19 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleason, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter. Screenplay by Steve Kloves, Directed by David Yates. Release: 19 November 2010. Warner Bros., 146 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Life is sorta crappy for Harry Potter, as nearly everyone in the wizarding world wants his head, so being on the run with his friends Ron and Hermione is necessary to stop the evil Lord Voldemort once and for all.

The midnight screening of the penultimate HARRY POTTER film, basically the concluding chapter of a series that is unwaveringly intertwined with my childhood and is of great emotional resonance for me, just finished over a hour ago and I decided to write this review rather immediately before my brain becomes overjoyed with exploring my recently purchased SCOTT PILGRIM and DOCTOR WHO Blu-Rays. So my apologies if what follows is a bloody mess, I tried.

To make a long story short, PART 1 is a rousing success. Intense, deeply emotional, and hitting the majority of crucial story points, this movie furthers the stories while paying tribute, in various ways, the stories that brought the characters where they are now. It’s really quite satisfying to see Harry Potter revisit his old cupboard and silently acknowledge the change in his life, who he was before and has now become. Characters minor and major reappear to bid the saga ado, and do so in outstanding manner. This truly is the beginning of the end, and director David Yates, screenwriter Steve Kloves, actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson deliver on every imaginable scale.

First it’s worth mentioning I don’t look at HALF-BLOOD PRINCE too favorably, something I blame on the poorly adapted script and washed out color tone which simply turns me off (same with Scott’s DOMINO, although that is a example of the extreme), and to ring home my perspective of this seventh film, DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 completely makes up for it. Second in the worth mentioning category is my opinion on the two-film split. Like many, the initial announcement didn’t exactly elicit a hyper, excited reception on my end, finding it more so a plot by Warner Bros. to con more money out of the movie going audience. But with further contemplation of the decision, and especially after seeing this finished product, I whole heartedly support this decision. My mom was adamant that the entire novel could have easily been adapted into a singular two and a half hour movie, and upon explaining to her the many benefits that came out of splitting it in two, allowing more room for the characters to breath (a top priority) and the story to logically flow (also sorta crucial), she relented, but it doesn’t seem she’s entirely sold on the idea. By making this epic tale into two movies, Yates and Kloves has successfully made HALLOWS PART 1 possibly the most emotionally charged and character-centric movie of the series.

Truth be told, I’m still head over shoes in love with ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, and it’ll be tough for anything to replace that film as my number one, but HALLOWS is most certainty begging to take the lead. In the opening minutes, with very few words spoken, they deliver outstanding scenes with Harry, Ron and Hermione (separately) preparing themselves for the journey ahead. We see Ron become a more rounded character than ever before, beyond the grouchy and jealous douche in GOBLET OF FIRE or the hormone-driven teen in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, as he faces his inner demons and fears in one mesmerizing and astonishing sequence that demands to be experienced over and over. The baggage he’s been carrying the last couple installments just rip out of him (thanks to a Horcrux), and although we’re lead to dislike and possibly become infuriated by Ron’s words, it nonetheless permits the character room to explore all his dimensions and nearly own this movie.

Not to say Radcliffe or Watson aren’t allowed their time to shine; far from it. Shedding himself emotionally and physically, Radcliffe gives a powerhouse performance, as every ounce of fear, of anger, of sadness, of desire to not have anyone die for him again, it’s all etched beautifully on his expressions. Radcliffe doesn’t need dialogue, he nicely conveys every thought and beat by a glance of his eyes or a tense jaw. Truthfully, it’s quite remarkable how amazing he’s been these last three films. As for Watson, she isn’t given the same amount of emotions to tinker with, but we do get a nice, clear view of Hermione under stress as she becomes an unofficial leader to the group, coming up with the brilliant ideas and trying to keep everyone together and safe, not just from the villains but also from themselves. Together, Radcliffe, Grint and Watson light up the screen with their magnificent performances.

