I don't want to give away anything, so I'll just say this: Hats of to you, David Yates. One can only hope the second installment will continue in the same vein...
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I don't want to give away anything, so I'll just say this: Hats of to you, David Yates. One can only hope the second installment will continue in the same vein...
Welcome back to the magical world of Harry Potter, one that began with wonder and joy, but has since become shrouded in death and darkness. Still visibly distraught from the death of his mentor Professor Albus Dumbledore, Harry is now tasked to continue with the mission of the late Dumbledore- to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes (accursed objects containing fragments of Voldemort's soul). It doesn't get any easier, since Voldemort is nearing the height of his powers, and his bidders have infiltrated the bureaucracy to paint Harry as a wanted criminal.
There are fewer and fewer allies around- even those within the Order of the Phoenix may have since betrayed their ranks- and the first half hour quickly establishes the danger and urgency of the situation at hand. Members of the Order, including Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), attempt to escort Harry to safety- but even that mission is met with an attack from the Death Eaters, culminating in a dizzyingly exciting high-speed flying-bike chase that shouldn't disappoint fans looking for some action sorely missed in the last movie.
Indeed, naysayers who think David Yates doesn't know how to stage thrilling action sequences should think again, as he demonstrates amply that he is just as capable when it comes to staging them. He also displays an uncanny knack for milking suspense out of scenes- in particular, Harry, Hermoine and Ron's daring raid on the Ministry of Magic and their subsequent visit to Godric's Hollow, Harry's birthplace and home to Bathilda Bagshot, a magician and dear friend to Dumbledore. These brim with nail-biting tension, and Yates plays them out nicely to set your pulse racing at the end.
The crux of this film however lies in the relationships between Harry, Hermoine and Ron as they set off in the middle of the film across the bleak English countryside on their quest to discover the means to destroy the Horcruxes. On the run from Voldemort, the trio find the immensity of their journey taking a toll on them. Harry and Ron's friendship begins to fray as Ron grows suspect of Hermoine's affections for Harry. Meanwhile, Harry can barely conceal his frustration with getting no headway and starts losing his temper at Ron.
Infused with a profound sense of isolation and loss, this middle stretch in the film may be tedious for some impatient viewers, but fans will be rewarded with probably the richest depiction of the relationships between the characters since the first two movies. One scene where Harry and Hermoine suddenly decide to dance together to the tune of Nick Cave's The Children playing on the radio is lyrical in its depiction of their desperate attempt to find levity in a world that affords none. Yes, their friendship strong and deep since the beginning will be tested, and Yates delivers an emotional payoff towards the end of the film that is truly poignant.
Thanks to the decision to split the final book into two films, Yates doesn't hurry through these scenes. Instead, he allows the audience to experience the frustration, jealousy and uncertainty of his characters, and allows for Radcliffe, Watson and Grint to display some fine acting with the minimalest distraction from any visual effects. The additional time also turns out to be a blessing for fans and audiences, allowing them the opportunity to see their favourite supporting characters back on screen- most prominently of course Dobby the elf who returns to give the movie a touching finale.
Amidst the gloom, screenwriter Steve Kloves again provides for rare welcome moments of levity. Harry's escort mission is aided by magical decoys of Harry, one of them wearing a bra. To get to the Ministry of Magic, one needs to flush oneself down a toilet bowl. These occasional sparks of humour enliven a film that is otherwise ominous and menacing. Kloves however fumbles slightly with the lengthy expository, and those who have not read the book will find themselves struggling to catch up with the significance of certain characters (e.g. Sirius' brother, Regulus Arcturus Black) and certain events (e.g. Bathilda turning into a slithering serpent).
Still Kloves never had an enviable task to begin with, and Yates- at his most confident here- guides the proceedings along admirably, unfolding them briskly at the start, then settling in for a deliberately measured pace and finally picking up speed for as much as a climax as this first- parter can have. His assuredness also shows in his artistic choices, especially a wayang-kulit-like animated sequence telling the story of the Deathly Hallows.
