Friday, 19 November 2010

REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Thinks every kid performance in Harry Potter sucks, except Evanna Lynch as Luna. Who is awesome.

It seems critics have come round on Harry Potter. Back in 2001, it was harder to get in line, what with a Lord Of The Rings shaped albatross on the horizon and everything. It wasn't the fairest comparison, but these were two huge fantasy franchises after decades of having none so damn if it wasn't made, and made again. The first few movies were cursed by their slavery to fan loyalty, fairly shocking kid acting, and everything feeling so low stakes in comparison to the epic battles and grandiose operatics of Jackson's movies. And while Harry Potter can proudly boast the strongest cast of any franchise of any movie of all time, pretty much featuring every great British actor over 35 that we have to offer, all are reduced to cameos. Lord Of The Rings had the excellent performances and underrated anchoring of Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellen, the former of which gets ignored much more then it should, because I don't think the film works nearly as well without it. In HP we spend all our time with 13 year olds who can't act for shit.

But time passed, Lord Of The Rings took its bow, and the Potter movies stuck around. And without anything so stellar to compare them to, people started to change their minds. And while I think that Alfonso Cuaron's Prisoner Of Azkaban is a great little movie, I think the arrival of David Yates in film 5 is the main reason for this. The films started to have a consistency of vision and style, plus things seemed to age, the tone got darker and people started dying. I don't think there can be such a thing as a great Harry Potter movie, the weaknesses of the novels are too apparent and since nobody is willing to change anything they continue to fester, but I think Deathly Hallows is going to come the closest. I'm still not sold on any of the leads, Radcliffe in particular, who misdelivers far too many lines to be even acceptable when one is being apoplectic. And there a few too many scenes of people talking about plot in the woods, but the film has moments of honest to god awesomeness, its a shame they only seem to occur when none of the primary characters are on screen.

For example, the death eater scene that prologues the movie is I think my favourite in any Potter movie. A fairly badass and well-written super villain scene, with a terrific performance by Ralph Fiennes, who has lent so much to the role of rent-an-evil-motherfucker that Voldemort regrettably became. Its dark, twisted and brings in Alan Rickman's consistently terrific Snape. A character who frankly became the series most interesting around book five, yet is still treated as a supporting character and gets about ten lines a movie. How much more awesome would Deathly Hallows be if it was told from the point of view of Severus Snape? Perhaps then the bad guys wouldn't be such cyphers and archetypes. I seem to spend every Potter movie asking why don't we get more of the bad guys, but its somewhat remedied here I suppose. Fiennes and Rickman rock it in the opening scene, and Marla Singer herself continues to be awesome as Bellatrix Lestrange. Newcomers Rhys Ifans and Peter Mullan add to the mix greatly, each giving an awesome cameo. There's just this nagging feeling that there's a much more interesting film skirting the edges of this one, seeing the wizarding world go apocalypse, and if we didn't have to spend so much time with our Nancy Drew's, limiting the potential darkness and scope of the story, then I'd get to see that instead.

Still, like I said I think its the best one yet, and I'm sure part 2 will be better. It's just, whereas the look, the tone and pretty much everything else has matured into something much more interesting, its leads just haven't. And the ideas and concepts suffer for this. Still there's moments and scenes to enjoy, and I really do think these films are well made, there's a great animated sequence somewhere in the middle too, but at its core, its still a kids movie trying to be a grown up one. I don't think it can quite let that go, and thus it will never be as good as it wants to be.

Rating: 6/10

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