Latauro Says HARRY POTTER 7 -- The Hairiest Potter Yet -- Will (Mostly) Delight The Young Wizard's Fans!!
Published at: Nov. 15, 2010, 9:06 p.m. CST by hercules
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOW PART ONE
I always found it interesting the way producers approached the adaptation of the "Harry Potter" books. They're tough things to get right: you have to satisfy the casual viewer who's never read any of the books, and once those twelve people are happy, please all of millions of others who are going to be upset that their favourite bit wasn't included. (Maybe it's my memory playing tricks on me, but I'm still upset that the first film cut out Tom Bombadil.)
I always thought the series would be better adapted to television, as the stories all take place over the course of a year. The books' main plots feel more like season arcs, with individual chapters and moments having a decidedly episodic feeling. Seven seasons of a TV show would suit the series perfectly, and I don't say this to pitch my own take on it (JK, call me), but to illustrate the difficultly in making these films work: instead of thinking of each film as a book adaptations, think of it as a whole season of television edited down to two-and-a-half hours. But I'll come back to the structure later.
The important thing to know upfront is that the film is thrilling in all the ways you want it to be, and despite the weighty running time, you won't find yourself looking at your watch. A lot of this is down to David Yates, one of the best "moment" directors out there. Individual scenes spark and crackle, and he manages to wring myriad emotions out of single lines or expressions. There is one scene in particular featuring a dance between Harry and Hermione which contains some pretty complex and shifting emotions, and not a line of dialogue is spoken. Nearly every scene is perfectly-crafted, with everything from those smaller moments to the larger, visually-astonishing action sequences getting every single beat right. As with the previous film, each of these scenes is as good as anything from the entire series, probably better.
Whether it works as a whole or not is a different question. I approach these films as a huge fan of the book, so I'm largely satisfied by whatever structure they put up there, but objectively this film is undeniably odd. When it begins, it instantly demands a detailed knowledge of everything that came beforehand. When you're up to Film Seven of a billion dollar franchise, you can afford this sort of hubris, but even I found myself struggling to recall certain aspects. Similarly, although there are many exciting action sequences, the final one does not feel especially climactic. The film doesn't build to its ending; it just sort-of ends. The final shots are quite effective, but it's only when you're watching them that you realise you must be in the final seconds. As a film designed to stand on its own feet, it's pretty unsatisfying, but as the seventh film in a series of eight, it works.
The kids -- do we even call them kids any more? There's facial hair! -- are brilliant as ever, and watching them grow up over these films has been a highlight of the series. The supporting cast is absurdly great, and absurdly massive; you get the impression that instead of just casting individual roles, they just told all of Equity to show up on Monday for a costume fitting.
The film is absolutely stunning, and Eduardo Serra deserves a lot of awards for his work here. Screenwriter Steve Kloves had an unenviable job in making half a book feel like a complete film, but overall the script is excellent, with the weighty drama offset by some genuinely funny moments. The decision to split the films in two felt initially like nothing more than a money-making exercise, but it allows for a great deal more material. That afore-mentioned dancing scene, one of the film's highlights, would not have made the cut had it been one film. Rather than wishing the films had been singular, I found myself wishing that the earlier films had all been split in two as well.
And now prepare yourself for the most redundant (but unavoidable) conclusion in the history of film criticism: This film will not win over any new fans, nor should anyone begin their Potter experience with this one. It will absolutely delight the most hardcore of fans, and mostly delight the casual fan. Despite my issues with it, I ultimately loved the film, and remain all the more excited for part two next July.