Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
There were two ways it could go, a film that was a complete build up to the final film and didn't really deliver anything much, or we could get a very strong film that was itself a good story, bringing us to the climax.
What we actually get is a strange mixture of the two, and while the first half of the film is exciting and filled with everything you would have hoped for, the second half leaves you with an empty and disappointing feeling that taints the rest of the film. It is a good film, but was there a need for a part one and a part two?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 sees Voldemort growing in power and his ever expanding group of Death Eaters taking more and more power in the real world. Next to fall under their control is the Ministry of Magic, and they aren't stopping there.
Meanwhile Harry is being whisked away by those who want to protect him, Harry's closest friends and those fighting against Voldemort. After they save him and extract him to safety he begins to worry that he's putting others at risk, and he's proven right when the wedding he attends is attacked and he scatters with his friends Ron and Hermione.
From there they decide to go after the Horcruxes, the objects that hold parts of Voldemort's soul, and when destroyed would kill him, but this time they are totally on their own.
I must admit that writing that plot seemed a little forced for me because as I wrote it I realised how so much more coherent it was written down than it was in the film. For watching the film and not knowing the book, there is so much that just passes you by. Perhaps there is something about the effect of time, for I struggled with remembering where we were at the end of the last film and it wasn't so easy picking up all these threads as they were brought to light.
I think the thing I struggled with most was how the characters seemed to remember where they were with the plot, take the Horcruxes for example, why did it take so long for Harry and his friends to consider returning to the idea of hunting them down and destroying Voldemort? There were other areas where they seemed as confused and clueless to the plot as I was, and there I was just thinking it was because I hadn't read the books
The other area that I really struggled with was the length of time they took to do anything. Okay, the opening third of the film, perhaps half was a bit over ambitious, was really very good. I was totally taken in and I was feeling the dramatic weight of the film from the beginning, for me the opening was up there with some of the stronger dramas and thrillers I've seen.
However let me return to the strengths in a little while, for what happened in most of the rest of the film is next to nothing and could have been condensed down into four or five scenes and still given the same effect. I didn't really want to see the characters in another barren location, casting spells around their tent, alone and wondering what they should do next.
When they did decide to do something I didn't feel there was any real basis for them doing it, apart from their visit to the Ministry of Magic. This was embodied by the trip to Godric's Hollow where they had no real reason for going there and when they did find something it turned out to be a name of a person and a picture that didn't have any affect on the story - we already knew what the character looked like from the dream sequence and what was actually going on, even if Harry didn't understand his own dream, what they walked away with is beyond me.
That's how I felt for a fair few of the reveals and key moments, that there was an in joke that I just wasn't in on.
I have to highlight the editing here, I think I do understand why the decision was made to keep showing scenes of the characters looking tortured into the distance while standing around their tent, it was in the book, and stretching the final story out to two long films makes the studio more money, but had this been any other film these sequences would have been heavily cut down and lasted less than an hour.
Let's face it how long did it take for you to get the picture of what was going on? Really? We needed a few scenes like this to show the passage of time, the problem with wearing the medallion - although why they needed to wear it rather than just put it in their pockets or the bag is beyond me - and the emotional tie between Ron and Hermione. That doesn't need such a big portion of the film.
It's strange because I was with the film for so far then began to get distracted, fidgety and wishing it would move on, the more it kept going with more of the same, the more the negative feeling towards these scenes grew and began spreading towards the rest of the film.
I think what happened is that the studio heard the comments from fans of the books that some of the bigger ones had been cut down so much for their respective films that they decided that they should make two films from the next big book they adapted.
Of course, let's face facts, the other aspect of this is that they realised they could get two bites at the cherry for the final Harry Potter, the metaphorical cherry being the wallets, purses and piggy banks of fans of the Harry Potter books.
The problem is though, they should have done this split way back in the series when there was material to split into two films, here, there's quite simply not.
I heard the film described as a bunch of kids trying to find a trinket for the whole film and then never finding it. I disagree, they do find it, but once they find it and deal with it, they then discover that this isn't that important anyway and they should be on the quest for something completely different, the Hallows.
That seemed to be a slap in the face for the story, and for the audience. Not only have the characters taken this long to get here, but now it seems pretty much unimportant. What was that all about then?
Okay. I think I've made my point. Let's talk about the good things now, and there were plenty of good things, not least how good the actors have become in their roles and how they've gelled together. I really did enjoy how the relationship played out between Ron and Hermione and how their story still kept managing to hold them back from getting together.
The best parts of the film are the beginning and the end, the beginning of the film especially. When we open Hermione has a hugely dramatic moment and I really felt for her as a character as well as feeling the weight of the sequences. It wasn't just her, for each of the main characters we see an equally powerful and important moment that leads into the biggest sequences of the film.
I really enjoyed watching the characters being prepared and getting ready, the meeting of Voldemort's gang, and getting Harry to safety. They really set the film up to be a dark and powerful thriller. That's something that comes back to the fore at the end of the film when the two gangs meet again and there's fireworks with some hints at what could be afoot.
I do have to give huge credit for the way these scenes are written and how they are filmed, the cinematography is really strong, and you just have to look at the tone of the opening scenes or the subtlety of the moment when Harry takes the medallion off and the colour and light slowly returns to the scene to see how well filmed they are.
The effects also need a mention, for they are very good and integrate well with the real world. There's a lot to be said for the integration of practical with CG, and when the CG is used as an addition to the practical effects we see much more believable and realistic sequences.
Apart from commending the acting of Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, it is also worth pointing out the performance of David O'Hara in the Ministry of Magic scene. While he actually says little, the walk and mannerisms he adopts really do suggest who he is beneath the disguise, and I was quite surprised that it stood out for me as such a strong performance.
In fact for me everything that takes place in the Ministry is hugely entertaining, and not just this sequence of the infiltration, but everything that involved the Ministry, the entire storyline which brought a strong parallel to the rise of Nazi Germany. This is one area that the film really should have concentrated on more.
This intrigued me the most and yet so much of it is raced over and left totally unexplored. We see what could be an entire caravan site emptied and attacked but with nothing said of why, we hear passing mentions of the persecution of Half Bloods, and the control of all magic users by this secret group using their special force, but passing is all we get. It's a shame because this is a core thread of the film for me and is surely more interesting than the hour plus of looking into the hills all concerned.
Meanwhile, what of Voldemort? Well he isn't seen for almost the entirety of the story. We have a brief moment with him to start and finish the film, but other than that you can forget about him.
Don't get me wrong, for the most part I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but there is a lot wrong with it. The entire focus of the film lies in the wrong area, the area of the story where nothing really happens. What this film should be more about is the takeover of society by the Death Eaters and their agents in high places, the control of humans by the Ministry of Magic and the terrible acts they carry out.
We do get some excellent moments with the main characters, and the story has really grown up with them, but this was not a standalone film.
Strong direction is apparent in most sequences, but the editing feels all wrong. Part two can hopefully bring what part one has only teased at in the opening and ending.