Sunday 21 November 2010

Review; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Year: 2010
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and every other British actor working today it seems.

Synopsis is here

Close friends know I'm not the biggest Potter fan. I tried to read the first book three times and really couldn't get on with it. The book was thrown across the room and I went on and continued wit my "grown up" books. The films came out and I still couldn't get a great handle on this phenomenon. I've watched the films frustrated by the one-note flatness of the lead character, the wooden acting by the main actors, the boarding school class elitism and the bland storytelling. Fans of course will tell me I'm very VERY wrong, but there only so many of the same approach to the hero's journey I can take.

It took the sixth film however, to finally bring forth something I connected with*. A change in the arc of the character that gave me reason to invest time into these people and franchise. It wasn't perfect but it was something to hold on to. Deathly Hallows also realizes this; and while this film has it's issues, there is something about the film that makes watching it worthwhile.

While I feel I had to trudge through so much crap in order to get to the good stuff, it is quite rewarding to see how all these aspects from the other films come together. The return of characters like Dobby for instance is an interesting one, particularly due to the part he plays within the film. This doesn't excuse how mediocre I feel some of the other films have been, but it has placed the story as a whole into a more appealing light.

This isn't to say that there isn't problems with the piece. I can't say I know exactly whats going at any point and the film (kinda rightly) doesn't sit down to feed you the information. However, not being a fan leaves me at a disadvantage. Why are they going here? What's that? They're doing that why? These questions ran through my head often throughout the films noticeably long run time. I say noticeably because despite the fact that the previous film was longer, time really does seem to drag here. Deathly Hallow suffers from the same inflictions as Watchmen in that if you don't know the source well, then you may feel that for lengthy periods of time not only you don't know what's going on but also you may also feel indifferent about it. The Potter films like many book to film adaptations have had to tread that horrible tightrope of garnering new interest and maintaining fan base finickiness and this one clearly owes to those who have spent cold midnights waiting for the books to open on the impending launch day.

But who am I to argue, really? I mean now that narrative has finally raised the stakes and have these characters truly looking at their own mortality, the series has finally becoming an entertaining one. The impending sense of dread and dark times ahead flow throughout and ramp up the involvement. You know feel that anything could happen to these characters and everyone is expendable. Also from a spectacle point of view; the set pieces are some of the strongest, mostly because they're not quidditch games. The visuals are impressive with one of the most entertaining moments being delightfully Owellian. The scenes within the Ministry of Magic are not only inspired by Terry Gilliams Brazil (which of course alludes to 1984) but also perked up my interest with their subtext; mainly the fear interracial relationships. Suddenly all that elitism and class divides that I had detested before, morphs into something far more interesting: that this world of wizards has become allegory for our very own changing Britain. It's daring stuff for a family film but well worth it.  To cap it off there's even a moment which invokes Romero's Dawn of the dead. Great Stuff.

With all the doom and gloom that lies within the film, Deathly Hallows keeps us entertained with sweet moments of humor and the fact that while these characters have always been flat, they've always been likable. Another one of the films strongest moments comes from a quietly moving dance sequence between Harry and Hermione that subtly reminding us that even with the weight of the world on top of them, these characters remember that it's their closeness that has got them through so much.

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 doesn't have what one would call a true climax, but it is an effective build up to what could be an entertaining and satisfying conclusion to what some would feel is now a British institution (lets not talk about all that Warner Brothers money hey?). It's taken a long time to get to where we are and it's still not done yet, but even this cynical blogger is waiting patiently to see how this all plays out.

*Do note that my open paragraphs for Half Blood prince states pretty much that same shtick as here. Sorry for the rehash.