Saturday, 20 November 2010



Much as I know I shouldn't, being a middle-aged single bloke, I have a soft spot for the later Harry Potter films. I've never read any of the books (and frankly have absolutely no interest in starting now) but I have enjoyed, to varying degrees, the movies: I think they have got better over time, as they've become darker and less kiddie-centric, and they're the kind of family movies I don't actually mind going to see. Indeed, I look forward to them, the way I don't with all the Pixars and similar animations - there's no chance of me going to Despicable Me, for example.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 dispenses with most of the traditional Potter material: there's no Hogwarts (which, to be honest, I can live with). The whole piece takes place outside the school with Harry, Hermione and Ron alone against the world and against the gathering forces of evil - not just Voldemort and his coterie but the new, fascistic Ministry Of Magic. Harry is out to find Lord Voldemort's horcruxes and destroy them; in order to achieve this he has to find the Sword Of Godric Gryffindor (because it's impregnated with basilisk venom). Or something. At the same time the three are hiding out because Harry is wanted for the Shock Death of A Major Character at the end of the last film. One of the problems the film has is - rather like the Saw series, oddly enough - a need for some familiarity with what's happened in earlier films. When Hermione says "you remember what happened in the Chamber Of Secrets....?", I have to say "no, that was five films and eight years ago, so I'm just going to take your word for it about whatever happened in the Chamber Of Secrets."

Anyway, they get the sword, they destroy one of the horcruxes, but there's several more to go, and Voldemort's allies are closing in.... This is the last book in the saga, and so massive that they've cut it into two parts rather than cram it into one unwieldy four-hour epic. Wise move. For one thing it means another movie, and for another that kind of length is a nightmare for distributors, cinemas and audiences, particularly audiences composed substantially of children. On the other hand, it does mean that HPDH-1 doesn't have a proper ending and just stops (all that's missing is a "To Be Continued" caption).

Even so, it still clocks in at 146 minutes, which is going to try the patience and the bladders of the ickle kiddies, many of whom shouldn't be there because it's creepy and scary in places: the BBFC have given it a 12A for "moderate fantasy violence and threat", and I think that's the right rating. It's not just the fantasy and monster stuff that's scary: the Pure Blood persecution, secret police and basement trials of the Ministry of Magic is pretty chilling. Against that, there IS fun to be had, as in order to infiltrate the Ministry our three heroes have to disguise themselves as Ministry staff and, for a while, are played by other actors.

Scratching on the door of two and a half hours, it IS too long and it certainly sags in the middle stretch where the three are camping out in some of the bleakest landscapes in the country (incidentally in a TARDIS-like tent, the explanation for which I probably didn't catch). If they were minded to trim ten or fifteen minutes to tighten it up, that's where the scalpel should fall as there's really not a lot happening. It's also surprising to see all the big star names on the poster and then find that many of them are only in it fairly briefly.

I'm also delighted that the studio failed in their bid to convert the movie into 3D, and dreading the next and final part for which we'll doubtless have to wear the silly spectacles. Don't do it. Part 2 will be perfectly alright without running it through the computer to apply a botched perspective effect that simply doesn't work. There are several shots in this movie which were obviously designed with the 3D in mind, but being projected and watched in ordinary 2D does the movie no harm at all. I did enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 a lot: it's certainly up to the standard of earlier films, and when HPDH-2 comes out I shall probably have a lot of fun running all the previous instalments on DVD and catching up.


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