It’s been said since the beginning back in 2001 that the Harry Potter films are critic proof. Yes, this is the first definition that pops into my brain whenever someone asks me if the most current film is any good. Having never read any of the books, yet having seen all of the films in release order, I can assure you that these are what they’re talking about.
Sure, they may be better than most of what else has come out the same year, but whether they’re really any good isn’t a matter of importance. Through thick and thin, the fans will stand by them and buy their tickets, ensuring massive box office numbers. While the best of (now seven) films is without question, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, I hope each new film will be the best. Only then will it finally win me over and now. With the arrival of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, unfortunately, I’m still waiting.
We begin this chapter with Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy), the Ministry of Magic, assuring the public that while these may be dark times, the ministry still stands strong. Next we see that Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is doing everything in his power to ensure otherwise with a meeting including his rag tag group of evildoers featuring Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, looking rather portly), Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and rounding out the Sweeney Todd cast, Wormtail (Timothy Spall) hiding in the corner. Also in attendance are Lucius Malfoy (Jason Issacs) and Draco (Tom Felton).
Team Evil has Charity Burbage (Carolyn Pickles) of Hogwarts in suspended animation to find out when Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is to be hidden at a safe house. After all of Harry’s friends gather in one place, they all take his form to throw off the Death Eaters as he’s still underage and has “The Trace.” After a deadly race to said safe house, Rufus shows up to present the will of the deceased Dumbledore to Harry, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). None of them know why they are presented these gifts but accept and we the viewer know that all things will be spelled out by the end of the 146 minute runtime.
Meanwhile, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are off to see the wizard… err, wait, wrong movie. The trio of friends set off in search of four Horcruxes, or “How to Defeat Lord Voldemort and Live to Tell about It.” The only way these can be destroyed is with Gryffindor’s sword, which winds up being at the bottom of a frozen lake which allows the girls in the audience to swoon over a shirtless Harry Potter.
We also learn that Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands are twins and therefore can do no true harm to one or the other. Voldemort takes into possession Lucius Malfoy’s while Harry winds up having to take over Hermione’s after some kind of accident and she breaks his. Now neither possess their original wands and, if you don’t know what this means, then you need to watch more movies. Lastly, there’s a quick story time sequence where we finally learn of what the Deathly Hallows are, which is far more enchanting than anything else in the whole movie.
Finally, while the trio are hiding out together in the woods, we also get a lover’s triangle involving the Horcrux which apparently makes the wearer go mad from osmosis. Ron is influenced the most and begins to think that there’s something more going on between Harry and Hermione and trots off on his own leaving the two chums to scowl, mumble, and have an awkward moment of dancing to lighten their moods. Everything is of course a build up where even Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones) shows up to make sure everyone is rightfully accounted for, even if it’s just to be killed off. Now don’t go crying foul thinking anything I’ve written is a spoiler. We all know this particular novel has been on book shelves for over three years now.
Don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned before, each of the Potter films is a step above most of what’s playing in the theater next to it, but director David Yates is totally incapable of coming up with a way to bridge the two part film. My appetite for the real finale, Part 2, has not been entirely whet, but it is coming and having seen all the previous films and having not read any of J.K. Rowling’s young adult novels, I am at least curious to see how it all plays out, even if most of what’s been seen in the trailer for Part 1 seems to be mostly made up of imagery from Part 2.
If only director Yates had not been spending time watching the Twilight films (and apparently hanging out with fellow directors Ridley Scott and Paul Greengrass), he wouldn’t have such a hard time finding his own directing style. If ever such a series existed that quick-cut editing and shaky cam were put to lesser use we’ll never see it. Let alone the fact that Yates cuts back and forth from shaky cam to steady cam at the drop of the hat in the same scene. It’s beyond distracting and just calls attention to the director’s lack of personal style.
And while I know this is the first of a two parter, there is absolutely no buildup at the end of this one. It ends rather abruptly as if screenwriter Steve Kloves wasn’t sure where to put the juxtaposition to give this film its closure to leave you on the edge of your seat. Maybe if they all had spent some time hanging out with Peter Jackson they could learn a thing or two. And would it kill some of the cast to learn to speak up or at least enunciate? Half of the movie the characters mumble so many of their lines I wish the film had some kind of subtitling.
Alas, as for what we do get, we come back to the term “critic proof” as no matter what anyone thinks of how this all plays out, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is going to make far more money than this ever will. But hopefully for the non-fans, we get something more akin to Azkaban and then everyone will have something to cheer about.
Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures