This review is spoiler-free as far as Deathly Hallows goes, but may contain spoilers for the previous six films.
So in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows... sigh... Part 1, Harry, Ron and Hermione are left to their dangerous quest. Fragments of Lord Voldemort's soul are secreted within four Horcruxes, seemingly inconspicuous objects that must be located and destroyed. As his Death Eaters overtake the Ministry and impose a dictatorship, Voldemort pledges that he will kill Harry personally. Harry and his friends have never been more alone.
Many of my quibbles with the fans from when last year's Half-Blood Prince was released are consistent here. You can't expect it to be very accessible if you haven't watched the previous six films, and you can't complain that minor stuff was left out of the books in the adaptation. With this instalment particularly, when more passages are lifted directly from the book than ever before, I'm not taking any of the latter. If you know me out there in the real world and tell me that it was vital to hear about what Professor Lupin's been up to since we last saw him, I'm going to Expelliarmus your face off, with my foot.
I can imagine another of the Potter directors thus far, like Chris Columbus or maybe Mike Newell, doing a lot less with the split. Let's be clear- Part 2 of the story, due out in July, will clearly be an action extravaganza. It's the grand finale. Many would be content to skimp on Part 1 a little. Instead, Yates foregrounds our three leads, taking them out of the thespian-filled halls of Hogwarts and pitching them into a road trip full of dread, isolation and desperation. Having balanced comedy and horror so well in the previous instalment, the jokes seem funnier this time around even though they're weaker than before. Levity is so welcome at these points because the dread is so all-consuming.
The romantic aspect of Half-Blood Prince takes on a new intensity in this instalment. That film was about discovery, delivering on the promise of the minor romantic comedy interlude from Goblet of Fire- teenagers huddling in dark corners of Hogwarts to make out. Outside of Hogwarts' walls, we get an installment that's more about sex. In one terrifically intense scene where Ron's soul is bared by Voldemort, we're given the steamiest scene we're ever likely to see in the family franchise, and it feels like a totally natural development- these aren't schoolkids we're watching. Not anymore.
I normally set some time aside to talk about actors, but the performances have never been the most notable aspect of this series. Daniel Radcliffe actually seems to coast through this one a little more than before, but Rupert Grint and Emma Watson prove their mettle throughout. As I said, it's just those three for great lengths of the film, and you feel like they've earned it, as performers. Amongst the usual new arrivals, Peter Mullan and Rhys Ifans leave the biggest impression, with Bill Nighy shamelessly but necessarily relegated to a couple of cameo appearances. Elsewhere, Helena Bonham Carter continues to steal the show, and there's still not nearly enough of Alan Rickman. This must be rectified in the final part.
As much as I've stressed that it's the best film you can make out of half a book, it's still not flawless. As with the original text, the momentum meanders a little in the second act, and as a result, the third act and makeshift resolution seem rushed by comparison. I also didn't really appreciate how literal the adaptation was this time around- some of the stuff that's directly quoted doesn't work nearly as well on screen as on the page. All of this said, a certain tragic scene near the end wet my eyes more in the film than it did on the page. A single, leaner film would have cut out most of the ancillary stuff, but then a single, leaner film would probably have had to cut the titular Deathly Hallows, which is more of a flaw with the book than the film.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is now showing in cinemas nationwide, in 2D only. (hooray!)
If you've seen the new Harry Potter film, why not share your comments below? If you were led by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier to expect funnier things from the opening scene with Hermione performing "Forgeticus!", so was I. Sniffle.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.