Friday, November 19, 2010

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1"

In some ways it is always tough as a filmmaker to watch the Harry Potter movies when they first come out. As a writer/director and avid fan of the books, I already have preconceived notions in regards as to how I would film certain scenes, as to how I would write certain scenes, and as to what I would cut or accentuate to make the story a cinematic reality. I didn't get to direct this movie (which that would have been a dream come true), but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1 is a cinematically satisfying experience on its own terms.

The filmmakers completely dispensed with the pleasantries here. Much how they tackled the Half-Blood Prince, they do nothing to clue the viewer into this world or reintroduce you to these characters or even the storyline that was set up at the end of the previous movie. Deathly Hallows-Part 1 picks up right where Half-Blood Prince ended, with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, going off on their own, in search of the seven Horcruxes, which hold pieces of Voldemort's soul; if these Horcruxes are destroyed, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named can finally be killed, but what are these mysterious Deathly Hallows that our trio stumble across on their journey?

If you aren't a fan of Harry Potter by now, this movie is not the kind of stand alone adventure that will make you one. As mentioned, none of the characters, nor even the magical objects such as the Marauder's Map or the Locket are reintroduced to the viewer, even certain things such as as the broken mirror shard that Harry carries around with him (which was only in the book and not in the previous movies) is never explained to the audience. The filmmakers knew that the best way to free themselves to tell this story was to assume that the audience seeing these movies have already seen all six previous films and have read all seven of the books. While this may be a detriment to those who have't read the books or to your casual moviegoer, as a fan it was increasingly liberating. A.) You do not feel like you were being retaught things that you already know, and B.) It allowed the story to consistently be moving forward and not have to retread facts of the past to make this an easier movie for those unfamiliar with this story to understand.

Screenwriter Steve Kloves and director David Yates proved to be an effective duo yet again, being able to fill so many tiny details into this movie for the Harry Potter faithful, and ultimately made the richness of the books transcend into the realms of the movies. In particular, Yates has surprised me once more. He has grown so much as a filmmaker since Order of the Phoenix, and Deathly Hallows-Part 1 looks as if it was directed by a consummate professional at the top of his craft. Yates was able to convey so much texture with so little. Very often dialogue was never used to explain certain feelings or emotions to the audience, and it was up to Yates to manipulate your feelings through the shots, and this is where he was most splendid; such as when Ron becomes jealous of Harry and Hermione's friendship, or when Harry sees the story about Dumbledore in the newspaper. And the trio of the actor's give probably their most affecting performances yet, in particular Emma Watson, who has way more emotional scenes to chew on than either Daniel Radcliffe or Rupert Grint. This movie is put entirely on the trio's shoulders (with the colorful cast of supporting characters only in to throw in their token lines of dialogue) and I was thoroughly impressed with their talent and ability.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1 is a standard adventure movie taken on the road, away from Hogwarts. In some ways it reminded me of The Fellowship of the Ring and the perils those characters met on the road throughout that movie, and much like that movie, this is only the set-up for the story in which we all want to see (a.k.a. Part 2). Ultimately, this is one of the most beautifully photographed Harry Potter movies, thanks to Eduardo Serra's DP work, and David Yates directs some of the action sequences with so much pizazz, in particular the scenes in the Ministry and when Harry and Hagrid fly through the air on a motorcycle chased by Death Eaters. So what if non-fans of Harry Potter wont understand this movie? If you haven't read these books or seen the other movies by now, then to be completely candid, why are you seeing this movie anyways?

I give Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1 an A+!

1 comment:

  1. Nice treatment of the art of adaptation.