Dir. David Yates, UK/USA, 2010, 146 mins,
Review by Matthew Rodgers
We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful blockbusting wizard of Hogwarts, for the final time. Well, the first part of the last doom laden chapter in the saga of Harry Potter , anyway. Warner Bros’ decision to squeeze as much money into the Gringotts Wizarding Bank as possible means part two is already scheduled for release in July 2011.
So is this all gut-wrenching set-ups and hold-your-breath cliff-hangers to give our assorted Muggles, Dementors, and Dobbies a whizzbang send off, à la The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers ? Or is it simply padding to accommodate the door-step dimensions of J.K. “£5 a second” Rowling’s tome? Revealious Answerocious…
Sadly, and for the first time since Chris Columbus took over as director, it is more a case of the latter. The magic only simmers beneath the melancholic musings and page-to-screen procrastination of the narrative.
Shorn of Professor Dumbledore‘s guidance and the cosy familiarity of their iconic school, which is now in the clutches of “he who must not be named”, our trio of graduates must take up the mantle left by the late headmaster. They must collect the remaining Horcruxes to defeat Voldemort (whoops, I’ve gone and said it) and his army of Death Eaters.
HP7: Part I has a slow and ponderous structure, whether it be due to the source material or the studio bean counters. But there is still enough here to sate both those who queue up dressed as their favourite Weasley, and those that see the franchise as a good night out at the movies.
A lot is due to holdover director, Yates. There are some magnificent flourishes of cinematic genius and, for all its pacing flaws, Deathly Hallows is never less than stunning to look at. The opening segment is harrowing, hilarious, and exhilarating as the remaining members of The Order whizz through London at breakneck speed. There is also a wonderful animated segment that superbly avoids making some key exposition tedious; it’s a Grimm Brothers tale by way of Tim Burton. But, without a shadow of a doubt, the stand-out moment is one of beautifully measured tenderness amongst the carnage, a brief moment shared by our young actors dancing in a tent.
From Philosophers Stone to Half Blood Prince , enough has been said about the evolution of the child actors from autocue reading moppets to involving performers, but the dramatic focus on them in this episode only emphasises the sheer brilliance of Emma Watson. Confident and charming, she takes control of every scene involving the trio and cuts to its emotional core with effortless ease, often showing up the gurning Grint and overwrought Radcliffe.
Take heed, Hallows is definitely too scary for the younger Muggles in the audience (thematically, and when it comes to big scary snakes), but most of the grumbles are minor (not enough Alan Rickman, and Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid is completely sidelined). Part I will surely improve when viewed consecutively with the impending final battle. Wands at the ready.