Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One: The Gauntlet is Set

Picture if you will our heroine, Hermione, laying on the ground, beaten, broken…bleeding. The sound, at one time ominous and penetrating, slows to a drawl…and before you know it, bubbles fill the screen, and in an instant, the film evaporates into seemingly thin air.

I’ve never seen film burn in person before and I have to say it’s kind of cool. But not that cool. And especially not cool at 2:30 in the morning during Harry Potter mania. I felt I was lucky to escape with my life after the outcry that erupted moments after the screen went blank (I’m sure the theatre employees felt the same way). I mean people were s-c-r-e-a-m-i-n-g. And I guess they had a right to, this is the end of something special.

I’ve always been a Harry Potter fan, first with the books, and then the movies. I never asked the films to be the books, and because of that I’ve never been disappointed. Unlike so many other franchises that fall prey to money (not to say Harry Potter isn’t influenced my the billions it earns), the makers of the Potter films have been able to deliver quality to fans for the past ten years. And they just hit another high point with Deathly Hallows.

I’m soooo glad the filmmakers decided to spread this out for two movies, firstly, because now I have another installment to look forward to, but also because I was so very pleased with what they accomplished here. After seven movies, the actors of Harry Potter have found their stride, grown into their roles, and found places in our hearts. The script, written by Steve Kloves, is one of his best, full of humorous dialogue, and tender moments between Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint.

The special effects and cinematography, always strong points to the franchise, still hold up after ten years, and I applaud executives for not kowtowing to 3D pressures. The film shows you can still have a beautiful movie without the bells, whistles, and crap moments you usually get with 3D. In other words, the effects match the actions, dialogue, and emotions of the story; they blend together seamlessly in a dance that proves one isn’t better than the other. Audiences today are often confused when they try to justify high ticket prices by the amount and “quality” of the special effects. Film should ALWAYS be about the story first, and the Harry Potter franchise continues to hold to that ideal.

So back to my story.

By now you have probably figured out that Ryan and I did see the end of the movie. But how, you ask, does one mend film that has been completely destroyed? Well, you can’t. After another failed attempt at getting the film reel up and running, a very nervous attendant had the awesome job of telling a packed house that they were unable to fix the problem, and that they would not get to see the end of their beloved Harry Potter. On the plus side, please feel free to bring your ticket stub for a free movie at another date, that is, if you haven’t already crumpled it up, or aren’t planning on preserving its memory in a scrapbook. After another earth-shattering cry, Ryan and I left the theater amidst a cloud of obscenity and death wishes. I can tell you now, there was no way I wasn’t seeing the end of this movie. It was 2:30 in the morning, I was tired but determined. So we slipped into another theater that had a later showing and finished the film. And thank goodness, because it really was a great first chapter to a story that will be sorely missed.

Here are Ryan’s thoughts on Deathly Hallows Part 1:

I am not an especially fervent Harry Potter fan. I enjoyed the book series, though by the final volume, I felt I had to read it more for finishing the series than for true excitement over the remaining story. Still, I picked up that volume at midnight as a way to ward off  possible spoilers.

Similarly, my relationship with the film series could be described as hot and cold. I was eagerly awaiting the first film, which mildly disappointed me. I attribute this largely to the vivid descriptions J.K. Rowling provides the reader in the books. I “knew” what Hogwarts and all the characters looked like, and while the film did a good job with the principle cast, it was just different. After the first film, I ignored the film series until I saw trailers for the fourth film, Goblet of Fire. I remember sitting in the theater and saying to myself, “Now that looks cool.” To prep, I sought out Prisoner of Azkaban and was blown away. Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece remains my favorite, both signaling the arrival of real darkness to the films as well as an incredible sense of style similar to Guillermo Del Toro, but without excess eyeballs installed at random.

Despite really liking these films, somehow I managed to miss the fifth film in the series entirely (I still have not seen it as of this writing). I went with Jill and some friends to see Half Blood Prince, and not being terribly impressed by David Yates, my expectations for Deathly Hallows were dramatically lowered.

However, I can say that this is probably the second best film in the franchise to date (after Azkaban). One of the problems with the franchise overall (and the fourth and sixth films specifically) is that the pacing is absolutely wrecked by trying to keep the film’s length somewhat reasonable. Given the luxury of twice the run time, Part 1 of Deathly Hallows finally allows the film some breathing room and yields wonderful results. Here the actors are allowed the kind of character development the series has lacked in the past. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are able to use this time to sort their feelings out (in the most chaste way possible), and hunker down for the Final Showdown in the next film. The best side effect of this is that this feels like a full-fledged film instead of just a series of sequences and set pieces, which give some of the other films a kind of vignette feel to them.

I enjoyed this movie from start to finish, and I think in some ways, it actually improved on the book. The opening sequence was enlivened with Hagrid and Harry dodging traffic and Death Eaters, and Harry and Hermione dancing made me feel emotions for these characters I had only previously felt on the page as opposed to the screen.

I could easily see this film a second time theatrically, and I hope to, right before Part 2 in July.

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  1. Pingback: Movie Theater Chains Really Can Screw Up Just About Anything « Filmhash

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