Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weeks Too Late: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (Part 1)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1). Directed by David Yates & Written by Steve Kloves.

Aside: Well, this week I was supposed to watch Bram Stoker's Dracula to dual review with the fabulous Dindrane. Unfortunately, several factors meant I wasn't able to get around to it. Sure, I didn't realize it wasn't on streaming Netflix, so I had to get a hard copy. Sure, I reached the endgame for my second play through of Dragon Age 2 and was almost finished World of Goo. But when it comes right down to it, I didn't watch Bram Stoker's Dracula because I remember utterly, utterly hating it. By all rights, it should be a favourite movie: beautiful sweeping sets, vibrant colours, period costumes and not to mention sexy chameleon Gary Oldman vamping it up. However, I don't remember any of those things clearly. All I remember is feeling bored and patronized through the whole thing, oh and not liking Mina. Still, I'll keep my promise to myself and sit through it sometime this week, but I decided to watch something I was excited for instead: the first half of the conclusion of Harry Potter.

: While overall I enjoyed the Harry Potter books a great deal, Deathly Hallows is not a favourite. It's affectionately dubbed: Harry Potter and the Endless Camping Trip by some and more sleazily Harry Potter: Sleeps Rough by disgusting old women (alright, by me), for a reason. The book is a huge tome where not nearly enough happens. Instead of a tightly plotted story, we spend most of our time watching teens wander around squabbling with very little sense of purpose. While I'm sure this was deliberate (to a point), to show the oppressive force of Voldemort's power and generally that teenagers are sulky losers, there is only so much fiddling around a reader can deal with. While I've mostly enjoyed the movies (though some merely to clap my hands at wizards and little more), they did often feel rushed. Some of them barely managed to get through the plot points let alone do them well (a compliment to the book series, which often successfully juggles a lot of plot and characters). I didn't expect that was going to be much of a threat in this flick, given that the teeny tiny plot is being spread awfully thin to cover two movies.

General Review
: Well, I enjoyed this. Firstly, it had the Lord of the Rings effect: it was a fairly faithful movie adaptation of a book I thought was too long. It condensed the experience into a more palatable length. (And one day I'll be back to tell you what I really think of Lord of the Rings, at which point many friends will cast me out into the gutter for my disgusting anti-Hobbit sentiments). But I enjoyed more about this movie than it being shorter than the book, and getting to see several Daniel Radcliffes in very little clothing (more on that disgusting tid-bit shortly). Really, it was one of the better movies. It wasn't warped all out of shape trying to fit too much story into too little space, like so much shrunken laundry. We had time in this to explore ideas and enjoy the settings and characters without being quickly rushed into the next room. I haven't loved Yates' pacing in the past, but he has improved drastically.

Casting has never been an issue with the Harry Potter movies, they've all been filled out with a who's who of excellent a
ctors and surprisingly good child actors (though I never warmed to Tom Felton's Draco or Timothy Spall's Wormtail. They always feel outmatched by the rest of the stellar cast like a common Katie Holmes). Emma Watson continues to be delightful and (naturally) my favourite character. She believably plays brainy, strong and courageous. Imelda Staunton reprises her role as Delores Umbridge, who, to my mind, in both the movies and books is the most oppressive and frightening villain. Seriously, a teacher who abuses her authority WHILE putting on a sweet falsetto voice? Shudderful. As for Radcliffe, I've been outed more than once on my wholly inappropriate attraction to that ridiculously young actor. For those of you who share my shameful attraction, you'll be glad to hear that he continues to fill out disturbingly and to impress playing the heroic but not always likable (well not to me, anyways) Harry.

Kloves adaptation was quite good, while he was doubtless part of the problem with the rushed feeling of the other movies, there wasn't any of that here. We neatly sliced out some of the more tedious sections, but kept the feeling of hopelessness that pervaded the book. Something that falls somewhere between the original books, directing and screenplay writing were the superb scenes in un-magical London. After spending so much time in the colourful, complicated setting of Hogwarts and the surrounding areas, abruptly putting us into the normal world was an excellent touch. The contrast of the grey, drab city made the occasional use of magic and colour pop (a fight scene in a cafe was particularly good). After spending the last six movies lavishing us with bright otherworldly settings, it was jarring (in a good way) to suddenly be forced into an everyday city. Also, the CG integration, which these movies typically have done well (with the exception of that troll early on in the series, yes, it was another grey globby monster), are even better than usual.

Like the books, this movie is darker than its predecessor and if you were put off by the childish wonder in the first few movies, I think you'll find basically all of that has been beaten out of the series by this point.
Admittedly, some of that has been replaced with equally unpalatable teen angst, but since we move along at a good clip there isn't much time to be bothered by it. I hardly think it's necessary for me to sell anyone on Harry Potter. It's a ridiculously successful franchise with oodles of fans. If you've enjoyed the previous ones, you'll enjoy this one. If you were kinda lukewarm on the book, I expect you'll have a similar experience to me, and enjoy it quite a bit more.

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