Favorite New Films: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. I

posted by The Joe

I plowed through the Harry Potter film series again in the weeks before the release of Deathly Hallows Pt. I, and for the life of me, I can’t think of another film series with such a lengthy foundation in its world and characters. Sure, the oxygen destroyer tie-in for Godzilla vs. Destroyah or the nod to James Bond’s deceased wife in For Your Eyes Only are well and good, but neither series (nor any overlong horror series) has ever taken the time to build such an emotional core. Since 2001, Harry Potter has been able to show these teenagers grow in almost-real time, and it goes a long way in making this series feel special. I don’t think we’ll get much of a chance to see this again, at least outside of the Up series.

To be honest, I was never a big fan of J.K. Rowling’s work – I stopped reading at the fourth book, partly because I was a backlash jerk and partly because of still-legitimate bothers of her lack of editing and abundance of treading water. But I saw Half-Blood Prince because it was free, and David Yates’ handling of the property blew me away. There are problems with pacing, to be sure, but its something all of the film adaptations have felt the blow of – the literary fans are rabid, so Rowling’s convoluted plots must kind of be retained, so everything feels rushed and exposition-y. What Yates did is realize that the series’ greatest asset has always been the chemistry between actors and pushed that to the forefront, overwritten plot be damned.

Where this film stands above all the others is in the pacing, which due to the two-part split, can finally take its time and feel coherent. To provide the necessary ‘calm before the storm’, it’s filled to the brim with quiet, melancholy moments (Order of the Phoenix and its remarkably dark tone has been my favorite to this point, but it’s just about trumped by Deathly Hallows‘ harrowing Nazi state). And when the proceedings do turn down the road of exposition – which, let’s face it, is pretty much all of the dialogue – it surprises by actually maintaining interest with, for instance, a spectacular animated sequence.

The meeting of the Death Eaters, the dance set to Nick Cave, the aforementioned animation, the emotionally crushing close-ups on Alan Richman & Bill Nighy . . . Deathly Hallows fluidly combines emotion and epic in ways we rarely get to witness. July 15 can’t come soon enough.


Friday, November 19th, 2010 at 4:29 am