Everyone else has limited screen time, although it’s certainly understandable. Ralph Fiennes continues to menace as Voldemort, Brendan Gleason enchants with his final outing as Mad-Eye Moody, and David Thewlis is always a joy as Professor Lupin (speaking of which, I really don’t like the new hairdo for Tonks). There’s many, many more people to mention, but little time to do so (I’m getting fairly tired). It’s also pleasant to see some genuine chemistry between Bonnie Wright and Radcliffe in their singular romantic scene, nearly redeeming themselves for the awful ‘When Ginny Kissed Harry’ moment in HALF-BLOOD. And finally, in the limited screentime category, Bill Nighy finally makes his appearance in a POTTER movie as the ‘new’ Minister of Magic, which doesn’t last too long, sadly enough. Channeling a creepy Davvy Jones-vibe, Nighy is the first sight we see, but unfortunately leaves all too quickly. Nonetheless, he makes an impression, and it’s extremely weird to see him with dark hippie hair. Or at least it looked hippie-like to me…

Now, as an adaptation, how does it fair? Quite well, actually. Of course there are deviations from the text, but the two films of one story allows much, much more of the original novel to be present and accounted for. So there’s the plus side. On the negative side of things, DEATHLY HALLOWS suffers from the same problem of HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, where the flow of the story feels akin to specific ‘important scenes’ being checked off a list of plot-points worth including in the movie. Instead of being driven by both characters and plot like ORDER OF THE PHOENIX accomplished, there does seem to be a lack of ‘A travels to B, B makes C happen, and C reacts to make D happen, and D does [insert] to make E…’ and so on and so forth. I may be alone in this feeling, but it’s just the way it feels.

One minor shortcoming, as well, is the rather coincidental and random throw of characters, new and old, into the mix which becomes a vital part of the story, coming off as quick heartless introductions to serve a function instead of the carefully laid-out plan with careful hints of foreshadowing J.K. Rowling accomplished. Of course, I don’t expect that from the movies, but randomly having Bill tossed into the final movie to be a helpful tool for the trio later on, or Mundungus included just so he can move the Horcrux plot along. It all feels sort of heartless and doesn’t contain the same gusto it should.

That said, it’s still a successful adaptation that includes key elements and fantastic character moments. Scenes that I thought would be complicated to adapt to the screen come across as brilliant and are quickly becoming favorites of mine. The first is the sequence where Ron faces off against his worst fears (which calls for a odd Harry/Hermione moment that left me a little befuddled), and the second being the animated representation of The Three Brothers story (boasting an animated style similar to HELLBOY II; and did anyone else think Death looked eerily similar to General Grievous from REVENGE OF THE SITH?). These two are just but the beginning of great scenes in the film (not to forget mentioning the sweet fate that befalls Dobby – sorry, never been a fan of the guy). Oh, and lest I forget, the outstanding sequence in Godric’s Hollow, realized far better than anything I could have hoped. Creepy on a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY level and full of adrenaline as our heroes are thrown in some real danger, this is POTTER on its A-game.

The end is nigh, and DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 neatly sets up the stakes that Harry, Ron and Hermione must face in the epic, most likely action-packed finale extravaganza. The Deathly Hallows have been explored, Dumbeldore’s past is beginning to influence the present, Harry and his friends have reunited stronger than ever, and as necessary for any cliffhanger, the path to salvation seems as far away as ever. PART 1 ends in a highly dramatic fashion, making anyone not familiar with the book giddy with anticipation as Voldemort becomes the most powerful force on the planet, and Harry, Ron and Hermione are at their lowest low. July 2011, I can’t wait for you to come, yet I also don’t want you to. With the end of HARRY POTTER, it will be closing a chapter of my childhood years, and the yearly anticipation for a new POTTER film will forever be gone.

Despite a few nitpicks here and there, which I doubt will deter anyone from seeing the flick, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 is a rousing success, boasting some of the greatest character work and emotional basis of the series (‘cept ORDER, of course), and leaves you wanting more when the final credits roll.

Keep in mind, if you’re planning on waiting post-credits for a little teaser for PART 2, don’t bother, there isn’t one. I was hoping they’d have something, based off what Warners did for MATRIX RELOADED, but alas, my hope was squashed. Not to fear, I just need to rewatch the international trailer a few hundred more times until the official PART 2 trailer is up. For now, run to your nearest multiplex and enjoy Harry’s last adventure, and prepare yourself for an epic showdown between Harry Potter and Voldemort for the sake of mankind.

Well, there’s my initial review. When I watch it again – in the fairly soon future – I just might write a second review with a few more details. Watch the Potter!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harry Potter is amazing. Unfortunately I have not seen the movie yet. It's nice to see that there are other geeks out there who can come together.