Movies: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A split-second after the final scene cut to black, my wife turned to me and exclaimed “That was amazing-” …

I am not a Harry Potter fan. I am, however, the spouse of a Harry Potter fan. Seeing the films is as compulsory for one as it is the other. And so I found myself in the cinema watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday evening.

This is the final motion picture in the series. Or rather it would have been, had the filmmakers not decided to break the novel into two separate films so as to better preserve the artistic integrity of the hahahaha no I’m just kidding. They broke it up to milk this cash cow drier than gravel on Arrakis, as near as I can tell.

Which is too bad, because Deathly Hallows was one of the few books in the series I actually enjoyed. After the rambling mess that was book five (a.k.a., “Harry Potter and the Interminable Livejournal”), Ms. Rowling was apparently and at long-last assigned an editor, who kept the narrative in Half-Blood Prince reasonably tight. Although J.K.’s penchant for prolixity crept back into Deathly Hallows, it was still a moderately quick and engrossing read. It of course helped that the last book actually contained an ending toward which the action could build, and therefore didn’t require the introduction of new characters or subplots to pad things out.

Unfortunately, this lack of introductions was my first grievance with the film. We join Deathly Hallows “already in progress” as they say, with the action picking up where the previous film left off. For someone like me, who has not internalized the entire Potter canon (and who somehow got out of seeing the sixth movie–I’m not sure how that happened), I spent a lot of time wondering “what is going on?” and “who is that guy?” and “why are they giving potions to a dozen people to make them look like Harry instead of just giving one potion to Harry to make him look like John Cleese?” (or whomever). A cricket match would have made as much sense to me.

Oh, well. Honestly, I appreciate films that assume their audience are up-to-date, instead of dumbing things down for those who neglected their homework. And anyway, the first third of the film kept me sufficiently riveted, even when I didn’t understand the nuances. The opening scene, for instance, is remarkably grim for what I have always considered a “kid’s series”, with a table full of Bad Guys discussing the subjugation of the world while a bruised and bleeding innocent twists in midair, pleading for help. Even after the action moves to the protagonists, the films lacks the pervasive whimsy found in earlier chapters, with no Whomping Willows or booger-flavored jellybeans to lighten the mood. Perhaps taking their cue from the success of Twilight, the makers of this film apparently decided that that Dark Sells. (As does sex, it seems: both Harry and Ron wind up shirtless, and they even manage to shoehorn a CGI sex scene into the story).

And then a funny thing happens: nothing. Nothing whatsoever, for a long, long while. Fleeing from their enemies, Harry pitches a tent for Hermoine (literally), and the two wind up camping for what feels like an eternity. Where before things were all whiz-bang action, the film suddenly becomes more Blair Witch than Teen Wizard. During this stretch, the guy in the seat next to me checked the time on his iPhone no fewer than thrice.

Even this might have been excusable if the film had an end. But it doesn’t, of course, as this is only “Part I”. And as you roll past the 120 minute mark, “Part II” looks less and less defensible.

I spent the final third of the film fidgeting in my chair, wondering how I was going to tell The Queen that I found the movie frightfully dull. I imagined an acrimonious ride back home, as I was pilloried for my attention deficit and lack of appreciation for the classics.

And my fears seemed confirmed, when she swiveled in her seat the moment the film ended and said, “that was amazing-”

Should I agree? Should I voice my honest opinion? I agonized over how to respond.

Thankfully, she was still talking. “-ly boring,” she concluded. That’s my girl.

* * *

12 comments.

  1. You know how I know you’ve seen six Harry Potter movies? You said “thrice”.

  2. I went because my 7 year old kid made me. Don’t remember if I watched the previous ones. I did see some of them at least, maybe all. Not sure.

    Anyway, I was mildly bored as well, though I quite liked the “3 brothers” illustrated story. It was very beautiful.

    The kid was stoked to see part II this summer, so I guess I will be wincing through some of those unbearably stupid sounding spells. “Incendio”? Yeah, ok…

    Though I should admit that the three main actors (Main boy, pretty girl, redhead dude) could potentially be good actors in the future. I’ve definitely seen much worse than them.

    Hey, welcome back dy. It’s fun to read this regularly again.

  3. I haven’t seen the movies, and probably won’t. I found the first one so dull that we walked out of the theater at the halfway mark.

    Understand, I read the entire series out loud to my wife. Nothing like reading a book out loud to find the glaring flaws, and while I didn’t think Rowling could write a duller book than Order of the Phoenix (and with the most emotionally confused ending in a book I have *ever* read), she managed to do it with Deathly Hallows.

    GRR Martin’s Feast of Crows had more happen in it to move the plot along, fer Chrissakes.

    I have friends who really enjoy this series, but I’m about as interested in seeing a film version as I am in a colonoscopy. At least, like the 2010 political season, at some point it will all be over and they can finally leave us alone so that we can focus on something besides teenage wizards and vampires and zombies. Which will be just as mind-numbing.

  4. I liked it. ;)

  5. This film seems to have done what fans have been asking for from the previous six, namely stop leaving bits out. Sadly the Director seems to have listened when the source materiel was already over bolted and could have done with a heavy handed edit.
    That coupled with the bad acting from Radcliff Left me extremely underwhled. Although I was sacred by the giant snake.

  6. [...] by JS We join Deathly Hallows “already in progress” as they say, with the action picking up where the… [...]

  7. Didn’t love it, even though I appreciated the lack of cutesy wizard school crap. I dug the bleakness of it. Made me semi-hope for a tragic ending to the whole series. Sadly, I read the books. Everyone important lives happily ever after. (Sigh)

  8. I fell asleep in the first one, during the big climax. All I remember was some giant chess board? Or something? But I also fell asleep in The Matrix. Dialogue keeps me awake, special effects put me to sleep. Weird.

  9. I read the 7th book twice over the last few years, and even I had a hard time following the movie. My movie partner, who had not read the books and therefore had no idea what was going on, asked me so many questions that I ended up providing a half-whispered running commentary throughout most of the movie. I’m sure the other movie goers LOVED us.

  10. Hubby and I chose this movie last week on Date Night. After viewing, we decided we were not going to spend the money to take the boys. They could give it a miss, as DH pt. II would be a better financial choice. (Also, Hubby was uncomfortable with the sex scenes. Actually, really uncomfortable, as our oldest is 14 and Hubby’s still living in Saturday Evening Post world.) Hubby explained to the boys that they weren’t missing anything other than “talk, talk, talk,” and in his ‘English major’ verbage, “bleak exposition.”

  11. I agree with you about transforming everyone into HPs. And while watching the chase I’m thinking – right – a bunch of Harry Potters on broomsticks – what say we attack the one who can’t fly because he’s underage. And, while we’re at it, if the bad guys know he’s using magic as an underaged wizard why don’t they have listening devices or why don’t they think to, I dunno, lurk about outside his Muggle home. And just as I’m thinking all this they kill off the owl. Damn crafty distraction that.

  12. Because it’s the *LAST* book/movie, I suspect they felt they had to make it all “important.” And that ended up translating into “slow,” unfortunately.

    A real disappointment.

    But…

    Think of how much better Part 2 will be because of it. Hey… you don’t think…?

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