Just a few hours ago I attended the Australian premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 at Warner Bros Movie World - complete with pyrotechnics, champagne, those salmon thingies and prancing wizard impersonators. Oh yeah, there was also the movie.
It has been 10-years since audiences first met the boy who lived. Of course, we millions who had read and fallen in love with the book series knew Harry Potter was something special. Yet it took the film franchise, now the most successful of all time, to truly make J.K Rowling’s world an immortal phenomenon. The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the first half of the final book,which has been split into two parts because a) a shit load happens and b) two films make more than one. Anywho, after the death of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), both the wizard and Muggle worlds have changed dramatically; people are being abducted, murdered and tortured by Voldemort and his Death Eaters as they continue their quest for world domination (mouhaha). Sadly, Voldemort strokes a basilisk as opposed to a hairless cat, but I digress.
Our heroes Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are preparing to continue Dumbledore’s mission and find and destroy the last of the Horcuxes to defeat he who must not be named aka Ralph Fiennes minus a nose. Their time comes when the Ministry Of Magic is taken over and the trio are forced to flee. Scared, alone and out of ideas, they travel the countryside searching for the remaining horcruxes and a way to destroy them. That’s not to mention trying to stay one step ahead of the snatchers on their trial and a case of cabin fever to boot. Yeah, things have changed a lot for those crazy kids since their Hogwarts days.
Firstly, let me address all the overly sensitive parental types out there who are going to see this latest Harry Potter film and go `it’s too dark for children and nothing like the earlier ones.’ Shut. It. Of course it’s not for children, it’s rated M and given some of the themes and torture-lite scenes, that’s rightly so. Also, we were first introduced to these characters when they were 11. Not surprising the same `issues’ they had then aren’t going to be quite the same as now. Things have got darker, the road is harder and the stakes are higher.
Director David Yates has done a superb job at getting those three points across quickly and concisely. He wastes no time in setting up the gravity of the situation as we are shown each of the characters reflecting on their past and making heartbreaking decisions about their future (namely Hermione wiping the memories of her parents). Then we are thrown into the action. The chases, the explosions, the genius magical plans and flawless special-effects we have come to associate with the franchise are all handled the way they usually are – perfectly. Just when things get too dark or too depressing, a Weasley line is thrown in or Dobby appears to relieve the tension. And boy is there plenty of tension. The audience couldn’t help but let out a few squeals during some particularly jump-inducing moments.
But it is somewhere just past the halfway point Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 starts to lose its momentum. After the action-packed first half, the scenes camping, while charming at first, become tedious and uncomfortably slow. Essentially they are repeating the same point and a good 15 minutes could have been saved by cropping together. Something that does make this Harry Potter stand out from the others is just how closely it follows the book, whereas previous films have cut out entire characters and major plot points. The split film has given Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves more to work with and they have even added a few scenes. In particular, the fantastic moment between Harry and Hermione as they dance to a Nick Cave song in the tent and a rather edgy animated sequence towards the end (which I’m dying to know who made it).
The performances are great, with Helena Bonham Carter stealing every scene she’s in as the delightfully demented Bellatrix Lestrange. Honourable mentions too need to go to new Pott-heads Rhys Ifans as loopy Xenophillius Lovegood, Bill Nighy as the Minister Of Magic and returning cast members David Thewlis, Tom Felton and Evanna Lynch. Radcliffe and Grint are both fine and Watson has developed this almost Natalie Portman-esque presence where your eyes can’t help but stay glued to her every time she’s on screen.
My gripe with Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is it doesn’t feel like a complete film, it feels like it’s pure purpose is to set up the next film. Which, I guess, is essentially true. That's no excuse though, because despite The Lord Of The Rings trilogy all leading on closely from one another, you felt like you had come full circle and not just been cut out midway through the story. Warts and all, by the time fans get to Voldemort’s light saber boner at the end they will be dying for the final installment. Even if that means an end to over a decade of magic.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 opens worldwide on Thursday. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 will no doubt be the cinematic event of 2011 and is released July 14.
VIA «Pottering About»