Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1

Film review by: Witney Seibold

I have to qualify this review right up front by stating that I actually did have a good time with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1,” and think that the filmmaking is perfectly adequate; David Yates seems to be improving as a director. So all of my ranting and complaining below are more of a general complaint than a nitpick on this film in particular.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1” is a frustrating, frustrating film. It is devoid of wonder, and doesn’t resemble a feature film, so much as a catalogue of the events from the popular J.K. Rowling novel on which it’s based. That the film is the seventh in the series, but still has the superfluous “part 1” tacked onto the title, indicates that literary fealty is the word of the day, and not making a compelling film. This means that, unless you’re intimately familiar with the books, or have watched the previous films in the series multiple times, you will be very, very lost in the fathoms of this film’s plot. “Deathly Hallows 1” doesn’t commit this sin as badly as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth film in the series, but it is indeed still overrun with characters that are given no introduction, situations that seem to make little sense, and incident after incident that doesn’t flow or progress in any meaningful, cinematic fashion.

Again, that qualification: I still liked this film. I’m fond of the characters at this point, the special effects are really neat, and, even though I was largely lost for much of the film, I did spot some characters and remembered enough events to get that geek-like thrill when certain people turned up. “Oh yeah! There’s Dobby (Toby Jones) from the second movie!” “And there’s that French chick (Clémence Poésy) from the fourth.

I understand that all these events are fleshed out in the books, and, if the squealing of the teenage girls in front of me in my theater were any indication, this film hit all the events just correctly. If those girls were any gauge, the best scenes in the movie were the ones where Daniel Radcliffe (in the title role) removes his shirt. There’s also a scene in which Radcliffe wears a brassiere, and another where he and Hermione (Emma Watson) get naked and tongue kiss passionately in a cloud of evil. Much to the chagrin of Ron (Rupert Grint) who has a palpable thing for Hermione. Fetish much?

The first two Harry Potter films were wondrous films (I’m especially fond of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”). They concluded in a meaningful way, while still feeling like they were connected to a larger world of magic and creatures. They made me feel how vast the wizarding world was, and how much it contained, and how lucky and happy Harry was to be a part of it. When the third movie came along, that wonder started being pushed aside for typical thriller stuff, and, here’s the kicker, confusing elements that referred to the books more than to the previous films. I understand that the readers of Harry Potter are – like many a genre fan – sticklers for completism and fidelity to the source material, but it strikes me as somewhat cynical when filmmakers stop referring to a large world of magic and awe, and only start referring to the books. There was a time when Harry was constantly impressed by what he saw. These days, he seems bored by it.

So that’s what “HP7P1” feels like: a mere checklist. We see all the characters, some of which are played by distinguished British actors, but they are given little to do. Each has maybe a single line of dialogue before we rocket to the next plotpoint that will also be confusing, and feel more like an in joke, and less like a relatable sense of storytelling.

I’ve also said this before, but I hate, in fantasy literature, when an imaginative author works hard to create a complex universe of wizards and magic, only to have – just like any old pulp serial – the good guys fight with the bad guys; I wish that more possibilities were explored. I understand that Harry is now 18 years old, and won’t have the same childish instincts he had at 11, but being grown-up shouldn’t necessarily equate dealing with dark magic. Again I reiterate: “Dark” and “gritty” does not mean that it’s a serious story, or that it’s more grown up. It just means you forgot how to make The Light interesting. It feels more, well, adolescent.

I wish the series had stayed as awestruck as the first two chapters promised. Literary fealty is not a virtue in and of itself. If you need to cut “important” stuff to make a more streamlined film, that is acceptable. It beats the alternative, which is such stringent fan service, that you begin to lose basic quality and understanding.

But enough of my ranting. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1” is a fun film full of magic. For all  its incident, it actually is refreshingly slow-paced, and the bulk of the film follows Harry, Ron and Hermione as they hide out in tents on the lam, trying to evade the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his army of darkness. They are also on the hunt for objects called horcruxes, which Voldemort has hidden his soul inside of. They do manage to find one, and have a heck of a time destroying it. Their journey takes them inside The Ministry of Magic, which resembles a Nazi propaganda camp, and they attend the wedding of a minor character. My favorite part of the film was a dazzling animated sequence (directed by Ben Hibon) which explained what Deathly Hallows were.

There are some fun fight scenes, some minor characters die, and Voldemort is hunting for a powerful magic wand. Overall, it’s entertaining enough, and will hold both hardcore fans and casual fans alike. For the non-fans, well, you’ll be lost without a map. You may like the film’s visuals, though.

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Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hi i love the things you wrote about and i like when i am typing a replie that it look like a news paper or type writing words.

  2. “The first two Harry Potter films were wondrous films (I’m especially fond of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”). They concluded in a meaningful way, while still feeling like they were connected to a larger world of magic and creatures.”

    I totally agree with this.

    Why they have to change Chris Colombus?? Whhyyy >_>??


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