Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves
Harry Potter has been a major part of my childhood and young adulthood. Because of this, the following review is bound to be biased. I knew I was going to love this film before I even bought my ticket to the midnight showing. I knew I was going to love it before I picked up a black suit at the thrift store. I knew it before I dyed my hair blond (“Beach Bum” to be specific). I had too, else I would never have dyed my hair, or bought a black suit, or gone to the midnight showing. Seeing the film the earliest possible time to see it, and doing so all the while dressed as Draco Malfoy, was worth it, it was always going to be worth it.
So onto the movie, the penultimate film in the series, the first part of the two part on the Deathly Hallows. As mentioned before, I did indeed love this film; where it stands among the others I will cover later, but now I will address what David Yates and crew did right and what they did wrong. First, I would like to start by addressing the cinematography. In the last film, the Half-Blood Prince, I felt cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s work may have been deserving of the Academy Award it was that spectacular. This time we have Eduardo Serra and, combined with what has come before him and the eye of director David Yates as well, he manages to capture a beautiful film. As has become somewhat of a trademark of David Yates, you have those magnificent landscape shots as well as some very interesting composition and lighting. The look of the film helps create the mood and emotion of the film.
In addition to the cinematography, the music score by Alexandre Desplat also works so well within what Yates is going for in the film. The mood and pacing of the film is what sets this one apart from the others in the series and makes it its own achievement. Yates, with his wonderful crew, including editor Mark Day, slows the pace down in this film and makes it more of a chronicle of things to come and what has been. Because of this it is not a stand alone film, but it doesn’t need to be. The Harry Potter series is just that, a series. Because of this, none of these films, except the very first film, could truly stand on their own without the others. And because this is just Part I, it definitely can’t stand alone, it is only half of a larger film. But back to the pacing, the film takes its time with the story and instead spends some much needed time with these characters. This film is a break from the standard formula in that we do not spend time at Hogwarts. There is a lot of time spent with the kids wandering through the forest, trying to survive and find horcruxes. While this may seem boring, it is interspersed with great action set pieces. And the time spent with the characters in between is well spent.
Because this has been a long series, the actors have also had plenty of time to become the characters we love. The three leads (Radcliffe, Watson and Grint) have come so far from that first film and here they just continue to improve, especially Watson, who actually hits her emotional scenes this time. And as always, they are surrounded by possibly the greatest cast of all time. The new additions (Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans) add very little from their small roles, but what I want to comment on is the three Ministry officials that Harry, Ron and Hermione become to infiltrate the Ministry. These three unknown actors are great physical comedians. In the film they are Harry, Ron and Hermione, but they are not played by the same actors; these older actors are great in the scene in the ministry.
And speaking of the ministry, that sequence is great and contains possibly the greatest set design of the entire series to this point. I wanted to spend more time in there. But when it come to the best scene in the film, I would have to settle on the animated tale of the Three Brothers. The sequence, overseen by Ben Hidon, is breathtakingly beautiful. It is some of the best animation possible for such a tale. Truly great. Another great scene is the dance scene between Harry and Hermione. It comes as a surprise and a much needed relief from the gravity of the situation they find themselves in. It is things like this that help create the sense of helplessness, and of struggle, throughout the film that makes the stakes so high and set it up so well for the finale coming out in July.
The adaptation of the novel is quite good and quite accurate here as well. I will say this, I did notice that there is a decent amount that is assumed from the novels, previous knowledge that makes the experience that much better. I cannot comment on whether some of what is going on is confusing or unexplained for those that have not read the books, but I can see where that may be the case. This is certainly a movie for the fans, but at this point, 7 films in, I think the crowd that cares is the crowd seeing these films for the most part. Very little was actually altered from the book, and only some small, somewhat insignificant things, were omitted from the book to the movie. I wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that J.K. Rowling was actually one of the film producers this time, the first time in the series.
I felt as though this film mirrors the book really well, and by that I mean it does it justice and it falls just about where the book did within the series. It is hard to pick favorites because the whole series is awesome, but I would say this one falls just behind Half-Blood Prince and Prisoner of Azkaban. When all is said and done however, I will come to view this whole series as one long tale that has captured my imagination for a decade. And by the way, Part II is going to be so epic, I can hardly fathom its awesomeness. 12:00am, July 15, 2011 cannot get here soon enough.