Though we know better than to expect the grand showdown between Harry and Voldemort by the end of the film, there is still a distinct sense that what we have seen so far is only a build-up for something bigger and far more astounding. But even as a prelude, this seventh film is notable in its own right, a tense and thrilling experience darker, scarier and more mature than any of its predecessors
The one thing, though, that I felt was off in 7 was how she portrayed Hagrid. In a few cases, it seemed like she was treating him like a buffoon, but that's a personal opinion, not something that critically could be considered wrong with the book.
But the last book kept elements close together. It brought in all the old characters, added a few new ones, but basically held together things with bonds of steel. The relationships were both old and new, with a true feeling of family and friendships. And we all celebrated the good times in the book and lamented the bad times.
So when Mad-Eye Moody gets killed so early in the book, a feeling of loss goes with him. When Fleur is so happy to be marrying Bill, we're all happy for them both. When we see Kreacher turn from a foul house-elf to a fine house-servant, we're happy for him. When Tonks tells us she is pregnant, we celebrate! But almost none of that is in the movie. We know instinctively that those things happened in the book, but if you haven't read them, you're going to go WTF? an awful lot.
Mad-Eye is killed in the chase, but there isn't a toast to this memory. When Fleur is so intense about the wedding, we see no real emotion, but for one brief moment. When the trio leaves Kreacher for their exploits at the ministry, we have no idea how much he has changed. And when Tonks and Lupin go off, there is nothing to suggest the very sad and aching love they have for each other, and about Remus's hesitation about his upcoming fatherhood.
There is no investment in these characters in the film. It's like "strip the souls from everyone but Ron, Harry and Hermione, make the others more melodramatic with no attachment to the real story, and voilà! you have Deathly Hallows Part One." I confess: I don't like David Yates' direction. There has been something off about it since OOTP, though I might be one of the few who think that. I think his often amateurish direction is quite obvious in this film. The film is often like a roller coaster, with giddy high points, either in the action or the tone, but there are also many very low points, and there is nothing in the middle. We don't LEARN anything from the characters--we follow them on their journey, yes, but we have to inject too much of the overall plot from the book to see what has been left out, and what is still present. There are times when a collage filming of the many places the trio (and in the middle, the duo) went could get that section speeded up without weighing it down (a friend with me found the middle WAY too slow), and at times, a more polished director could have found ways to make the scenes pack a lot more information into them. It certainly didn't look like the kids weren't eating a whole lot, or how much Hermione actually fit into her small pocketbook. The scene that could have managed that would have been the scene in the book where Hermione packs the full sized painting of Sirius Black's relative, Phinea Black, former headmaster of Hogwarts, into her bag. But it was not to be.
I think if there had been a consistent tone during the film, it would have helped bring a more cohesive tone to the film, interlocking all the elements into one. But there wasn't that kind of a feeling in it, and I am disappointed that it didn't happen.
I might be one of the very few fans who feels the film wasn't a very good one. Yes, it's only half of a whole, and the second half might be a totally different one, emotionally, and dramatically. But I just need to say to fans, go with the warning that there are a lot of faults with this installment, and accept it just as a nice visual film, with very, very little to do with the entire HP legacy. It probably won't help, and you will be filling in the blanks from the books, but it's certainly better than nothing.
I love the way Voldemort and the Death Eaters are portrayed in this movie. They are no longer just anonymous caped figures. You can see them interacting with each other, discussing and well... being human. Well, I'm always a big fan of the blurring of these clearcut good/evil categories in Fantasy.
As the book is split into 2 parts, all of a sudden, there's also time for little embellishments I hadn't realized I had missed in the earlier movies! For example, I loved the scene so much where the feather floated through the air when the fairy tale of the Three Brothers was being told. Also the drawing style that was used during the story was really amazing. This HP movie was the first of all that finally gave me the same feeling as Lord of the Rings did: Boy, this is not just some guys slavishly adapting a book into a movie, but they're actually autonomous artists and they have ideas of their own! And I don't mean they changed the whole plot (I wouldn't like that)! But (mostly visually) they did more than just bring across what's in the book.
