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.