Sunday, 21 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Review

As a family, we've watched all of the previous six installments of the Harry Potter series on their opening nights, so yesterday we visited our local Cineworld, just a day later than we'd planned.
I was pleased when Warner announced that it would adapt J K Rowling's final novel in two parts, because so much material was excised from all of her other books. But this new film does actually drag in places, and my favoured cut-off point of the book isn't the rather lack-lustre cliff-hanger presented here (although it does set-up Part 2 well enough).
So, just those two complaints aside, this is still one of the best and most moving Harry Potter movies, and is certainly the most adult and darkest in tone. A very sad prologue sees Hermione safeguarding her (previously unseen) parents, by employing that great sci-fi motif of removing herself from their memories.
One of it's first and finest achievements is conveying the total and palpable fear that the witches and wizards in Malfoy Manor hold for Voldemort, made grimmer still by the setting's near black and white filmic quality.
It's not only the three lead actors and their much loved characters that have grown-up since these films began in 2000, the franchise now seems to have reached adulthood. The Deathly Hallows further explores the sexual tension between Harry and Ginnie, Ron and Hermione, even Harry and Hermione (the closest the series has ever got to a sex scene is seen, when Voldemort goads Ron).
The truly shocking murders of Hogwarts teacher, Burbage, and Dobby the House Elf, and Bellatrix's torture of Hermione are all worthy of a horror flick. Even the so-effective animated tale of the three Peverell brothers plays out like an adult graphic novel. The ever gothic Ministry of Magic has adopted a strict racial stance against Muggles, and now features Kafkaesque employees, and Orwellian style media control (the Daily Prophet is just like 1930's German propoganda). Here, Umbridge appears, again undertaking her famous 'Inquisitions' with Dementors in attendance.
With the action soon centred around the trio's lonely travels, our heroes initially resemble wartime evacuees (like the children in Disney's first Narnia film), then later, actual resistence fighters fleeing Gestapo style Snatchers. The wizarding world really is at war, and this is more or less a war film. Voldemort and his Death Eaters, akin to that ultimate 'baddie' Hitler and his Nazis, are pursuing their own Final Solution.
There is a minimalist approach to many of the location scenes, which typically depicts just the heroes' lonely tent set against an almost constant monochrome autumnal or winter landscape. This stark and bleak atmosphere only adds to the nature of the trio's quest.
The film completely sums-up the age-old battle between good/light and evil/dark with it's sombre settings given prominence, but it's not all dark. There are lighter moments, usually involving Ron, and the overall result is pure magical Potter Noir. Roll on July for Part 2.

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