Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part I, Movie Review

If you haven't read the books and are a Muggle like me, you might get lost watching the seventh film installment of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Based on the alleged last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is a continuation of the storyline in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. (2009) At the end of Half Blood Prince, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) must find all the horcruxes and destroy them in order to destroy Voldemort. (Ralph Fiennes) Okay, for those of you who have not read the books or saw the movies, the horcruxes contain parts of Voldemort's soul. Got it?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows starts out with the Ministry of Magic trying to hold on as the dark forces of Voldemort, the Death Eaters, gain strength. Voldemort is hunting down Harry so he can kill him and thus live forever. This sends Harry on the run. His protectors are what's left of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army. Unfortunately, the Death Eaters seize the Ministry of Magic and take power over the wizard world. Good witches are forced into hiding while Harry is now in full retreat, trying to stay alive and also hunt down the Horcruxes with pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint).

Screenwriter Steve Kloves has written all the Harry Potter movies with the exception of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. (2007) Unlike his adaptation for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which was a heavy and elongated version of a Scooby Doo mystery, Kloves returns to the lean and character driven style of the sublime Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (2004) Thanks to Kloves' screenplay and the direction by David Yates, the film takes off from the beginning. Yates knows how to direct an action sequence. Flinging spells is something out of a Star Wars laser fight. The action comes close to his masterful direction with the Order of the Phoenix. The film does lose its way about an hour and twenty minutes in. This could be because of the idea to split the book into two films. Thus, when Harry, Ron and Hermione wander the wilderness so does the movie. Some tightening up here with more exposition would be helpful. That's because not everyone has read the books.

Eduardo Serra's cinematography is beautiful in a desolate way. I'm guessing that Yates and Serra choose to drain the film of much of its color. Obviously, that's a reflection of the darker times. The predominant colors are grey-white for the snow, black and more grey. This topic of cinematography brings me to my pet peeve, the 3-D conversion. Fortunately, Distributor Warner Brothers decided not to release this film in 3-D as a conversion from 2-D. Warner cited quality concerns. If you see this movie, you'll realize why it was so difficult to convert. A lot of this movie takes place at night or during dreary cloudy days. Conversions to 3-D are usually too dark. If they converted the Deathly Hallows, it would be too dark and you couldn't see the special effects, such as the streaks of black smoke from the Death Eaters against a dark sky. Let's just hope that Warner will scrap Part 2 in 3-D because I have yet to see a quality conversion. Memo to movie studios. If you release a movie in 3-D, film it in 3-D. No conversions.

As for as the performances of the main trio, they have matured as they have literally grown up in the this film franchise. Emma Watson now plays Hermione not as a precocious little girl but a confident woman. Rupert Grint as Ron is no longer a clumsy boy but man who must deal with adult emotions. Daniel Radcliffe, no longer is the wide eyed boy filled with wonder but a knight on a quest that may kill him. The supporting cast is also solid. There is not one false note. A special kudos to Helena Bonham Carter who plays Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange. In previous Potter films, she came off campy. Now she is a full blown monster with a sadistic urge to inflict pain and death. She gives Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) a run for his money as far as badness goes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is a tense, and thrilling fantasy film. It's packed with real emotion. While it seems that splitting the movie in two was for increased profits, this first part works on its own. It serves as stand alone film while fulfilling the task of setting up the last act. The grade is A-.

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