November 26, 2010
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Release Date: November 19, 2010
It Doesn’t Exactly Cast a Spell
“Harry! Hermione! Ron!”
I joked with some friends on the way to the theater that the preceding utterances would likely sum up the bulk of the dialogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. You see, with the exception of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the feature films that have sought to transform J.K. Rowling’s vision of witchcraft and wizardry into a viable cinematic franchise have been—in my estimation—dry, predictable, and not all that engaging. Here, where we experience “the beginning of the end,” it’s clear that director David Yates was able to harness some of the energy and urgency that fueled his previous offering. “Some,” of course, is the key word. Though the movie is book-ended by some admirably crafted action sequences that effectively immerse us in the far-flung world of wands, potions and evil lords, the middle sags, as Langston Hughes would say, “like a heavy load.”
Our protagonists’ interactions have become increasingly complex as they’ve aged, and that’s pushed to the next level in Deathly Hallows. No longer are Harry and company holding hands and exchanging superficial banter with those of the opposite sex: here, we see our hero exude confidence (and, perhaps, maturity) as he goes straight for a kiss right from the get-go. In fact, sexual tension courses through nearly every scene of the production. There’s even an odd occurrence where we witness the feigned lustful encounter of some familiar characters via a mysterious vapor.
Given their age, this isn’t all that surprising, and it ultimately adds some believability to the maturation unfolding before us. On the flip side, this also means that we’re exposed to a number of drawn-out sequences that seem more like forced characterization rather than anything truly genuine.
And this is where the problems begin for Deathly Hallows. After a grand opening, we’re forced to endure an hour (or so) of watching moody teenagers meander through the wilderness. They’re searching for horcruxes—these objects are the key to defeating Voldemort (I think)—and the location and purpose of each one is shrouded in mystery (surprise!).
Naturally, it takes a lot of interviewing and pondering for the necessary revelations to take place, but they eventually do, and we’re treated to a third act that’s vastly more entertaining than anything that comes before.
A few other notes: hints of Lord of the Rings abound, especially when a horcrux on a chain acts as a burden for each of our protagonists. Just as we’ve seen with the “one ring” in Middle Earth, this item brings out the worst in its bearer. And, as one of my students noted in a recent essay submission, there are some blatant comparisons made between Lord Voldemort to Adolf Hitler (and subsequently Nazi Germany). I don’t necessarily mind this, but anyone familiar with popular culture or world history might find the preaching of Rowling a little heavy-handed.
As stated in my review of Half-Blood Prince, I have not read any of the novels. I’m told that much of what we see in Deathly Hallows is important to further fleshing out our heroic trio, and I’m willing to chalk up what I can only describe as “tedium” to screenwriter Steve Kloves desire to remain faithful to the source material.
But the question remains: for this to be the start of a slam-bang finish, couldn’t something have been done to make it a little more… I don’t know… magical?
out of 5
Check out a trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1: