DONT WORRY GUYS; NO SPOILERS HERE.
OK. Here goes.
Apart from the first two Chris Columbus masterpieces, the last most memorable direction that ever came across the Harry Potter film merchandise was when Alfonso Quaron magically appeared briefly to introduce not-so-known concepts to develop Rowling’s plot further. Unfortunately, those that came after it were mediocre, if not trash. After Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), everything else trotted downhill.
But not until now.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) surpasses all the other installments, starting from Newell’s mediocre Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2007) to Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009). In HP7, Yates creates an entirely new attack on Potterism on film. Here, the dark plot moves across the screen in an understandably acceptable pace even for a someone who has chosen not to read the series. It bravely took the risk of centralizing on the needed devices for planting, without sacrificing its original fantastical themes.
Now that the Ministry of Magic has finally accepted the reality that the Dark Lord (Ralph Fiennes) has returned, the Order of the Phoenix goes into hiding and plots against the Ministry. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have solely taken on the role of pursuing Dumbledore’s final plan to defeat Voldemort – the destruction of the Horcruxes. But with the increasing influence of the Death Eaters in the Ministry and the lack of appropriate guidance from Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the trio found themselves in the wilderness, unsure of how to defeat the greatest enemy of their time.
With needed additions of important characters, we see Fleur (Clémence Poésy) engaged to a newly introduced Bill Weasley (Domhnall Gleeson). Surely, their wedding is an important device that will keep the plot rolling. Along comes Mundungus Fletcher (Andy Linden). The scheming crook of a thief that will lead Harry and his friends in finding an important Horcrux. Bill Nighy as the new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeor, gives an outstanding limited performance in the first few minutes of the film. And finally, Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifan), Luna’s equally loony father, who will define the Deathly Hallows and explain its importance. All these newly added aspects has provided a clearer perspective as both book and movie fans await the final chapter.
On the other hand, as resulted by early mediocrity,there are still some loopholes. Harry’s background knowledge throughout the series will be his stronghold in facing Voldemort. Unfortunately, there are still a number of things that the film-Harry doesn’t know. Like the fact that Harry doesn’t know that he now owns Grimmauld’s Place and is Kreacher’s (Simon McBurney) new master. Also the “film-Harry” doesn’t know the role of the Ministry in the hunt for Voldemort or that they want Harry to be a ‘mascot’ for the Ministry. By cutting other important political points, the film eliminates Harry’s well-founded distrust of official power and authority, which are important to several of his upcoming choices. It also cheats a significant and growing theme in the books – that power corrupts not just malevolent outsiders such as Voldemort, but weak, venal, and paranoid-minded “insiders” as well, even those like Scrimgeour, who insist that protecting society mandates all manner of curtailment of civil liberties. Also, in the film, Harry still doesn’t know how and where Voldemort obtained objects of significance to make into Horcruxes, or anything about Tom Riddle’s ability to charm others into giving him what he wanted. This will handicap Harry’s sleuthing ability when encountering the Grey Lady, whom film-Harry also never heard of. That may be less of an issue, since Book Harry didn’t pay any attention to the Ravenclaw ghost either. However, it would be nice if viewers at least understood that each Hogwarts House has a ghost. Have we ever even seen the Bloody Baron?
Having said that, I am expecting more from HP7 Part 2.
Despite what critics say about Radcliffe’s performances in the previous films, his Harry for HP7 has finally proven his right as an actor. Probably, his theatrical trainings (The Play What I Wrote; 2002 and Equus; 2008) have finally paid off, and his character analyses for the growing Harry has grown with him through the years. Here, he finally convinces his audience that Harry is not just a hero, but a person (as initially drawn in the books), scared, lonely and desperate. Through silent innuendos, he has depicted a much complex character, which prepares us for his final battle in Part 2. Grint’s Ron Weasley has also grown with Harry. This time, his new antics and rages are more appropriate for the film’s dark theme and romantic twists. In this penultimate installment, Radcliffe and Grint have grown considerably with their roles, a much needed production requirement, but also something to remember the film for. On the other hand, Watson’s Hermione hasn’t changed that much. She’s still the same old central feminine who rejected to grow up after GoF. Personally, it doesn’t matter. Watson developed earlier than the two male leads, and its but appropriate that she maintains her level of maturity to complement her co-leads.
Steve Kloves, who have produced the screenplay since the Philosopher’s Stone (but took a break when Michael Goldenberg wrote for GoF), must have finally come to his senses, and managed to fill the possible loopholes that might spoil the big Finale. With due credit, Kloves intelligibly sews Rowling’s intricate plot and presented a new look at the Harry Potter film series. Had the producers and directors of the previous installments considered Rowling’s depth and translated them accordingly for the screen as early as the Prisoner of Azkaban, a one-shot HP7 would have been enough. Nonetheless, I am quite happy with the realization that they give what is due to the audience – an almost-complete retelling of Harry’s final adventure.
HP7 is not a joyride, but an intense discourse on a delicate plot. In preparation for a paramount climax, Yates orchestrated a new concept for the HP followers and presented a relatively new attack from something that most of us are already so familiar with. HP7 doesn’t have Potions or Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, Quidditch matches or Yule Balls; those that celebrate youth and magic. The only treats we get are speedy wedding receptions and a lonely dance sequence, and that’s it.
Nonetheless, it will still make a fan smile, laugh, and cry. I should know. I did.
Eduardo Serra’s (Wings of the Dove; 1997, Girl with a Pearl Earring; 2003) cinematography maximized the use of handheld cameras to depict reality, tension and horror all at the same time. Stuart Craig’s cinematic designs have been as consistent as the first installments, but flexibly varies according to character development, mood and action. Who would have thought of a barren landscape to depict Hermione’s grief? Finally, his gothic-Indian-inspired attack on the Tale of Three Brothers is something to watch out for.
Above all, what made HP7 a notch higher than the rest of Yates’ contribution is, the fact that he has finally accepted that in the big realm of things in the Harry Potter universe, there are essential devices that one cannot get away with. However, in the vast Warner Bros. world, producers are bound to decisions readers and fans may not like or understand. And in the seamless interconnectedness of sub-plots and initial plants, a director must finally decide to accept the burden and cruelty of attempting a more detailed work, or else not create anything at all.
Newell gave a shot, and succeeded.
Special thanks to Claire for the free premiere pass!