Sunday, April 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

When it comes to the religion of Harry Potter, I'm hardly very pious. Although I dutifully brought The Deathly Hallows novel when it was released in 2007, I will admit that The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was the first of the movie saga that I didn't bother going to the cinema to see when it came out.

And last night, I caught Harry on DVD for the first time and realized that I'd made the right decision.

While some of the Harry Potter movies are barnstormers (Prisoner of Azkhaban and Goblet of Fire being the best) the final movies seem to have stumbled more into Twilight territory. They're dripping with teenage angst and increasingly dark and gloomy.

In fact, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was so into being dark and gloomy that at least one third of the film was practically unwatchable - the screen turning black for periods of up to 10 seconds at a time, and the sets and actors being so poorly lit you had to squint to see what was going on.

Pair that with a monumentally complex cast of characters and an increasingly difficult to follow plot and you've got a recipe for disappointment. While the book was vividly lucid, I kept finding myself losing the plot (literally) as I followed Ron, Hermione and Harry onscreen.

Why was that sword in the pond? Who's this cockney guy? Why is Daniel Radcliffe wearing a bra?

I understand that the complexity of The Deathly Hallows required it to be cut asunder into two separate films - but most two-part movies (Kill Bill, for example) turn each 'episode' into a self-contained story that can be enjoyed on its own.

That definitely does not describe The Deathly Hallows, Part 1. You'll need a masters degree in Potterology just to understand what's going on the moment the movie opens - and unless you've got a copy of the hardback sitting beside you, are likely to get thoroughly confused as the plot unwinds. Toss in a really unsatisfactory breaking point and anybody who's not a dyed-in-the-wool Harry Potter aficionado will be left scratching their head.

I mean, it's not that it's a bad movie - it's just so absurdly complex that it's impossible to adequately translate it to the screen. I imagine Potter fans will love it - but I was left a little bewildered.

Yet there's hope. I anticipate that the crammed first half of The Deathly Hallows will give the second movie a little narrative breathing room - and result in a much more satisfactory conclusion to the Harry Potter odyssey.

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