Monday, 29 November 2010

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One)

I harbour a dark and terrible secret. One which does nothing to accredit my manlyhood. I am *whispers* a Harry Potter fan! Not only have I read all the books, but I've also enjoyed them, becoming firmly acquainted with Diagon Alley and The Burrow. Naturally then, I was curious as to how these books would transpire on the big screen and have consequently, and quite intently I might add, been following the subsequent movies.

Given the enormous magnitude of JK Rowling's conclusion to the series (some 700-plus pages if I do recall correctly), to squeeze this into one film would never do the book justice. In many ways, this has largely been the downfall of the book-to-film conversions. As Rowling's books became longer and more sophisticated, the films paralleled with a downward trend in quality. It was impossible to include all the little details of the books and therefore, to those who actually read them, the films suffered from their time constraints. This simply would not do for the finale, and so the decision was taken to split it into two parts in order to satisfactorily finish a series upon which an entire generation has been raised.

The Deathly Hallows (Part One) essentially splits the book straight down the middle. As in the book, Voldemort (Fiennes) and his followers have gained their clammy claws on the wizarding world, introducing a sort of magical police state (it's not as cute as it sounds) through patsies in the Ministry of Magic. With the Order of the Phoenix forced underground, Harry Potter (Radcliffe) on the run from would-be assassins and three magical items to find which could prove key to defeating Voldemort, the premise is set for an epic finale.

This is, like the book, by far the darkest Harry Potter tale to date. Characters you've come to love throughout the series die, and there is most definitely a political point to detect from Rowling's work. Indeed, the mass-propaganda and hysteria propagated by the Ministry of Magic, and its ruthless treatment of Wizards deemed 'undesirable', is not a particularly subtle allegory for what is going on in the world today. "These are dark times" indeed, as Bill Nighly thunders amidst lashes of rain in the film's opening.

However, where the usual happy, airy-fairy aura of Harry Potter has dissipated into the floo network, for all its grim pretense, nothing much actually happens. Minus a harrowing and exciting broomstick chase at the beginning of the film, the rest pretty much consists of Speccy, Ginger and the fit girl running around in a forest. Indeed, it was difficult to pay attention to a film lasting around two and a half hours where literally fuck all occurs. My head did perk up when the much talked about 'invented-for-movie-scene' featuring Harry and Hermione dancing in a tent materialized, but that was just both horribly wrong and cringeworthy.

For all its intriguing allusions of parallels to fascist governments, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) is a boring film. I understand that the book is large and must be broken down into parts, but it is frustrating to see prominent characters such as Alan Rickman's Snape relegated to the background. Equally, the end is not really an end at all, suddenly cutting out in the most anticlimactic fashion possible. Given that the film is made out of half the book, this might be somewhat forgivable to diehard Potter heads, but for those with a casual interest in the franchise disloyal to the books, it is agreeably disappointing. As they say however, the best is saved to last. With an audacious heist on Gringott's bank and Voldemort's epic assault on Hogwarts still to come, July 2011 really can't come too soon.