By Don Simpson | November 18, 2010
Director: David Yates
Writers: Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
Before I begin, I should clarify that I did not like any of the first six Harry Potter films. I read each book prior to seeing the related film and I felt as though all of the films left out very important material from the books (this was way beyond the films not being as good as the books — because how could that be possible?); and none of the six films — except for maybe Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — truly represented the mood of the books. They all felt amazingly incoherent, very light and obnoxiously humorous, obviously created for the lowest common denominator.
First and foremost, if the audience had not read the books they would be totally lost by the flighty (borderline nonsensical) narratives of the films. I decided to finally test this theory on my own, so for David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 I opted not to read the book prior to watching the movie. The result: my theory has been confirmed. As much as I disliked the first six films, at least I could fill in all of the narrative holes with my knowledge from reading the books. I absolutely hated Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 because I did not know what the hell was going on. (I will definitely read the book before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is released.)
Well, okay, I am exaggerating a bit…I had some idea about what was going on. As with the other six films, there is a very simple and shallow narrative that is fairly discernible. These are dark times. Post Dumbledore’s death, Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) power has increased to a nearly insurmountable level; therefore Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is in much more danger than usual (the entire world is in danger too!). Harry’s (and thus the world’s!) only hope for survival is to destroy Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes (talismans) — but first he has to find them and figure out how to destroy each one.
Oh, and what are the Deathly Hallows you ask? Well, Luna Lovegood’s (Evanna Lynch) father Xenophilius (Rhys Ifans) explains that the mythical Deathly Hallows are three sacred objects: the Resurrection Stone, Elder Wand, and Invisibility Cloak. Harry focuses solely on destroying the Horcruxes, while Voldemort obsesses about finding the Deathly Hallows.
For a majority of the film, the supporting cast is pushed more to the periphery of the narrative than usual and we are stuck following Harry, Ron and Hermione (and, for a short while, only Harry and Hermione). Additionally, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the first film which is not centered around the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Instead Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) spend of the majority of the film camping in random locales (forests, riverbanks and seasides) of a seemingly post-apocalyptic Muggle world just waiting for something to happen. There is a lot of waiting and a lot of petty bickering.
There is one ridiculous scene which is not in the book (or so I have been informed): Harry and Hermione dance together to Nick Cave’s “O Children”. There is also a cringe-worthy scene in which Ron watches Harry and Hermione make out while naked (don’t worry, all of the naughty bits are blurred out). Both scenes seem like a very obvious ploy to create a faux love triangle and stir up some unnecessary sexual tension between Harry, Hermione and Ron.
I do have to write one compliment about Deathly Hallows: Part 1 — so here we go: it is visually amazing. Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is by far the best looking of the Harry Potter films; cinematography, special effects and set design are near-perfect. (Maybe it has something to do with Hogwarts not being in this picture? I never did like the way Hogwarts was visually rendered in the films.)
We will have to wait and see if Part 2 redeems this dreadful theatrical franchise. (I gave up hope that this franchise could be redeemed many years ago!) Then, after Part 2, we can commence pondering how the eight films will stand up many years down the line. (Chris Columbus’ Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets have already aged quite poorly in less than 10 years.) Nonetheless, the literary incarnation of Harry Potter — which I consider to be one of the better works of young adult fiction — will probably continue to endure for a long time to come.