Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Sorry for the delay in rounding off the series. Due to pre-existing issues I have with Deathly Hallows: Part 2, I was instructed to view them as one long film. So I did just that. It was an interesting experience. It was like Das Boot except nothing like it at all. I’m still going to review them separately, but perhaps it will give me a better outlook of the finale as a whole.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Unlike the recent and upcoming literary adaptations of The Hobbit, Twilight and The Hunger Games that are actively taking the piss out of their audience by dividing one-book stories into multiple films, the splitting of Deathly Hallows feels justified. I mean, have you seen the size of that fucking tome? It’s thick enough to bludgeon a horse. It’s hefty. The last Hunger Games novel Mockingjay, by comparison, is barely enough to trouble a sparrow with. With Potter it felt that they really wanted to do the book justice. That’s fine with me. It’s a rather odd way to start a review, but I’ve seen several articles tarring the Hallows films with the same brush as the aforementioned others. It ain’t the same thing, people.

“Seems strange, mate. Dumbledore sends you off to find a load of Horcruxes, but doesn’t bother to tell you how to destroy them. Doesn’t that bother you?”

With Harry (D-Rad), Ron (Ru-Grin) and Hermione (Em-Wat) all deciding to go on the run and hunt down the remaining Horcruxes (pieces of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul) we see Hermione wipe her parents’ memories of her and the Dursleys leave Privet Drive. The film follows the three as they trek across the British countryside, trying to track down the missing Horcruxes and, more importantly a way to destroy them. New additions to the cast include Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister of Magic and Rhys Ifans as Luna’s dad and Quibbler editor Xenophilius Lovegood. Part 1 strips away nearly all the familiar elements to the Potter series.  There are no Dursley hijinks, save for them hurriedly bundling their stuff into their car. There’s no threat to Harry returning to Hogwarts. In fact, Hogwarts is almost completely absent from the film. This paring down of  the HP hallmarks is an effective move and really drives home the fact that the gang are on their own. The acting trio build on their successes in the last flick and do really well here.

Hallows Part 1 begins as it means to go on with unremitting bleak, bleaky grimness. In the opening 20 minutes all manner of tits go up. Probably the most chilling scene in the series happens at the Malfoy’s mansion where a tortured and battered Hogwarts teacher is callously killed and fed to Voldy’s fuck-off snake, Nagini. We say goodbye to one of my favourites, Mad-Eye Moody, played brilliantly by Gleeson, although I feel short-changed that such a great character is killed off-screen and dismissed with a single bit of dialogue. The chase sequence is definitely something new. It’s weird seeing cars flipped Hollywood style in a Potter film. Thankfully, there’s some brief levity at The Burrow but it’s not long before all the destruction and anguish start up again. When the gang finally go on the lam, there’s a fantastic scene in a typical greasy spoon cafe where all of a sudden our heroes are ambushed by two plain-clothed Death Eaters. It reminded me of films like The Bourne Supremacy where danger can come out of nowhere and nobody is to be trusted. There’s some fun to be had with a Mission: Impossible style bit where Harry, Ron and Hermione polyjuice their way into the Ministry of Magic, cathartically ending with Umbridge getting knocked the fuck out.

Then for a long while nothing happens. The trio travel to increasingly cold looking forests, trying to figure out their next move. The film feels like it’s treading water at this point. Ron starts getting all angry and jealous thanks to the One Ring Horcrux around his neck and leaves, convinced there’s something going on with Harry and Hermione.  This really doesn’t have the emotional impact I feel the film’s going for. He just buggers off for a while and then comes back. It’s been a while since I read the last Potter, but this part probably works better on paper. Maybe they were too faithful to the book. Something that doesn’t appear in the pages is a scene where Harry and Hermione dance to a Nick Cave song. It’s a good track, but an odd scene. God knows what compelled them to just add it in. It sticks out like a neon thumb.

The film starts building up steam again when the gang visit Xenophilius’ house. We’re presented with a fantastic animated bit as the group find out about the Deathly Hallows as Hermione reads the story of The Three Brothers. The creepy gothic tale coupled with the amazing shadow marionette style visuals are a real treat and do a great job of getting the film back on track and giving us the stakes. Then everything’s back to entertaining business as usual. In my mind, the film falters slightly when Dobby shows up 1) because I hate the little sod and 2) the film has moved so far into darker territory that the appearance of squeaky voiced CGI muppet seems at odds with everything else. This isn’t a film breaker though and they do manage to squeeze some emotion out of it all. The film ends pretty abruptly but leaves us with an awesome final image to get us pumped for the next film.

“I have seen your heart, and it is mine.”

I’m going to be harsher on Part 1 than I originally thought I would be. The film is a brave step away from the formula but it’s inconsistent. The second act drags like a bastard, weighed down with a whole lot of nuthin’ and it kills the pacing stone dead. I’m all for quiet introspection and little character moments, but I was shaking my TV by the end in a vain effort to move the plot along. It’s by no means bad, just plodding at times.

QUIDDITCH WATCH: Are you kidding? There’s no time for such frivolity! This is the end of this non-feature. Away with you.

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