Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Making a movie in two parts is tricky because even though you have a perfectly logical place to put your first act (beginning of first movie) and third act (ending of second movie... duh) your second act is inevitably chopped off in an awkward place. Some movies do it well (Empire Strikes Back), some movies do it poorly (Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 falls somewhere in the “poorly” spectrum. At least they had the decency to put “Part 1” in the title. I remember the fury that came from the audience at the ending of The Matrix Reloaded and Dead Man’s Chest. With HPDH-P1 (yes, sounds like some sort of flu strain, but I’m not spelling out the whole movie title anymore than I need to, nya) we knew the cut-off ending was coming but the second act still felt like it was cut in half with a rusty saw and left writhing on screen like an unprofessionally severed, but still anesthetized, appendage: not as painful as it could have been, but still messy.

Note to Harry Potter enthusiasts: I don’t care if [insert magicky deus ex machina here] made sense in the book. I watched the movie specifically because it was the only book in the series I hadn’t read and I wanted to judge the film on its own merits. HPDH-P1 starts off with a bang and doesn’t let up for the entire first act. After two ambushes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione manage to outrun and outfight Snatchers (Magic Hitler’s Magic SS), infiltrate the Ministry of Magic, steal a plot sensitive locket, and fight their way back out using stealth, diversion, magic, and plain old violence if the need arises. It’s a great ride for the first half of the film.

Unfortunately, the movie suddenly comes to a screeching halt when all three characters realize they have no idea what to do next. So they start camping and hiding. The story utterly breaks down at this point, with our heroes taking a completely passive stance on their quest. Need a sword? It magically appears if you need it. Need a plot hook? Harry has magic visions. Need to find your friends? Magic friend finder! Your magic doesn’t work? Use elf magic! It’s a good example of how to use magic poorly as a problem solving tool in a fantasy setting. It’s like Star Trek; following the “Adjust shield frequency, apply particles, reroute power” formula but now shield=wand, particles=potions, and power=magic.

I really wish they had expanded on the sociopolitical conflicts going on in the background. Magic Hitler taking over the Magic Government is a really cool concept. I’d rather watch a whole movie about that instead of watching Harry mope around and Hermione suddenly remember things when convenient to the plot.

Overall, fans of the book will oscillate between fist pumping at the cool action sequences and gnashing their teeth when their favourite parts are left out. Everyone else will be amused, then bored, then depressed.


  1. This was a movie meant for people who have read book seven...which is not a good way for filmmakers to operate!...

  2. Magic Hitler taking over Magic Government? Just watch Episodes 1, 2, and 3 to see that. And as memory serves, that did not go over too well with the fans either. (Though I really like them.)

    Confirmation Word: Ronsfyrm (I wonder if that has something to do with Ron's resolve in HPDH: P1)