This also expresses itself in the decision not to include the childish Harry Potter musical theme (at least I didn't hear it, correct me if I'm wrong) from the first movie that sounds like "Wow, everything's so magical here!" That tune was fine for the first movie, but as Harry got older and the movies got darker, it kind of felt like they had to force this theme into every movie several times even though it didn't really fit any more. Now the soundtrack, too, has finally grown up. And I loved it! Last but not least, the acting was brilliant! The tense atmosphere between Harry, Ron and Hermione really came across. Also with all the doppelgänger scenes, you always still saw from their movements and behaviour which character was which though they were in disguise in a different body.
All in all, as the title says, this is a excellent grown-up movie and I can recommend it to everyone - except kids! If you have little kids, please don't take them. This movie has far too many scary scenes and little comic relief! Plus, the plot is quit complex including lots and lots of minor characters. It's really no longer a movie targeted at kids, even though it's still labelled "Harry Potter".
The worst mistake is wasting one of the biggest ensemble casts in British film history. Why cast the likes of Alan Rickman, Brendan Gleeson, Robbie Coltrane, Rhys Ifans, Jason Isaacs, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter et al when none of them get more than a couple of minutes screen time apiece. Daniel Radcliffe appears bored, itching to take on more adult roles, while Rupert Grint barely registers. Hermione turned from an engagingly cute bookworm into whiny, frowning, petulant little character a long time ago and I ended up praying that the scriptwriters would change the story and kill her off. No such luck.
Add in some poor editing, seen-it-all-before type special effects and poor action sequences and you have an aimless, disappointing movie with a tired feel. Take, for instance, the wand battle: it's filmed like a gunfight. Gunfights have been filmed in thousands of movies, wand fights in only a few, so why go down the dull and clichéd route instead of thinking of something more spectacular? Just one example of the deficit of imagination found everywhere in this film.
With this film, we are slowly but surely bidding farewell to one of cinema's most successful and imaginative franchises. The franchise, like Harry Potter himself, has grown and matured as the years (and films) progress. Part I of the "Deathly Hallows" is ultimately a strong build- up to what will be a triumphant, bittersweet finale for everybody.
I won't waste time trying to talk about the performances, because they are all great and powerful in their own way. Never mind that many of the cast members are very talented veteran British actors (try getting John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Imelda Staunton, Jason Isaacs and Bill Nighy in the same film again) - the three young actors who we have come to love and care for following the first film a decade ago, basically carry the franchise on their shoulders, and this film is no exception. Radcliffe looks handsome, Grint looks gruff, and Watson looks gorgeous. They've grown into fine young people.
Screenwriter Steve Kloves doesn't forget to add the mood and gloom to the story as it slowly unfolds, but then again he adds some light humor to the film when it needs it. Bonus points for making this not only a visual spectacle, but also a character-driven ensemble; there's some complex characterization here. Also there's some action which aren't seen on screen, but mentioned by the characters. It's OK, because it's necessary for the brisk pacing, and it's not really that important anyways. Besides, the human mind can imagine these images far more powerfully.
There are many themes in this film. Sacrifice, determination, (obviously) friendship, and above all - acceptance. As the films progressed the films started to gain an increasingly dark momentum - signaling that all hope may be lost. But in the end, will good triumph over evil? Like the film, real life isn't so sure. Also, the fact that the actors and crew are moving on after a decade of making these films - it's also another way of acceptance - the films have ended, they're moving on for the better of their lives/careers. It's real life, and I wish all these promising young actors brilliant lives and careers ahead of them.
"Hallows: Part I" is many parts thrilling, as there are quite a number of intense action sequences. Many of them, of course, are done with well-rendered visual effects, and in this one they just blend in at a natural level without being too jarring. However, the action sequences are perfectly blended in with the gripping, dramatic moments. They don't feel heavy handed and it's beautiful to look at. The animated sequence about the origins of the Deathly Hallows is an absolute masterclass and jaw-droppingly beautiful to both watch and listen. If separated by itself it can win an Oscar for best animated short.
