This post is the updated copy of the review published in iMAGES on Sunday, Sunday 5th December 2010 in our film review column Animadversion. A link to the published version can be found at the end of this post.
In a World Lost, It’s Time to Grow Up!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
In the penultimate Harry Potter movie, based on the series’ ultimate book “The Deathly Hallows”, the best sequence doesn’t have Harry, Ron or any live action elements. It features the disembodied voice of Hermione (Emma Watson) reading a fable from the Potter-verse. Her bedtime story is inked in stylized, stenciled 3D/CGI animation set on a weathered old background, similar to those gathered by Bros. Grimm in the olden days, tells the tale of Death and three brothers bestowed with enchanted, dangerous gifts that may very well lead to Godly omnipotence – or in Ralph Finnes case, the ability to supremely ham the bejeezus out of whatever screen-time he has, if he gets to them first.
Mr. Finnes plays Lord Voldemort, the ruthless, bad-ass villain who’s a threat for anyone Muggle, magic or Potter related and he just realized that director David Yates is taking the next-to-last part of the series very solemnly. What better way to spice things up then to ham-up. How right he was.
It is surprising that the film’s best sequence is a 3D stenciled narrative of more or less a Macguffin designed by author J.K. Rowling to add structural weight to Potter-verse. Almost like the weighty mustered out conclusion written by an almost out-of-steam Ms. Rowling, Harry and Co.’s penultimate outing is a big drum roll that condenses and unskillfully adapts all relevant parts of the book into a watered down escapade that skips on chaos, big battles or any would-be spectacle.
As the children leave Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft and wizardry – the home of shifting passageways, gazillions of secret rooms and dead and deadly history – they brave a new world of suspicion, self-doubt and seclusion. What could have been a very indie–like experience about loneliness, desolation, jealousy and resolute camaraderie turns into a collection of vacantly crafted, half-baked scenes that are in self-doubt to properly conclude themselves. Closures are something of the past in this bleakly color-corrected outing.
So it’s about Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Ms. Watson (worth the price of admission and DVD by themselves, if not more) – who are searching for the scattered soul of Voldemort, safe-kept in deadly house hold artifacts, jewelry and two living creatures (fans of Potter know what I am talking about). Finding and destroying these items is the bouncing board of “Deathly Hallows” (and the earlier movie “The Half-Blood Prince”).
Unlike other Potter adaptations, “Deathly Hallows Part 1” bounces over integral character introductions or scenes highlighting older cast members (Bill Nighy does a small, under the radar cameo as Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic). The best parts of the book are saved for “Part 2”, slated for return mid next year.
Ok, so by now you might be asking why I am so against a movie that has (at the time of writing) grossed over $600 million at the box-office? (a friend of mine debated against my point by showing me the box-office numbers). Well, the answer is simple. The big box-office payday is because of the hype.
The series has made $1.7 billion from U.S. alone before “Hallows”. Millions of Potter fans would indeed be lining up for tickets, especially for the finale, even if it is awkwardly tailored to the big-screen. They know their history well, even if screenwriter – Steven Kloves, writer of all Potter movies, except “Order of Pheonix” – skips a few points.
The numbers don’t count. They didn’t count for “Twilight”; they don’t count for “Harry Potter”.
What counts is the filmmaking. Mr. Yates has been steadily graduating into a versatile director but he’s still a notch colorless and a dash pedestrian for the Potter world. Its contrary to the fact that big, tent-pole filmmaking is about big, explosive special effects – and in Potter’s world – high-flying Quidditch matches and routine climatic deaths of semi-central characters (which by the way does happen in “Deathly Hallows Part 1”). Mr. Yates scenes operate on text-book cinematography ordered to cinematographer Eduardo Serra, and a diverse, if faintly used score by Alexandre Desplat that employs little of the trademark John Williams score (I am not saying it’s a bad thing to do for favor of individuality). Mr. Yates has yet to stage scenes with conviction or a sense of completion and that is what counts in the end.
Released by Warner Bros. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” is rated PG-13. It has one on-screen death, one scene of terror (by an excellently over the top Helena Bonham Carter) and loads of ham by Ralph Finnes.
By Farheen Jawaid
The penultimate Harry Potter movie is here without things familiar: Good bye Hogwarts, Quidditch and teachers. What it has are kids thrust on the doorsteps of adulthood without a safety net. “Deathly Hallows Part 1” is an unexceptional movie. It is not well made, nor thought out enough. Simply said, if the film were thrust out like Harry, Hermione and Ron and bumped clumsily into a pack of Death Eaters…well we know how it will end now don’t we.
People who haven’t seen the last Potter movie shouldn’t approach “Deathly Hallows”. This movie isn’t for the vaguely familiar either, because they will be lost. For its 146 minutes, it jumps and leaps without bothering to look back.
The kids are another story. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are spellbindingly mature in an immaturely crafted adventure. Their skill is such that they don’t miss a cue, even if they look miserably lost in the kissing scenes – thank god there aren’t many.
The movie moans for a better director. “Deathly Hallows Part 1” forces me to remember all the directors that have made previous Potter movies and it makes me feel bad for the last three of the franchise.
The lank, powerless scenes never pile on Harry’s struggle, even when they are out alone in the wilderness, confused and desolate. We just have to take the film’s word that they are struggling. David Yates direction comes off unimaginative and thin as he keeps the drama and tension at arm’s length. “Hallows Part 1” needed most handling of human anxiety and insecurities because that is what it’s chiefly about; that and finding horcruxes and destroying them by deciphering Dumbledore’s boggling clues.
The cameos of villain liven up “Hallows” but only for a few brief minutes. There’s a deliciously wicked Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange and Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape (in only one scene) and Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. Then there’s Ralph Fiennes who figured hamming-up Lord Voldemort is the way to go.
Only two things were interestingly made: one, a scene where Harry dances with Hermione to relieve the dread and burden of the journey; and the other was a small animated piece explaining a fable and a part of Dumbledore’s mystery. Even when split into two, it’s still no excuse to roll out the laxness. Maybe “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1” can show Mr. Yates and Steve Kloves (the writer) how it’s done…what am I saying?!
The published version can be found at: