Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Last night, attracted by the reliable guarantee of a handsomely made production, I stabbed my conscience in the back and reneged on my protest to not shell out $10 (with the promise of $10 more to come) to see the first half of the final Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows.
Perhaps it is folly of me to try and review half a movie, so I'll try not to be too judgmental about the film's flaws, but of the most glaring ones I will make note: Steve Cloves and David Yates spend a great deal of time building a wonderfully grim and joyless tone (as is befitting the seventh book's dour atmosphere), but then they proceed to sabotage it with attempts at comic relief that, 99% of the time, miss the mark. This might be due to the fact that of all the Potter films, this one adheres to the letter of its mother text more staunchly than any of the others, thus including J.K. Rowling's usual sprinkles of wit and humour; a welcome presence as one trudges through the long dry passages of the novel, but a mood-killing distraction in this movie, which (even at 2.5 hours) feels much breezier by comparison. The film makers might have done better to eschew the book's jokes and play it completely straight-faced.

Another issue for me is the awkward dissection of the novel into two, but I'll hold off on that until I get to see the other half. Who knows? Maybe it'll turn out to be for... the best? Or should I say, “be$t”?

I mean not to be harsh. You know what you're getting with a Potter film. As always, certain standards of quality are upkept. Effects and makeup are first rate, Alexandre Desplat adds a few more beautiful melodies to the already rich library of Potter film music, and Stuart Craig's production design continues to satisfy with its ever-darkening colour palette. Though perhaps more impressive this time out are Jany Temime's costumes, from the cage-like pinstripes on Ministry of Magic employees to the tattered wools and flannels of our three worn-out central characters. Speaking of which, the three principal actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson continue to improve. I give the edge to Watson who has more heavy lifting to do than the boys.

There are a few truly excellent scenes and extended sequences. A daring infiltration of the Orwellian Ministry of Magic, an extremely creepy encounter at Groderick's Hallow that may have been guest directed by John Carpenter, and a brilliantly animated recounting of “The Tale of the Three Brothers” all breath life into an otherwise unambitious adaptation that just feels like it's going through the motions.

An Oscar nod for VFX seems unavoidable with five open slots, and Art Direction is always a reasonable call, but I can't see much more outside of that. Costume Design and Makeup deserve consideration that I doubt they'll get.

**1/2 out of ****

Video after the jump.


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  2. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't comment on the review itself. I parcially agree with you when you say that the decision of splitting the last book into two movies has a lot to do with money. But that's not the only reason: the truth is that there is so much going on in the last book that it would be very difficult to put it all into just one movie. And this last bit of the story is one where you can't miss a thing. Anyway, I make this statement with some reservation, since, like I said, I haven't seen the film yet.