Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Those of you who are regular readers will know I was...apprehensive to say the least of the first part of the final film of the Harry Potter series. They will know that the action heavy trailer, the poor direction of the previous films and the disregard for what made the good Harry Potter movies good had me awaiting inevitable disappointment.

They will now hear something rarely said on this blog: I. Was. WRONG! Just as in 2008, Uncharted 2 overcame it's predecessor's flaws to create something incredible and rocket to near-the-top of a nearly set in stone list, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has managed to overcome all of the myriad problems of 4, 5 and 6 to deliver one of the best films of the year. It's not only better than I expected, it's better than I dared hope.

This time around, to quote an excellent movie, the board is set and the pieces are moving. Voldemort is directly assaulting and taking over the Ministry, the Order is fighting a losing battle and Harry, Ron and Hermione are setting out to find the remaining Horcruxes (aka, the Not-The-One-Rings).

So it's a scavenger hunt, which leads, without any spoilers, into a second scavenger hunt and then into a 3RD scavenger hunt, and a lot of directors would be tempted to try and ramp up the excitement by throwing in some random action sequences and if you watched the trailers while being aware of the plot beforehand you might have assumed that they did.

Well forget the action heavy underwhelming trailers (much of the action in the trailers is either misleadingly cut or not in the first one anyway). The film instead elects to pull back and take it slow, concentrating on character building, plot and mood. Much of the cinematography suggests that someone involved watched The Seventh Seal several times before starting production.

All of this works because the film is unafraid to be disconcerting and actively frightening. The corrupted Ministry resembles a Nazi regime too closely to be accidental. Death and torture happen on screen. A chase scene is shot disjointedly and shakily to highlight fear and desperation. Most notably, a scene that threatens to fall into the “simple scene amped up” problem of the earlier films is done so perfectly and fearlessly that it manages to be actively frightening and emotionally effecting. And there's an extraordinary bit of animation used during a story scene.

All of this works better than it might otherwise because the series has finally abandoned it's irritating habit of playing up the famous scenes. The story has been properly adapted. Things have been altered, switched and outright removed to allow the story and themes to arrive on film.

The cast is of course, perfect. And why not, after 7 movies everyone is inhabiting their characters perfectly, working hard to keep all this connected and relatable. They're backed up by some fantastic cinematography, an incredible soundtrack and probably the best script of the series.

It's not quite perfect, much of it's problems arriving based on the other films. The decision to more or less cut the characters of Kreacher and Bill from the other movies means that they have to be introduced, play their part in the plot and be ushered off screen. A couple deaths are not as effecting as they might be due to their lack of reference elsewhere in the films. And where they choose to cut out is gonna piss some people off.

Guys I was really apprehensive going in but this one dispelled all my fears. This was the film promised to me by the third one and bungled by everyone up to this point. If you like the Harry Potter movies or even fantasy movies in general, you owe it to yourself to go check this one out. So you go do that, and I'll see you tomorrow for The Girl That Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he would like to tell you that Hedwig was as bad as he thought it would be.

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