| The Red Right Hand
Always worth mentioning at the start of these reviews, just to inform anyone who doesn't know - I greatly enjoy these films but have absolutely no allegiance whatsoever to the original source material. I was working in a book shop when the fourth-to-final books were released and subsequently couldn't be bothered to read them. Never have, never will. Some feel this alters my perception of the film but I believe it allows me to offer a complete and unbiased opinion of how the movie works as a standalone piece and not as an adaptation of some coveted relic. It also means that if I have any issue following the film or wondering about certain cryptic characters or events, I can assume it was fully explained in the book and the film has simply failed to replicate it. All good? Lovely.
At this stage, I would think nobody is going to approach the final two-parter of the Harry Potter saga without prior knowledge of the series, thankfully Warner Bros. seem to share this belief and as such there will be no pandering to newcomers this late in the game; if you don't get it by now, tough. So, the wizarding world is now fully aware of Lord Voldemort's [Ralph Fiennes]return and he is amassing an army of support, solely intent on locating and eradicating young Mr. Potter. Harry [Radcliffe], Ron [Grint] and Hermione [Watson] have discovered that the only way to defeat Voldemort is to destroy the seven horcruxes, which contain parts of his shattered soul. With no real knowledge of where these will be or what they even are, the task is extremely daunting. At the same time, Severus Snape [Alan Rickman] has been revealed as a loyal death eater and gathers with the other dark wizards at the Malfoy residence to discuss how to deal with Potter. After an attack during the marriage of Bill Weasley to Fleur Delacour, the three leads quickly vacate and begin their hunt. Their only clue (the fake necklace from the last film) leads them to the Ministry Of Magic, which then starts an epic camping trip. Even the most loyal supporter of the books will acknowledge that for the most part, the opening of Deathly Hallows is a long, drawn out, camping expedition. Curiously enough, this seems to have been dealt with expertly as the search for the horcruxes is never one which lags or hinders the plot flow of the film. Several truths are revealed, tensions erupt between Harry, Ron and Hermione, the deathly hallows are explained and preparations are made for an almighty finale.
The most notable (and probably due to be most commented on) points are that this film is much darker and more mature than any offering to date - a statement that has been included in each of my Potter reviews, I'm sure. Not just maturity of plot but also the cast; as the characters grew, so too did the plot; quickly shed were the twee Christmas Carol wannabe ways of the first film and the mild bullying of the second film, we're now well and truly into territory that has been mentioned but never really realised until the last film: these children are facing truly terrifying and overwhelming adversaries that are thoroughly intent on torturing and killing them. With the level of emotion required, it's a delightful relief to see that everyone involved has outgrown their childhood acting quirks and forced lines and are now displaying a genuinely impressive level of acting prowess. Indeed, this entire film is almost free of complaint, the money has been better utilised, hence better visual effects, every single cameo and supporting character is brilliant, the pacing is amazingly well dealt with for a story that should have been slow and tedious and the soundtrack is at its absolute best.
There are, naturally, a few negative points that need to be addressed - as minor as they are. The first is the Ginny Weasley [Bonnie Wright] / Harry Potter love connection that I simply did not buy in the last film. I don't know why but I don't feel any chemistry between the two actors and it all felt so wonderfully forced. There's very little of it seen here and it's certainly less tense and more plausible but the only way to really show it successfully was to undercut it with humour - in the form of George Weasley [Oliver Phelps] quietly entering the scene before offering a slow, drawn out, "Morning". And then there's the fact that his is half a book, not a two-part finale designed for film (think Matrix, Back To The Future, etc) but one story split down the middle. This means that the cliff-hanger is reasonably weak and as the credits begin to roll a distinct notion of mild shock ripples through the audience. I understand and fully agree that halving the story allows for a more loyal following of the events in the book and this should have been actioned from the fourth film onward but without an epic close point, audiences may be left a little disillusioned. But as stated, these are very minor complaints to what is an altogether, extremely well crafted half of a film.
I will close with a brief explanation on how I have decided to score this movie. Rather than going for the full blown nine out of ten that it probably deserves, I feel it would be like marking the merits of the first act and part of the second. Instead, a wholly warranted eight has been awarded and if David Yates can maintain the intensity, emotion and overall tension that has been building throughout this release, I should think we will all be in for a marvellous treat next summer.
19th November 2010
The Scene To Look Out For:
Two scenes in particular come to mind. The first requires Hermione to blurt out a great deal of exposition in the form of a children's story, explaining what the deathly hallows are. This piece is presented as a rather well executred animated segment - granted Hellboy II: The Golden Army did it better but it was certainly a welcome treat. The second is Harry, Ron and Hermione infiltrating the Ministry Of Magic. From the Nazi-esque interrogations and propaganda posters, to the random spurts of humour regarding the body-swaps, the whole thing is done rather well. What makes it particularly stand out, however, is the charged climax and escape, largely due to Peter Mullan's brief but incredible performance.
As stated above, of the cameo roles, Peter Mullan does a great job as the death eater, Yaxley. But a word needs to be said about Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones). I fucking hated Dobby in Chamber Of Secrets . . I mean, I really loathed that son of a bitch. With the likes of Gollum appearing in The Two Towers, I was horrified to see this pitiful CG excuse of ears and wrinkles masquerading as a character. He wasn't funny, he was just really really really fucking annoying. So, when he reappeared in this film, I was instantly impressed by the fact that he looked genuinely impressive. Furthermore (I have no idea how), they managed to not only make him funny and appealing but also an incredibly welcome highlight to the plot proceedings.
"I think we should close his eyes, don't you? There, now he could be sleeping"
In A Few Words:
"One of the best Potter offerings to date, only held down by the fact that this feels very much like half a film - which, ultimately, it is"