that I couldn’t help but love and laugh with. It actually gave him more of a chance to spread his acting versatility a bit more and gave me a glimpse into some of his comedic side. Outside of that though, everything else was incredibly dark and deep with the information we were learning about Tom.
I appreciated how the information was earned by also giving us a version of Harry going about getting the information that feels eerily similar to that of who Tom was but from a different side of a coin. As we learn more about Tom, we also start to feel more of a connection between him and Harry. As we find out more about the Horcruxes, the movies all end up tying together and begin to form a complete circle of things we were introduced to in the past. Most notably was Tom’s diary from The Chamber of Secrets. It was interesting and adds more weight to that movie with more purpose that wasn’t previously felt.
The movie also takes time to show how powerful a wizard Dumbledore truly is and we also get to see how vulnerable and human he still is at his core. They really take time to build the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry and make us feel the pain that Harry does when the inevitable death of Dumbledore comes about. When I first watched this film, I had assumed that Dumbledore would be alive into the final films at the very least so his death was a great surprise to me the first time I saw it. Even now, it still has an emotional impact that I think is felt more due to his relationship with Harry. I think the decision to have Snape kill him was obvious, but it was also powerful. Dumbledore trusted Snape and we knew how much he trusted him, so to see his trust betrayed like that is incredibly sad and only becomes more impactful when we see Harry call him out on it.
Overall this movie is not as good as I thought it was the first time, but it still holds up as being one of my favorites. I think it hurts from lacking real significant story elements through the beginning and middle of the film with all of our side characters. It does however have some of the most interesting overarching story developments and certainly impacts the rest of the story going forward. It gives us an emotional end with an expected but powerful twist that really sets the stage for our last leg in the story. At this point I don’t have a clear favorite yet and am excited to see where I stand after finishing them.
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