Monday, October 10, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1

By s. Monday, October 10, 2011 , , , , , , ,
(146 min, 2010)
Director: David Yates
Writers: Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (novel)
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint


Voldemort's power is growing stronger. He now has control over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to finish Dumbledore's work and find the rest of the Horcruxes to defeat the Dark Lord. But little hope remains for the Trio, and the rest of the Wizarding World, so everything they do must go as planned.

I've never been much of Harry Potter series fan. I only read one book and as enjoyable as it was, it's simply not my cup of tea. I found whole thing to be very childish and predictable. Having said that, there are some splendid ideas in the books and the world of magic, existing right next to ordinary one, is very interesting. I saw all of the movies, my favorite one being “Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire” thanks to easy to follow narration, lots of great scenes and the birth of the darkness that will define later movies.
As the series progressed and directors changed, beginning with “Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban” the movies became a little bit more dark. After very disappointing “Order of Phoenix” came my second favorite “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” with haunting musical score and beautiful sequences, especially interesting flashbacks. With each movie the formula changed a little and the unnerving habit of ending movie with a twist about one of the teachers being a villain stopped occurring. The improvement also came with terrific actors being involved in the series, with great Imelda Staunton and always deliciously creepy Helena Bonham Carter. Even the young actors showed more and more talent and feature my favorite performance form all the movies – lovely Evanna Lynch as fascinatingly strange Luna Lovegood.

The new Harry Potter movie is not as enjoyable as part 4th and 6th. It makes far too many missteps and sometimes turns into snooze fest. I don't know what possessed the creators to include so many soapy scenes between Harry, Hermione and Ron. Having not read the book I'm only judging the movie here and the drastic increase of scenes like that make the movie feel much like “Twilight” than “Harry Potter”. As a fan of ridiculous yet enjoyable sparkly vampire saga I'm not saying it's bad. It just felt out of place in the film.

Let me start from the bad things – the ridiculous CGI sequence in which Ron sees his nightmare is truly cringe worthy. The last time I saw something that pathetic in Harry Potter movie were those blue creatures (I apologize for my lack of knowledge in HP terminology) flying around in the classroom in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets “. Also, as someone unfamiliar with the book, I was utterly confused at various points in the movie – the Horcruxes, the Deathly Hallows, new characters, numerous flashbacks and visions. This is the first Harry Potter movie that will induce headache in people who didn't read the story first – I bet it's amazing for the fans who read the books many times to see their favorite scenes depicted on screen, but for everyone else it's a head scracher. In effect, there are times during the movie when narration feels butchered and uneven – it is particularly noticeable when Harry and Hermione, after series of boring scenes with them in the tent, visit the creepy house of Dumbledore's friend. After absolutely fantastic sequence we're back to the tent situation. I have no idea what the hell was that supposed to be.
Despite being cut in two parts “Deathly Hallows” feels horribly rushed and crowded. It's a wonderful thing when a lot is happening in the movie, but when it's still boring something is very wrong. To make matters worse, Ginny and Harry have zero chemistry – it will really hurt next movie. I also felt that CGI wasn't nearly as impressive as in previous movies. The only memorable sequence is the opening chase scene, everything else is rather forgettable and not impressive. Also Voldemort lost his evil quality, in previous movies he was very intimidating, but now when we get to see more of him, he's just boring and honestly, Alan Rickman is more fascinating and creepy using just his eyes, than Fiennes is grimacing and sniffing dead bodies, although it's the fault of the script. Another thing is how quickly they got rid of Bill Nighy and Brendan Gleeson. It's unnerving wonderful actors get so few scenes in the movie. I also found myself missing Maggie Smith a lot during watching this part.

Luckily, there is plenty of good in the movie – Rhys Ifans is absolutely wonderful as Luna's father, I only wish there were more of them in “Deathly Hallows”. Helena Bonham Carter is great as Bellatrix and finally we get to see more of her. She is absolutely insane and manages to be horrifying, in fact she makes Voldemort look like a boring snob. There are some outstanding sequences – the medallion quest in Ministry of Magic, pretty much every scene including Dobby and surprising animated scene. The ending is absolutely heartbreaking. The dancing scene where Harmione and Harry dance to Nick Cave's incredible “O Children” is perhaps the most lovely scene of all the films, along with the ball in “Goblet of Fire”. Radcliffe and Grint are pretty good, but it's Watson who steals the show. She was annoying in previous films, but now she displays so many emotions it is astonishing. The torture scene (PG friendly which met my disapproving sigh) is really impressive - having Bellatrix carve "mudblood" into Hermione's arm was not in the original script, but it was an idea that both Emma Watson and Helena Bonham Carter came up with together – of course you don't get to see the carving, but that little detail give a little bit of insight into both witches. Watson was really good, but I find the studio releasing ads campaigning her for Golden Globe nomination to be very exaggerated and quite amusing notion. I'm not sure if she has enough talent to be good in future roles, but she has the biggest shot at making career out of the main three actors - Grint is most excellent in humorous moments and manages to portray anger convincingly, whilst Radcliffe remains the weakest link. But I guess, given how many movies we saw him in reprising the role, it's almost impossible to imagine someone else playing Harry Potter.
Another highlight is that for the first time in the series you truly feel the gravity of the situation in which characters are. No more Quidditch games, this is fight for life and death. The movie is very enjoyable when it sticks to adventure formula, the drama doesn't work that well. The dynamics between Harry, Hermione and Ron are mostly believable, there is plenty of humor in the movie and it does what good second to last movie should do – it makes you curious about what happens next. The movie is definitely different than other ones – it doesn't feature Hogwarts at all, that is what story requires, but I really miss seeing all the scenes in classroom, parties, magical creatures and train ride. I guess six parts of that will have to do.


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