The crew also get their due here. David Yates has gotten a firm grip on the film's direction since directing the fifth and sixth films years ago. The cinematography is stunning and exquisite, and it gives off a certain moody hue to the film. The editing is also crisp, it's not choppy when it doesn't need to be. Alexandre Desplat's score really makes a difference, it literally puts you into the world with its beautiful, harmonious, and emotional tones.
In short, I would have to say that this film is the best "Harry Potter: film yet in all honesty. I grew up with the series, and as per the actors, it will be an emotional goodbye. But rest assured, the finale will be grand.
One more thing. This interpretation of the novel is the best one yet. The novel is done justice, something not seen since the first three films. It's something for both the fans and novel-readers alike, as there are some pieces only book readers can discover while watching the film. It's definitely a huge improvement over "Half-Blood Prince"'s adaptation, which for me is the worst Potter film.
Harry Potter is a phenomenon. But, like all things, it most come to an end eventually. This is the beginning of the end, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Overall rating: 75/100
P.S.:Eat your hearts out, Twi-hards.
The first scenes went something like this: Everyone drinks a nasty potion that makes them look like Harry and they get undressed on camera spouting anti-climatic, fast-paced jokes. Then in what *should* have been an exciting chase-scene, Hedwig plummets to her death. Harry is traumatized. Later he learns Mad-Eyes also died and, not giving him much thought, 'zips Ginny up' in and abrupt oh-so-passionate-scene with as much charisma and heart as a toaster.
Harry then meets a witch who tells him bad things about Dumbledore which he instantly believes even though he's known her for all of, what, ten seconds, and Harry falls into a depression. Kinsgley warns the wedding party (oops, I forget to mention. Ron's brother Bill is getting married. y'know, Bill? That one Weasley child no one ever mentioned or casted? Him.) So, anyways, Voldemort took over the ministry (how exactly we'll never know) and is coming to kill everyone harry cares about (like Ginny. he does care about her y'know. they had their first love scene which lasted five seconds and was witness by George, who had a toothbrush in his ear.)
So Harry, Hermione, and Ron run away because Hermione is a flipping genius who always saves their butts with advanced magic and bottomless purses.
Okay. The action stops here.
Now we are privileged to enjoy stunning landscapes and breathtaking landscapes of famous places all around the UK where the dynamic trio (make that duo: Ron leaves) set up camp. The audience is delighted to be separated from the rest of the plot and action-packed, intense moments happening in the outside world, and instead can focus their attention on the beauty of a certain tree that harry and Hermione are sitting under and discussing the evils of Dumbledore, the man who ruined everything.
Hermione finds a doodle in a book and Harry and Hermione determine it MUST be a hint in a Blue's-Clues like moment of epiphany. Ignoring their new sense of purpose (besides finding lovely lakes to vacation by) Harry risks it all to return to Godric's Hollw and is there (unwittingly) attacked by a snake...lady...thing. They escape (Hermione, cough, cough) and return to their picturesque campsite.
In the middle of the night Harry sees a patronus and, since of course NO ONE wants to kill him, deceive him, maul him, etc. He follows it like a complete nitwit. Luckily his hunch is correct and he arrives at a frozen lake, undresses, and takes a dip. A dark locket proceeds to choke him (why it couldn't choke him above-water, I haven't the faintest idea) but Harry is saved by Ron, who also manages to get his shirt off. With the sword of Godric, the two (still wet) decide to destroy the locket that so fiendishly attempted to strangle Harry (naughty object of darkness and evil).
And then...Ron bears witness to a porn scene between Harry and Hermione who are inexplicably making out naked. (It is a very emotional scene.) Ron, fighting past the ridiculous apparition, smashes the locket to a million pieces and Harry and Ron return to Hermione and Ron spews some nonsense about a bubble of light in his heart.
The three reunited, they reluctantly leave their gorgeous campgrounds to track down a madman in hopes of finding out the mysterious meaning of Dumbledore's Doodle. The madman is only too happy to oblige and tells them it is a very important symbol of a fairy tale, so now that they have this info their problems are over. Next the audience is treated to a Tim-Burton-like animated retelling of said fairy tale that TOTALLY goes with the movie (not). The madman then attempts to capture them but they escape (Hermione COUGH COUGH) but are captured by icky "men" who seem more interested in Hermione than in getting a reward for Harry Potter. The Icky "Men" take the trio to where Voldemort lives but Voldemort is away for the time being and will return momentarily, in the mean time won't you have a seat in this lovely damp prison cell while Bellatrix attempts to torture Hermione by biting her neck or whatever it is that she's doing?
Voldemort doesn't show up (it's a *very* long holiday he's taking and he can't be disturbed) but Dobby does. Dobby's voice has undergone reverse-puberty, but that doesn't matter because Dobby has come to save Harry Potter because Dobby can materialize in and out of places, even the dark Lord's secret hideout.
So Dobby rescues them (Luna and a Goblin in addition to the trio. Her dad was the madman I'm afraid. Yes, sad really how family units are organized.) Anyhow, Bellatrix stands there watching them escape and at the last moment throws a good-old-fashioned dagger into the air where they're disappearing and when they come out the other end Dobby says some lame last words in a girly voice and perishes, with Harry crying unconvincingly. Fade to black and Voldemort pops up (who's taken the failed capture of his worst enemy rather well, given the circumstances) and desecrates Dumbledore's tomb (and Dumbledore is amazingly fresh and un-decomposed) and takes Dumbledore's wand. He shoots a random red flare into the sky that serves no purpose whatsoever and the credits roll. Finally.
Part 2. How exciting!
In the beginning, it seems like the film's skipping through the book's content very quickly, but it makes sense, when you realise how much is going on. At the end, the beginning is far away, although the journey there doesn't make it seem like a long while.
General opinion seems to be that it drags in the middle, but, let's face it, so did the book. There's no real reason to complain about Endless Camping Trips at all, because the film moves from plot point to set piece to plot point all the time. There's some clever ways the film handles its exposition, although it is not without its faults.
The trio's acting is the second best thing in this film. Emma has improved loads over the past few years, and she seems to be at the top of her game in this film. Her acting is stellar. As usual, Grint gets saddled with the role of comic relief, but he also gets his chance to shine in an array of emotional scenes. Daniel manages to carry the story as the main character. The three manage to stand their own very well without the presence of the adult actors.
Speaking of adult actors, Nick Morran's Scabior is a delightful character - he's slightly perverted and he has a bit of a Jack Sparrow vibe going on. Peter Mullan's Yaxley was impressive and managed to be quite threatening. It is a shame that we see so little of Bill Nighy's character, the new Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour. The character was regrettably cut from the previous film, and I wish they hadn't, if only to see more of Nighy's impressive performance. Old-time familiar faces are great, as usual. Fiona Shaw gets but one shot of screen time, but the look in her eyes says so much about her character. Jasoon Isaacs is terrific as a broken and devastated Lucius Malfoy. The lack of Rickman is a shame, but the presence of Bonham Carter makes up for it. Big baddie Ralph Fiennes manages to finally be a menacing, scary Voldemort in the film's first scenes, but as the story progresses and he gets appearances in a few messy, rushed and disappointing visions, Voldemort's actions just don't continue being an ominous cloud of danger, as they should be.
The film's greatest achievement, however, is the animated sequence detailing the "Tale of the Three Brothers", an interesting wizard fairytale. It is a daring move from the filmmakers, one that will pleasantly surprise the audience.
The biggest letdown is how the film doesn't just keep going. After two-and-a-half hours, it doesn't feel like the story's finished. A few scenes were added to make the climax more exciting, but it's just a downright shame that the movie doesn't just continue for another hour or two.