Nov 24 2010
Everyone has been insanely pumped for the return of Harry Potter, and after suffering through various Twilight entries, it was hard not to be. But I wasn’t as enthused for this day as everyone else was. Why?
It’s always a tricky task to tackle a book, as certain things will have to be cut to make it a manageable length. All the Potter films have done a decently good job of this so far, but they decided that for the last entry, it was just impossible to cut it down, and so it was split in half.
The problem? This isn’t Lord of the Rings, where the films may end on cliffhangers to make way for the next one, no, here you’re literally splitting a cohesive story in half, meaning the entire thing is more or less rising action with no climax.
The fact is, the first part of Deathly Hallows (the book), is rather boring. The gang is on the run, with Voldemort running wild throughout the land. This means no Hogwarts, no Quiddich and pretty much no fun. It’s been noted that each film gets darker than the last, but here we’re all death and gloom and mayhem, and there’s no room for any of the fun that’s made Potter such a great series.
Turning up the grittiness dial to 11.
Now, granted all the wandering in the woods pays off in the second half of the book, which features the revelation of many grand mysteries and one giant battle to end all battles at Hogwarts. But it’s not like we can see this conclusion next week, rather, we must wait until JULY to see how it all ends.
Clearly the two halves of this movie were shot together, so I really don’t understand the decision to space these films so far apart. Why spend double on marketing costs when both films could have been released within a week of each other, as everyone who saw the film opening weekend will be extremely likely to see the next film a week or month late? Spacing it out this much forces the studio to fire up the hype train yet again, and as expected, when you force part one to stand alone, it doesn’t hold up as an effective film.
Rather what we have is a lot of aimless wandering, and a few half hearted attempts to uncover mysteries that are still not realized two and a half hours later. For a movie of that length, it often feels like nothing ever really gets done.
The trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione are on a hunt for Horcruxes, items that contain a piece of Voldemort’s fractured soul. Destroy them all, and he loses his immortality. Unfortunately, the way they go about solving this mystery is camping out in a tent for weeks at a time, hoping someone drops a clue in their lap, which is actually exactly what happens. Then they’ll launch an investigation that leads them to a random place where a few more pieces of the puzzle come together. It’s all building toward something greater, but for those who haven’t read the book, it’s pretty tough to understand what the hell is going on.
“And stop calling me a ginger!”
The film does handle some scenes quite well, with Ron’s bubbling anger and jealousy toward Harry a memorable event that does the book justice. There’s also a cute scene featuring an impromptu awkward dance party between Harry and Hermione, but it’s a fleeting requiem at best. Two out of the three character deaths are executed rather unceremoniously, but the one the film ends on touched me more than it did in the book.
There’s just very little magic in this movie, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. Everyone seems downtrodden for the duration, and in two and a half hours, there’s really only one brief glimmer of hope. The rest is just sulking and angst and frankly, boredom. The film just feels empty, as the camping scenes stretch on for hours, and are only punctuated with a few brief moments of action.
At this point, spells have become machine gun fire. Incantations are barely heard and things simply just explode all around like someone has opened fire on our heroes with an AK-47. At this rate I expect the Battle of Hogwarts to resemble something out of Call of Duty.
“I’ll pop your head like it’s a balloon!”
The highlight of the film for me was a short little animated sequence that told the story of the three Hallows bestowed by death to three brothers. These items are of great significance in the coming chapter, but the presentation and animation style was incredible, and it really was the most enjoyable part of the movie.
But that’s a bad sign considering I should be focused on the characters we’ve come to know and love over the past decade. Here though, they’re given little to do other than draw pictures in the sand waiting for a lightning bolt of inspiration to strike them. I realize a lot of this stems from the book itself, but the idea to release this as a standalone movie with the next installment eight months away is the fault of the filmmakers, and one that heavily weakens this film.
I could have sat through six hours of Harry Potter, but if that was impossible, I would at least want the conclusion to be forthcoming soon. Waiting years between the films was fine when there were actual separate stories being told, but when you’re splitting one in half, there’s no earthly reason to force the fan base to wait eons for the payoff.
3 out of 5 stars
Oh, just make out already.
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