Danny-Joe Crofford and Levi Agee on Harry Bleeding Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part OneNovember 22, 2010
In keeping with my longstanding tradition of not seeing the latest Harry Potter film when it immediately arrives in theaters, I missed it this weekend. But Legion of Doomers Danny Joe Crofford and Levi Agee didn’t, and their review starts after the trailer. (DJ C is up first, because he followed directions and gave me a one-paragraph review. Levi’s is a little longer.)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 definitely gets you ready for the ultimate showdown between good and evil. I understand why critics are comparing this installment to The Empire Strikes Back. The entire film has our heroes on the run and I mean the entire film. The good guys are losing, beloved characters are dying and the balance of power changes to this dark side…I mean to Lord Voldermort. What I really like about the film is the cinematography. Where the previous films really look like a fantasy adventure, this one looks like it is set in modern times. A must see for non-fan of the series. Now lets take a moment of silence for the Star Wars saga, as the Harry Potter franchise have now out grossed Darth Vader and company.
When reviewing any installments of the Harry Potter franchise you’re inevitably going to run the risk of comparison. Comparing one movie to the rest of the franchise. Comparing the film to the book. The franchise to Lord of the Rings. People have a hard time giving the films credits for being stand alone films. That’s understanding considering each film is a part of seven book long story arch. Is it possible to appreciate the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film/book in the series without seeing or reading Philosopher’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets? Probably not but the film’s can be quite enjoyable on their own out of context.
I was never a big Harry Potter fan when the movies were first gaining popularity. I felt they were bandwagon films and I wasn’t ready to hop on. I relented after seeing the first two Columbus films back to back while I worked at a Blockbuster Video in North Little Rock. The films were obviously juvenile to a fault but gave off such a whimsical, innocent vibe they were easy to devour much like the books of which I later in life would read all of them like saint reads his scriptures. A biography of my life isn’t important, but an understanding of the testimony of my spiritual conversion to Potter-philia might give you some context or pause for my glowing review of the latest installment of Harry Potter.
The latest film The Deathly Hallows part 1 is based on one of my favorite and the most cinematic book in J.K. Rowlings’ novelizations of the boy wizard in my opinion. The book full of mini-plot angst scenes of teenagers in the woods and at the other end of the spectrum wild magic-fights with buildings crushing and wizard and witches blood being spilt does not disappoint in the film adaptation.
I went into the theater with mild expectations due to Half Blood Prince feeling already so wonderfully dark and moody expertly directed by David Yates (the most assured director of the series next to Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) surely nothing could top it. I also heard word that Part 1 wasn’t as action packed as people expected. They were definitely wrong. Even though I had read the book and knew blow-by-blow which spellcasters were going to be on the receiving end of Avada Kedavras and Stupefies, the action scenes were most intense.
Ever since Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell), the film in which the beloved (in real life and on screen) Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattison) was killed, the tone shifted. Yates was handed the franchise afterward with Order of the Phoenix and directed the Potter films as if they weren’t Potter films at all but stories with real people. The acting got better, the music and the cinematography all became suddenly worthy. Worthy of my loyalty to the franchise’s characters and story arcs.
Yates directed two mentionable British imports before the Potter films with the well respected and complex mini series State of Play (2003) before it was maligned with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck in the off-brand American version that condensed all the character development and twists into a paint-by-numbers suspense thriller. Yates also did a remarkable made-for-TV film (not movie) with the always fantastic Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald called The Girl in the Cafe (2005). Yates thrives off of good scripts and good actors. The Potter cast is particularly in top form especially with Emma Watson who plays the conflicted Hermione Granger in the film. Watson has really grown into a convincing and compelling actress.
The casting in The Deathly Hallows is excellent. The Death Eaters acquired some great additions including the great character actor Peter Mullan who is frightening as the blonde-haired henchmen Yaxley. Bill Nighy also makes a brief appearance as the Ministry of Magic Rufus Scrimgeouer. Even with his short amount of screen time Nighy makes his character feel fully realized and his accent is so carefully prepared and different from his actual voice I could have been convinced it was his brother in the role.
The locations in the film are incredible. I kept checking to see if they were real or CGI. I’m still not sure.
I don’t know if Warner Brothers knows that the material is maturing along with it’s fans from inception. From adolescence to the brink of adulthood no punches are pulled in Steve Kloves script. I wondered if the pre-school voices I heard in the audience should be watching such dark subject matter. Maybe that’s for their parents to decide. As long as they’re quiet.
It’s hard for me to be overly enthusiastic for Part 1 as I cannot stop wondering how much more intense the finale of the series will be. Part 1 is an incredibly moving, beautiful film but complimenting it would be like describing a four-course meal without receiving the dessert. I’ve eaten my steak now I’m ready for the chocolate cheesecake.