Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

My poor blog has been sadly neglected this past week.  Between a last minute trip to Wisconsin last week, preparations for last night’s party, and a trip into New York yesterday morning for a job interview (!), I’ve hardly had time to make lunch (try half a pint of Ben and Jerry’s) or work on NaNoWriMo, never mind read other blogs or update my own.

What’s that, you say?  A party on a Thursday night (that isn’t Thanksgiving or any other holiday)?  What could I have been thinking?  Well at midnight this morning, as you really should know, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One came out in theatres so, instead of my annual pre-Thanksgiving friends party, I decided to have a Harry Potter Gives Thanks party, AKA a Harry Potter release party with pumpkin pie.  Before you start mocking, I think you should know everything: There was themed food (including Butterberr!*).  There were silly signs.  There were costumes.  It was excellent.  But I will save the party post for another day.  This post is about the film itself.

For the uninitiated, in the first half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry and company have left school to hunt Horcruxes, which are objects containing bits of Voldemort's soul.  They are also wanted by the Ministry of Magic, which has been taken over by Voldemort's gang.  Early on they find a Horcrux and then spend a lot of time figuring out how to destroy the darned thing.  There are adventures, betrayals, and a lot of really terrible food.  Though I haven’t yet gotten around to reviewing the book on the blog, it’s high on my list of favorites (probably number three, behind Prisoner of Azkaban and Half-Blood Prince) so I had rather high expectations for the film.


I’m going to say it right off the bat: I didn’t love it.  David Yates, the director, has a thing for montages and flashing images that I just don’t understand.  Sometimes, yes, they’re nice and effective.  There are two in the fifth movie that show just newspaper headlines and images.  These are effective (though I’d argue that two of these montages is one too many) in quickly showing time pass and what happened in that time.  There were probably four (?) montages in Deathly Hallows with different forms and themes, which is just tiring, especially considering they mostly consisted of twisting images and flashing lights rather than anything of substance.  For purposes of exposition, this is just not effective: they need to decide if they want this film to be accessible to those who don’t know the background or not and I just don’t know if it would be.  The rest of us (or maybe just me) want to get to the present action; we don’t need to waste time on special effects that overshadow substance.

I also was not pleased with a lot of the decisions on what to add and what to cut.  Sometimes Yates seemed to just overdo things (naked CGI snogging, anyone?) and cut other details that make the scene what it is (like Great-Aunt Muriel demanding people get out of their seat because she’s 107 or Voldemort showing up in Godric’s Hollow).  I often felt that he was just trying too hard to make the movie his own; yes, little touches and adaptations are good, but sometimes it seemed like he just went after the book with a faulty editing quill.
After Ron is splinched - I love this image.
That said, I did like the movie.  It had a really powerful beginning immediately followed by a heart-wrenching scene involving Hermione, which Yates added), and to great effect.  As in any great film adaptation, Yates occasionally managed to add that thing that while not in the original text captured the essence of it, like George gleefully interrupting Harry and Ginny’s kiss with a toothbrush sticking out of his head hole.  There were also necessary changes made to accommodate the change of format which maintained the same effect of the book, like Hermione being threatened sexually by the Snatcher who finds them, rather than threatened with an unchanged werewolf’s bite.

Overall, I thought that the movie could do with less special effects and more loyalty to the book.  The first half of Deathly Hallows is supposed to be, well, a little boring.  The trio has no idea what they’re doing and they spend a lot of time just trying to meet basic needs and stay alive, never mind act meaningfully.  To be honest, I could have done with a bit more of that, rather than just watching Ron obsess over every word Harry and Hermione speak to one another and leaving about a day in.  The movie did showing them moving around a lot though, which was good (and very scenic!).

It ended in a perfect (though slightly time-warped) spot, essentially where I imagined it would.  The final scene may be a little unclear for anybody who hasn’t read and/or doesn’t remember the book, but still manages to be powerful and makes you want to see the rest.  As I suspected, Part Two will be mostly the Battle of Hogwarts, which is good since so much happens there.  Here’s hoping it’s given its due.

So yes, I enjoyed it and will be going back to see it next month with my mother and sister, and will be buying it and forcing the husband to rewatch it with me about a hundred times.  It’s not quite as excellent as the third or sixth movies, but it’s entertaining and by no means bad.  The only question is will I be screening it at another release party next summer?  I do have the costume already…

*Before everybody and her mother asks, here’s my recipe for Butterbeer:
1 oz butterscotch schnapps
1 oz vodka
fill the glass with cream soda
optional: a little bit of cream (I used Silk creamer)
It’s very sweet but very delicious.  If it’s too sweet you can substitute some of the cream soda with seltzer but that will make it less rich, though still yummy.  For the underaged, use butterscotch syrup instead of the booze.

1 comment:

  1. SPOILER WARNING FOR THE MOVIE (DUH)

    One of the things I've always thought was weird in a lot of the more recent movies is how very touchy feely Harry and Hermione get (hugs, hand holds, leaning on shoulders, etc.). In the books, they're both far too much awkward teenagers to really be that physical with each other (extremely dramatic moments aside) not to mention that even most adults I know are rarely that demonstrative towards "just friends" of the opposite sex. Especially because in the books JKR does more to make it clear that they really are just friends, whereas the movies are apparently intent on making it seem like they may just get together (leaving those of us who read the books go, "Eugh, that's just wrong." at some of the scenes in the movies.)

    I know it was necessary, but I'm sad they left out a lot of redeeming moments for some of the previous scummy characters of the series. No awkward thank you and goodbye from Dudley and no understanding of Kreacher's motives and change in his character.

    Also, did they completely leave out the explanation of the bit of glass Harry keeps carrying around? 'Cause that's so important!!!

    I did like the scene of Hermione obliviating her parents (which made me tear up) and how instead of being grumpy in her cage Hedwig now tries to protect Harry as her final act (that still makes me want to cry - oh Hedwig!!).

    Okay, I'm ending this now before I write an entry longer than your actual blog. :-)

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