Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (UK/ USA, 2010)
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter
It's very easy to hold a grudge against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows purely on the grounds of the industrial precedent it created. The financial success of splitting the last and biggest of the books into two instalments led to the same tactic being employed with Twilight and The Hunger Games, regardless of whether their respective source materials actually merited such an approach. For fans and casual viewers alike, the move smacked of wanting to milk as much as possible out of the last drops of a given franchise.
The Lord of the Rings. Many film fans had quibbles with the ending(s) of The Return of the King, and fans of the book were in two minds about some of the omissions, particularly the scourging of the Shire and the death of Saruman (in the theatrical cut). But even taking those as gospel truth - for the moment - Peter Jackson did quite an excellent job of balancing and converging all the different aspects of Middle Earth in the climatic battles - a much better job, in fact, than he managed recently on the third and final Hobbit film.
previous Harry Potter review. All of my criticisms of this McGuffin aside, the hunt for the horcruxes gives the film structure and a definite end-point towards which we are heading. Like The Two Towers, Deathly Hallows - Part 1 ends before said end-point has been reached, but like Jackson's film there is (to some extent) a feeling of catharsis and expectation of what is to come. That being said, the death of Dobby, like Dumbledore's in the previous film, still feels like an arbitrary event, included purely because it happened in the book. For all his dramatic credentials, David Yates still hasn't grasped how to build up tension so that a death can carry meaning: it's not so much a 'shock death' as a nothing-death.
Goblet of Fire, faced with a quest which is seemingly impossible, and having to cope without either the wisdom or protection of their teachers. Kermode's comparisons with Ingmar Bergman may seem far-fetched at first glance, but there is a point behind them: there are fewer creature comforts here than in previous efforts, and like Bergman's films there is little credence given to sentimentality.
Order of the Phoenix about the Ministry's design being rooted in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. What was then a mere inflection is now made flesh, with Yates borrowing heavily yet grippingly from the Michael Radford adaptation, starring John Hurt and Richard Burton. The low-angle shots of the banners and wanted posters, not to mention the robotic movements of the Ministry's employees, reinforce the feeling of freedom and justice being crushed in the name of purity and homogeny. Imelda Staunton's return as Dolores Umbridge only hammers this home, taking her inevitable place as the puppet of a state governed by fear, and projecting her own self-loathing onto those she deems inferior.
Half-Blood Prince came out of nowhere, a lot of Deathly Hallows - Part 1 will feel completely jarring and inert. Once again, Yates can't deliver the knock-out blow when it matters most, working so hard on a general tone that the particular moments carry no weight.
NEXT REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (2011)