REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One
When it comes to reviewing Harry Potter VIIa, I’m probably the worst person you could ask. When it comes to fandom, I’m the most impatient man in the world. I can’t abide the constant crowing from Batfans and Potter-freaks about how the latest entry into their respective franchises is legitimately the best one ever made. Remember when Batfans were saying that about Batman Begins? When The Dark Knight Rises comes out, it’ll be the first film in trilogy history to be even better than the last two. Well, at least according to fanboy crowing and hollering. And really, that’s why I just plain didn’t want to see this in theaters.
Yes, I know I’d vowed not to see this one, and you know, like with Inception, I intended to follow through on that vow. But things get in the way–little things like life, girlfriends and free tickets. So while I had promised myself and everyone I knew that I wasn’t going to see Wands and Wizardry 12a or Wands and Wizardry 12b–to be released next summer–I ended up seeing it this afternoon. Spoiler alert: it’s okay. I mean, it’s about as good as VI, and it’s pretty damn good for it, but–I dunno. This might be time to live up to my blog’s name.
You see, there’s a good reason I shouldn’t review this movie. I got off the Harry Potter train after Deathly Hallows came out in print and I read the epilogue. That’s seriously where my relationship with those characters ended. Along the way, JK Rowling was responsible for making me read more high fantasy than any middle school classmate I ever had, my fear of open water and seven damn good books I am proud to say I read through my life. I thank Ms Rowling from the bottom of my heart for those books. They led me through some awkward times, gave me something to talk about with girls. Those books were important in my life, and I want to say the same for the movies. But really, after putting down VII for the last time, my heart stopped being into the cinematic adaptations.
Is the movie any good? Yes. Do I recommend seeing it? If you’ve read the books or seen all the other movies so far and are attending with someone who has read the books, yes. But, like End of Evangelion, can the end of a saga really be judged independent of seeing the rest of it? Whether I wanted to or not, I’ve seen all seven Harry Potter movies by now. While my opinions of them have always been mixed, I can say now that I understand them, the universe in which they’re set and the characters in them deeply. I get it. I was a fan at one point too, and it’s not like I’m bitterly against it all now. Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart. But the movies never really have.
Do I need to summarize the plot of this venture into the Potter-verse? For any stray dogs who’ve wandered in here looking up that movie their kid or their spouse want to see, here goes. Harry Potter, the most important boy in this fictional universe, is kind of a wizard. And right now, after being through some heavy stuff, he and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are out to destroy things called horcruxes. Those are containers for parts of Voldemort’s soul. Voldemort is sorta like wizard-Hitler, only wizard-Hitler was really Grindelwald. You know what? Come off it. You know the plot to this movie, or you’re otherwise suitably caught up, or you’re simply never gonna see it. Let’s face it, this is the first part of a two-parter series finale. It’s not meant for newcomers, it’s not meant for people who want to hear a plot summary.
So who is this movie meant for? The fans. And for fans, it should be a good ride. For the first time in the film series, they’ve managed to combine making a good movie with being faithful to the source. Granted, it’s gonna take them four hours to do that, but hey–if the movie’s good, I hear no complaints. And really, the performances from our leads Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are great. These three actors are as comfortable with each other as the world’s oldest comedy troupe and it brings a real sense of camaraderie to their adventures around scenic England. The rest of the performances, often reduced to bit appearances to cram in as many characters from the stuffed-to-the-brim novel, are also expert. The plot moves with a determined ferociousness–not fast, but not slowing up for a second in unnecessary exposition or pointless drivel. The camera sees with an impassioned eye, capturing grand vistas of scenic and beautiful England in all its… grey, sorta bleak-ish glory. Can England be properly described as scenic? No matter.
The visual effects work is as good as any I’ve seen anywhere else, creating a world of wizards, witches, magic and mystery all its own. The element I’d like to single out for high praise is the animated sequence in the Lovegood’s home, where Hermione tells the story of the Deathly Hallows–given its own unique style, independent of the rest of the film, and using its brief runtime to capture me completely in a world of magic and death. Really, it’s my favourite part of the movie, and whoever directed that sequence should win something.
But at the end of the day, who is this movie really for? And is it really one of the best films of all time? The movie is for the fans, the same way season six of Lost or the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy are meant for fans. All of these aren’t being made for people who are casual or newcomers. They’re made for the kind of people to obsessively spot the details and remember them in the tapestry of impossibly large works of fiction. And as I realized, as I was tracing the ownership of the Elder Wand to my mother aloud as the credits rolled, I guess I’m something of a hypocrite. THREE STARS