22 Nov 2010

Movie Magic: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1.

WOW! wow.

I think they actually did it just right! (for once!) That beginning before the title sequence is so poignant, with so many unsaid goodbyes (I had forgotten about those!), so many heartbreaking looks (snif!!!).
How can I review this without spoiling it for anyone? Tough one... let's see if I can figure out how to speak in code so that I can express my opinion on certain points so that those who have seen the movie (or are very familiar with the book) will understand me, but so that I don't give anything away for the rest...

Ok, everyone knows this is the beginning of the end for the Potterverse, right? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final chapter in the 7-book series by J.K. Rowling that got millions of kids around the globe (and lots of their parents) interested in reading again. For some mysterious reason (i.e. money,  studio milking the franchise for all it's worth) they decided that after doing a single movie for each book, they'd divide this one into two parts! Something which has annoyed me to no ends ever since I heard about it, but now that I've seen the film I'm actually glad they did! (and at the same time sad they didn't do the same for some of the previous books since so much fabulous material was left out)

image from here

Here's the main gist of the tale: the story picks up in the middle of July (like all the others), shortly before Harry's 17th birthday (when he "comes of age"). Harry has been charged by Dumbledore (at the end of Half-Blood Prince) to find the Horcruxes, magical objects in which Voldemort has hidden parts of his soul (two of which have already been destroyed: Tom Riddle's diary in Chamber of Secrets, and a Ring which caused Dumbledore to have a very scary hand all of the last movie). Until all 6 horcruxes have been destroyed (to gain a kind of imortality Voldemort had split his soul into seven pieces by murdering people, the last piece remaining within him), Voldemort cannot be killed. At the end of Half-Blood Prince Harry discovered that the one horcrux he had in his hand -a locket- was a fake! A mysterious R.A.B. had previously stolen it from its hiding place and left a note inside the fake for V saying he planned to destroy it (but we don't know if he was successful) and that even though he would probably die soon, he hope V would be that much weaker as a result of the loss. So Harry has already made the decision not to return to Hogwarts to finish his final year of school, but go on this quest and then fulfill his role as the "Chosen One" and kill Voldemort. Of course Ron and Hermione refuse to let him go alone so hijinks ensue!

The pacing of the film is just right. It neither feels rushed (like some of the other films do to cramming too much material into barely 2h), nor stretched out (which is what I was afraid of since I figured they could do away with 1/3 of the book... never-ending camping chapters anyone?). It lasts almost 2 1/2h and I didn't notice the time go by at all.

One of the things that had me most curious about the decision to cut the book in two, was the "where will they split it?" question. Well, they chose a really good spot! I had expected it to end a little bit sooner, with the "snatchers" and the face-off with a crazed witch, but the point they chose is much better! Although I might have continued a few minutes after that beach scene... perhaps with a little conversation with a certain goblin about a vault? And then they could still have placed the same final scene they used, focusing in on a certain wand. ;o)

There's a lovely animated sequence retelling a children's folk tale (of course the wizarding world has its own children's tales!) which explains exactly what the "Deathly Hallows" are (nothing to do with the abovementioned horcruxes) and why one of them in particular is so important. So we have two tales kind of in parallel: Voldemort searching for one of the Deathly Hallows, Harry and co. searching for his horcruxes. And I for one would like to know where they filmed this in the UK 'cause their search leads them to some gorgeous spots! :p

Since most of the story centres around Harry, Ron and Hermione, we don't get to see much of the others (and definitely not nearly enough of Snape! damn! but he makes the most of his short appearances, ditto poor Draco! and the Weasleys are as much fun as always), but our three leads more than hold their own! I was worried about the camping part of the book (in which it seemed to drag on forever), but it moves along quite fluidly, and they actually manage to sneak in a little extra scene that is quite lovely! The tension of their mission (and the weight of one particular object) weighs heavily on them, and each shows it according to their own nature and weaknesses. 

Random notes: it feels weird them being out in the "real world" most of the time and not seeing Hogwarts at all! The school has always been such an key part of the stories! The atmosphere in the "new" Ministry of Magic is pitch-perfect! Loved the 7 Harrys! Hermione looks gorgeous at the wedding! George (or is it Fred) catching Harry and Ginny? Priceless!!! :p

image from here

Missing: Would have loved to see the new British Prime Minister being briefed by Cornelius Fudge of the dangers ahead, and introducing him to the new (albeit shortlived) Minister of Magic (great choice of actor btw!).  Percy Weasly is still M.I.A. (and has been since movie 4, he should have reappeared in all the other films but looks like they've decided to cut him out). Dudley's one redeeming moment in the book has been cut as well.

I have no fears for the 2nd half now, they've left just enough material for it to feel equally complete, and probably even more thrilling!

Oh my! I think this post is pretty much all over the place! Why didn't you stop me from rambling so much?

In sum: excellent! Great pacing, acting, effects, soundtrack (Alexandre Desplat, finally a fabulous choice after the uninspired music of the last two outings). I cried (warning: there are deathS of beloved characters), I laughed, I got scared and I couldn't believe it was over! Damn them for making me wait 7 months for the second half!!! Although, on the negative side, since the movie was so faithful to the book, I'll admit to walking out feeling like a little something was lacking: surprises! I never thought I'd complain about a movie being too faithful to the book it's based on, but here I do! My fault for knowing the book so well. Anyhow, I'll definitely be watching this one again... and jumping on the dvd as soon as it's available! :p

If you want another take on this movie, Juliet over at Pop Classics has her own unique and vert interesting perspective in analysing the film. As well as being a fan she's a classicist and is on the look out for references of classical elements (i.e. from Ancient Rome and Greece). But be warned: spoilers are present!

Ok, that's enough Pottermania... for now! ;o)

Have you seen it? What did you think?

P.S.: as a favour to others, if you want to talk specifics (please do!), start your comment with a big SPOILER so others know not to read that comment. Thanks on behalf of those who haven't seen it yet! ;o)
As for those who haven't seen it... HURRY UP! :p


  1. Maybe minor spoilers I guess...

    It was George catching Harry and Ginny - you can tell by the ear ;)

    I didn't recognise any of the beautiful landscapes, but I did spot two bridges! The Severn bridge, which was the least pretty campsite, and the Queen Elizabeth bridge in Kent, next to the Dartfod tunnel at the beginning. I think a lot of the rest must have been the Lake District or Scotland, but I'm not sure.

    The music was so much better! It was quite minimal in this one (I was paying more attention on second viewing) - they must be saving the epic stuff for the finale!

  2. Oops - Dartford, not Dartfod, typo!

  3. the one with the "holy" ear? lol! that is a bad joke of his! ;o)

    You've already seen it twice?!?! That was fast!

    One of these years I'll do a proper holiday in the UK, and see something more than London and the surrounding area...


Hey there! Yes you! The quiet one in the back... I'd love it if you hung out for a bit and shared your thoughts!

I might stop by your place with an answer, but I'm more likely to reply right here so click on "email follow up comments" if you'd like to see what I and others have to say and come continue the conversation! ;o)