HP and the Deathly Hallows - I

Any undertaking, like recreating the seventh Harry Potter book on film, was going to be a difficult ask. Not only is the novel long, but the fans has come to expect more and more from each successive movie in the franchise. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 makes an attempt to scale new heights, but is only barely successful at maintaining status quo. The story is absorbing, but the movie seems tired and fatigued, and not in a oh-my-god-its-voldemort way. More in a please-stop-asking-us-to-make-more-movies kind of way.

The movie starts off abruptly with everyone being mean to one another, the three young wizards looking dazed and confused and the audience being told that everyone turning into Harry is the only way forward. I do know the story, which is why it seems so jarring to start off without explanation in the middle of a scene. It seemed as if the focus was to just get on with it already. The hurry is even reflected in the scene where Hedwig gets shot down - no slow motions, no freeze frames, the action kept running away. And just as abruptly things slow down to a deliberate walk. Any movie that is part of a series deserves some scenes to continuity; I guess the assumption that this movie does not need to do that is what makes the opening scenes so presumptuous.

If the movie had continued in that vein, I would probably have walked out half-way through, but it quickly recovers. We are given time to sympathize with the current state of affairs, the fall of the ministry, the takeover by the dark Lord's council, and the pogrom against the muggles. And definitely missing a couple of continuity conversations apropos the horcruxes, the kids dive into their search. Contrary to some early reviews, the whining scenes were not as onerous and the layering of pulsing action scenes definitely helps move the story along.

The movie, at least the version we saw, seemed to have suffered cuts from the final release version. While Google called the movie at 2 hours 30 minutes, our screening lasted just about two hours. This could definitely help explain why we were so jarred as we started and went through the movies - maybe waiting for the director's cut on Netflix is in order.

There is little that I can say to introduce a newbie to the series if they have not already seen an earlier Harry Potter movie. This movie definitely follows the earlier ones stylistically, yet bringing an additional layer of darkness to the proceedings. The locations are well orchestrated and bring aspects of the book to life. Use of hand held photography during some scenes adds tension, deservedly so. The kids look old, and not just older. But all said and done, you know you really have to go watch this movie, right?

November 22, 2010

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