"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

I didn't want to write up a review right after I saw the movie.  This is the penultimate movie in the film series and I wanted to savor the time we fans have left.  It won't be long until July and the final battle and then it'll truly be over.

Well, it's time to stop procrastinating and begin reviewing.  First up, this movie was supposed to release in 3D but due to time constraints and quality concerns released without it.  This gives audiences a chance to watch it without any distractions from 3D and focus on the story.  There's no doubt about it, that this is the most ambitious Potter film by far.  Well, until Part 2 that is.

Watching this film is like one emotional roller coaster, one in which Harry, Ron and Hermione leave behind their families, their school and everything that is safe to hunt down horcruxes to take down Lord Voldemort.  What are horcruxes?  To the knowledgeable Harry Potter fan, they are bits of Tom Riddle's aka Lord Voldemort's soul lodged in objects to prevent him ever dying.

It is then up to Harry and gang to find and destroy them.  But how? This movie, therefore, moves the action from Hogwarts to the Ministry of Magic, to London, to forests and Godric's Hollow and to Malfoy Manor, all in the quest of the horcruxes.  Along the way, the trio discovers another quest: those of the Hallows, the very thing that gives the movie its title.  Old and new characters join us in their journey and to name the whole cast is like a who's who of the British film industry.  But this movie is all Harry, Ron and Hermione.  The focus is entirely on them and their adventures.

For the first time in these movies, both Rupert Grint and Emma Watson outshine Daniel Radcliffe.  Don't  get me wrong, Dan is still very good in this but both Rupert and Emma are so like the characters they play that I almost felt I was watching Ron and Hermione.  A lot of the action and scenes in the movie were very true to the book except for the now infamous and controversial dance scene.  Steve Kloves, no, just no.  I think he was trying to project his version of Harry and Hermione unto the movie and veered off what Jo Rowling had put into the characters.  Let's get this straight, Ron is not Harry and doesn't quite have the smarts of Hermione but he's a Gryffindor and a badass in this film, might I add.  The Silver Doe chapter in the book is my favorite characterization of Ron because it shows how far he's come along since the first book.  He was the one that picked up the sword of Godric Gryffindor and he showed how much his insecurities had tormented him but yet he came back.  Most of all, it shows how strong Harry's and Ron's friendship really is.  That is one of the main reasons why I like the books so much.  Friendship, lifelong friendship, is depicted so well.

I also liked how they ended the movie.  It had a very Empire Strikes back vibe showing Voldemort gaining an upper hand.  But for how long?  I enjoyed this film immensely and that's speaking as a fans.  Yes, I do have minor quibbles which I shall list shortly but it's a fast paced action thriller this film that moves so quickly you won't have time to catch your breath.  In the book, you feel the gloom and doom much more than here.  You don't get much time to react.  Overall, I'd say David Yates has delivered on a very true to canon adventure that keeps us sated until the next part.

Onto the specifics, the minor quibbles from an Harry Potter fan:
  • Explaining Bill Weasley's sudden appearance in the Seven Potters sequence when he's been around for most of the action in the books.  Still no sign of Charlie Weasley.  Will we ever see him in the last film or will they pretend there are only 5 Weasley boys.
  • Not introducing Dumbledore's backstory or his past with Grindewald.  Felt weird not having Dumbledore around for guidance.  
  • The film needed another flashback to James and Lily Potters' death to reinforce Harry's loss.  I'd liked the actual flashback in the book from Voldemort's perspective.  Sad but chilling.  
  • Wish there was more on the wedding.   Lots of minor details from the book I had hoped to see.  Maybe as a deleted scene?
And the-that's-exactly-how-I-imagined-it:
  • Snape in the beginning at Malfoy Manor, in fact, the whole Death Eaters meeting, was awesome.  The Malfoys and their fall from grace.  Loved how Voldemort snapped off the ornament of Lucius' wand as if it was trivial!
  • Ron and Hermione's hands almost touching as they fall asleep at Grimmauld Place.  
  • Everyone's reaction as they morph into Harry in the Seven Potters sequence.  Very well done visually.  
  • When the trio take Polyjuice Potion and turn into Ministry workers to get back the locket is the best translation from book to screen.  From actual terror to comedy, the three actors who play Harry, Ron and Hermione transformed definitely leave an impact.  
I'm sure I'll remember more but until the next time I see the film again, that's all, folks!

Directed by David Yates; Screenplay by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling; Cinematography by Eduardo Serra; Music by Alexandre Desplat; Editing by Mark Day; Production Design by Stuart Craig

Also in the cast: Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson,  Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham Carter, Helen McCrory, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Mark Williams, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Timothy Spall, Richard Griffiths, David Thewlis, Bonnie Wright, Fiona Shaw, Domhnall Gleeson, Clemence Poesy, Natalia Tena, John Hurt, Frances de la Tour, Evanna Lynch, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Lewis, Imelda Staunton, David O'Hara, Steffan Rhodri, Nick Moran, Toby Jones, Sophie Thompson, Nick Moran, Dave Legeno, and Warwick Davis.


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