Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)


With Dumbledore dead and Voldemort's horcruxes still out there, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) go on the run from an increasingly corrupt Ministry of Magic to complete Dumbledore's final task for them.

"These are dark times, There is no denying."

The screen goes black. After a brief pause the words 'Directed By David Yates" appear in rusted gold. An audible groan permeates throughout the audience. They were there, right on the hook. Ready to go anywhere with these characters, do anything with them, the will of the filmmakers was there's to obey. Then the line snapped, the audience splashed back into the world it has always known. It was an incredible deflating moment. The audience begged for it to just go on. Alas it would not... well, not for a few more months anyways.

Harry Potter an the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) is an engrossing adventure film that takes its audience on a roller-coaster of emotion. Traveling over lands vast and wide, through lore deep and mystical, there's never any sign of stopping. A few idle moments of pause, a few minor turns, all setting up for the big drop... that never comes.

David Yates' wonderful visual prowess has never been better. He captures the world Rowling described so eloquently her novel. Kloves intertwines drama, action, and narrative progression with the greatest of ease. At least that's what I'd like to write. The truth is Kloves' writing has never been jerkier. Yates direction has never felt more pressed for time.

Don't get me wrong Yates and Kloves do a bang up job accounting for all the things they left out of the previous films, but they also struggle with a desire to maintain an authenticity to the original work. There's so much setup information to be found in those first few hundred pages of Deathly Hallows each moment in the subsequent film rattles them off as casual observations. "Oh that necklace thing we got, yeah I'm sure it's cursed. How do I know? Easy, you seem a bit grumpy."

What ends up coming to screen is what I can only describe as a Cliff Notes version of Rowling's novel. Very much a this happened, then that happened, then this happened, and so on series of events. Yates wonderful tone and shakey-cam action sequences help supplant feelings of boredom and anxiety, while Kloves' dedication to siphoning out as much consistent action and drama as possible helps keep the film rolling along, even when the plot kicks it into neutral.

In what I can only describe as a wonderful retelling, in the vein of The Secret of Kells, Yates' take on the three Peverell brothers allows him to skirt the violent and dark undertones of the story and keep the film from delving too deep into the darkness. In many respects it is an encompassing moment in terms of visual style that represents the tone of the entire film.

Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson show just how much they've grown into viable actors, navigating the minefield of emotions their character's must traverse. Meanwhile I found myself quite taken with Yates look into the horcruxes, and the effect it has on them. Their changes are subtle, almost cynical, followed by a series of outbursts. The encounter between Ron and the first, and only (in this film), horcrux they tackle really dives into the mentality of Ron, in a very, how to put this delicately, 'graphic' representation.

In the supporting realm, Tom Felton really steps up his game as Draco Malfoy. Between Half Blood Prince and this I believe a strong argument could be made for his being one of the strongest of the young recurring actors. Special mention to David O'Hara who, in addition to being awesome, put a big smile on my face with his take on Albert Runcorn. Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans make the most of their brief appearances but there's little for the to do with major cuts to the characters. The rest of the returning cast carry with them the same strengths and weaknesses they've always had in their respective roles, so it would be redundant to go into that here.

What I enjoyed most about Yates direction is that he keeps things tight. A few establishing shots per custom, but we spend most of our time with all three of our main characters in camera, in isolated environments (one room, tent, elevator, etc.) Yates cools off on sweeping camera movements and exposition shots, making the film feel more intimate. It appears more dark because we spend more time up close with our character's emotional turmoil. Yates wraps us up in them and allows the performances to take control.

And it's really the performances that save Deathly Hallows from being too overwhelming an experience. The wonderful cast of characters created by Rowling really come to life on screen. The action is tense and exciting, but without these characters this installment would have felt more like a lecture than a journey. No matter how good that journey is.

Despite not really going anywhere, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does a good job of simplifying the story thus far, creating a good starting set of questions from which the second part can pick up. It would have been nice to see more time with the supporting characters, but one can hope the second part will delve more into that realm (especially Dumbledore). However it must be noted, as I'm pretty sure every reviewer in the known world has mentioned, this is only half a story. The movie suffers exactly as you'd expect to it from that conundrum, but through great characters and visuals it manages to rise above them.

Two other random thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1:
1. Will Ginny ever get some solid screen time love? Kiss Harry, be on train, the end. Come on! Bonnie Wright may be a bit stale at times, but we need more to make the epilogue even worthwhile (especially since we know they've already filmed it).
2. We really need to get together and hold a convention to reinstate the Intermission! Please, if you're pushing 2.5 hours the bathroom is definitely going to call at some point.

6 better thoughts:

SugaryCynic said...

yeah that "horcrux screws with ron's mind via harry and hermione nude make-outs" was awkward as hell. That animated sequence was incredible though, might've even been one of my favorite parts.

Brittani Burnham said...

I agree about intermissons! I'd sit through a 5 hour Harry Potter movie.

I enjoyed this, I can't wait to watch the films back to back in July. I will say one thing, they better get Ron and Hermione's kiss right in part II. Or else I just might punt Steve Kloves.

Lesya Khyzhnyak said...

As promised, I read the review from A to Z, not literally. I think that overall I agree with you, just only I liked the film a lot and think it's the best of the franchise. I was surprised so much, that it made me give it 4 and a half stars out of five! That's a lot.

As for intermissions, actually, I didn't mind the split. I think that the ending of the first part was perfect.

Univarn said...

@Sugary I have an odd feeling that's going on the loop for some emma watson fanatics.

@Brittani and Leysa Thanks for reading, what I'm saying about Intermissions isn't I wanted a 1 full 5 hour monster film, but that when your film is pushing 2 hours and 30 minutes + would it kill you to add a 5 minute intermission so those of us lacking olympic level bladders can make a run for it?

Simon said...

The horcrux thing freaked me out.

Dan said...

Yeah it does feel like a beginning to a whole but I really liked it. By the time these films end up on DVD/Blu-ray and everyone has them for home viewing we'll be loving this two-part story. Deathly Hallows 1 is up there with the best of the series so far for me.

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