Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)

As one of those modernists that hasn't read one of the Potter books (Or many other books for that matter), It's always been nice to be totally surprised by each new film, something that definitely increases my appreciation for every part of Harry's tale. I found the previous Potter movie (The half-blood prince) extremely disappointing, which should explain why I was totally dumbstruck by how magnificent the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was – by far my favourite segment of the young wizard's story till date.

Even though this is the third Potter movie under director David Yates' belt, it immediately feels noticeably different to any of the previous entries of the franchise. The biggest reason for this is purely because the plot takes a radical turn, as the main trio of Hermione, Ron and Harry find themselves on the road, far away from the comforting walls of Hogwarts as well as their dearest friends. For most of the movie, the trio is utterly alone and without direction – things that were all present in previous Potter films, but never to such a ruthless, striking degree as it is here.

This results in a terribly dark adventure, filled with a substantial amount of dread, suspense and a fine strand of hopelessness, gradually spun by Yates as the story starts to unfold. As I was not aware of this heavy plot change beforehand, I was taken completely by surprise, as I watched the Potter franchise cleverly reinvent itself. One can go as far as to reclassify the movie from a fantasy adventure to a fantasy/suspense thriller.

"This results in a terribly dark adventure, filled with a substantial amount of dread, suspense and a fine strand of hopelessness, gradually spun by Yates as the story starts to unfold."

The best thing about this shift is that it makes complete sense when one considers what the trio has been through (and probably still have to face). I’ve always felt that the previous Potter movies downplayed the dark happenings to a considerable extent, probably due to the PG rating – this is not the case with Deathly Hallows part 1.

But do not threat, the movie is far from being a emo-fest (a pitfall very prominent in the Twilight series of films), as the scenes of hard-hitting drama are accompanied by a fair share of humour, even though these segments are far less than Potter fans are used to. In a strange turn, Ron (Rupert Grin) is no longer the main source of jokes, as Hermione (Emma Watson) serves up the best laughs this time – poking fun directly at her habit of thinking things through to the smallest of details, as a type of motive throughout the movie.

The rest of the ensemble cast are as strong as ever, as the baddies get the first proper chance to really stretch their dramatic muscles. Helena Bonham Carter gets the most screen time of the dark gang, playing her role with an overabundance of terror and diabolic intent, as she has throughout the series. Daniel Radcliffe (aka The chosen one) however steals the show, with some astounding performances in various heavy scenes, proving how the series has helped him developed into a very capable actor.

I was also impressed by the movie’s glorious action sequences, which feel a bit less ‘grand’ this time around, but a heck more realistic, complementing the drastic change in scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the Deathly Hallows is as creative visually as always, it’s just a bit less ‘pretty’. A short animated insert is beautifully rendered and while it might seem a bit out of place, works great to calm one’s senses for a brief while.

With all this praise, also comes the confession that the movie is not perfect: Yates timing isn’t always spot-on, as some parts of the movie start to drag, whilst others blast passed quicker than a Golden Snitch. The movie has also rightfully been criticised for its very open-ended ending, as the viewer gets confronted with the credits as soon as the plot finally starts to get momentum. This works great as a way of getting one excited for the last movie, but this installment does suffer from it, nonetheless.

While Deathly Hallows seems a bit flawed, its minor imperfections are overshadowed by the striking and daring shift, a change that Yates handles with utmost skill. Potter’s latest journey has some emotionally cumbersome moments, but the rewards are simply spectacular for those willing to bare its weight.

Highlights:

1. When the trio is out of choices, they jump right into the lion’s mouth (i.e. the ministry of magic). This leads to some hilarious, but suspenseful encounters that will leave you gasping for air.

2. A touching scene between Potter and Hermione is as moving as it is disheartening, as the friends realize they have nowhere left to turn. 

 Be warned: Things get very bloody in the latest Potter movie.

Rating: 4-and-a-half Meerkat Tails (subtract half-a-tail if you're not a Potter fanatic)