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Notes On A Film: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1

I am back and I have seen the first part of final Harry Potter film, so I’m going to ramble on about it in a completely biased fashion because I’m a fan of the whole Harry Potter thing (see my collection of Harry Potter-labelled posts for all my previous Harry Potter-related nonsense).

It’s strange to discuss a film which is only half a film; I remember hearing stupid people complaining about the end of The Lord Of The Rings because it obviously hadn’t ended, but at least that was a narrative arc of sorts. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a film without an end, waiting to finish. I’d rather have the whole thing in one sitting, but as I said: I’m a fan.

As a fan, I know the story quite well, so I spent a lot of time noticing which bits were missing. However, Steve Kloves did a great job on the script streamlining a big book into an entertaining narrative without losing the important points. The book had lots of internal stuff about the characters, as well as big chunks of exposition and excerpts from obituaries and biographies, which aren’t going to work on film, and lots of non-plot conversations which weren’t needed. Despite its long running time, the movie barely wastes much of it.

For those who don’t know, the basic plot sees Voldemort in charge of the Ministry of Magic and out to kill Harry; Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, is on a mission to discover the missing horcruxes that contain portions of Voldemort’s soul so that they can finally defeat him, as well as the discovery of the Deathly Hallows. This means that the middle third of the movie is the wizarding road trip, as our trio travel around the country to avoid their pursuers while trying to uncover clues to help them on their quest.

The first and third sections have the exciting stuff. After the funny ‘seven Harry Potters’, when Harry is being relocated from 4 Privet Drive, there is the Death Eater attack in a thunderstorm; there’s the escape to Shaftesbury Avenue after the wedding and another attack by two Death Eaters; there is the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic to acquire a horcrux. In the third section, there is the really creepy sequence with Bathilda Bagshot, the destruction of the horcrux, the capture by snatchers and the escape from Malfoy manor, all exciting and really well-done sequences. In between, the film is much slower as our three leads are the only characters on screen; however, I didn’t mind this because I wanted to spend time with these characters and see how the story moved along.

As mentioned, there was a lot of little things eliminated for the sake of a smoother progression. No need for the pre-wedding planning, or the extra visit from Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy doing a Welsh accent for some reason), or the settling in to 12 Grimauld Place and getting Kreacher on their side or the long planning of the expedition to the Ministry of Magic. Nor was there time for Lupin’s attempt to join the trio on their quest due to his feelings of anguish at having a baby with Tonks (which almost gets mentioned), or setting up the fake Ron to explain why he wasn’t at Hogwarts. They don’t bother with the separate locations when leaving Privet Drive (so no Ted Tonks or portkeys), going instead straight to The Burrows; Bill Weasley already has his werewolf scars, which were gained in the Death Eater attack. There’s no explanation of the trace on saying ‘Voldemort’ out loud, or why our trio stop saying it; there’s no need for the overhearing the group on the run (consisting of Ted Tonks, Griphook and Dean) for another perspective to how things are; the capture by the snatchers happens by accident instead of saying Voldemort’s name, and Voldemort isn’t called back from visiting Grindelwald when Bellatrix Lestrange has our trio in Malfoy Manor. All of this stuff is not needed for the telling of this section of the story. It’s not necessary and not missed, and is only noticed by its absence for people who know the source material. It doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of the movie.

David Yates does a good job directing the film, making it darker and more moody, although he still lacks the ability to bring the magical touches I so admire from Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban. The three leads do a good job of bearing the majority of screen time, with Rupert Grint perhaps outshining Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson by the fact of having the slightly lighter role. The adults are barely in it by comparison, but the likes of Jason Isaacs and Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter bringing nice moments to their relatively fleeting presences. The mood is suitably sombre, with only the occasional flash of humour to bring a smile (the Phelps twins get most of the laughs as Fred and George Weasley, with Grint getting some smiles as well). The biggest laugh was of embarrassment, with a bizarre sequence where Harry gets Hermione to dance with him to lighten the mood when they have been on their own for a while and feeling low; it’s starts off rather hideously badly with the squirming attempt at dancing, but they just about manage to save it by the end of the scene.

The most beautiful sequence is the animated telling of The Tale of The Three Brothers, which is done in a wonderful folklore/faux-puppetry style that is both appropriate and delightful. The rest of the CGI is pretty impressive – I particularly liked the patronuses, and Kreacher and Dobby were amazingly photo-realistic – and the film as a whole looks good. It makes me want to see the second half right now, to see how they visualise the remainder of the story, which means they must have done a good job. As an adult, I enjoyed it very much, even though some of the kids who had bunked off school to see the 10.30am showing didn’t enjoy the more languid pace of the middle section, chatting to themselves because they didn’t think much was happening, but everyone knows that kids don’t have much of an attention span … This isn’t really a review, because they would have to make a complete hash of things for me to dislike it, but if you are a fan then it is a very enjoyable film that makes you eager to see the second half; if you’re not a fan, you might not have as much fun.

Rating: DAVE

[Explanation of my updated film rating system]

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