[Originally Posted Nov. 22 2010] If you spent this weekend doing anything besides seeing the Deathly Hallows, I sincerely hope something large with sharp fangs was holding you back. The über-anticipated first half of the Harry Potter finale came out on Friday, and Dr Fiance and I saw it with a (bizarrely not packed) theater of HP-lovers, and on the whole I think we both enjoyed it quite a bit. Below, my (spoiler-packed) thoughts on the film.
The Split I was really eager to see how the filmmakers decided to split the seventh book. It must have been agonized over, and I think the final decision was very well done. However, the first half must have been extraordinarily difficult to translate to film as — though our heroes destroy the locket horcrux, go to Godirc’s Hollow, and escape from the Malfoys — nothing really happens. The first half of the book is all build-up. The dynamics between Harry, Ron, and Hermione get twisted and brought nearly to (perhaps beyond?) the breaking point. Voldemort gains the upper hand and the magical world devolves into outright danger, but since we’re in Harry’s head we barely see any of it. In short, the first half of the book was much better suited to be a book. This filmmakers had a tremendous challenge, but I think they lived up to it.
(However, David Yates is still on my ‘naughty’ list for the sixth movie, which was undoubtedly the weakest and in which he flagrantly made shit up like having the Burrow explode into flames which, though I know Jo Rowling approved, was still appallingly bizarre. Etc., etc., I could go on for days. Another blog post maybe.)
Setting The film must have been absurdly challenging for any audience members who have not read the books. For so many reasons, this film would be the most difficult to understand or appreciate unless you knew the details that Yates & Co. merely hinted at, or showed in not-explicit ways (the mirror; the ‘Snatchers’; the radio program). One of the most disorienting things about the seventh book and movie was the lack of Hogwarts. The school, and the castle itself, has served as setting (and a character in and of itself) for the entire series. In Deathly Hallows Part I, not only do our heroic trio never set foot on castle grounds, we never hear anything about what is going on there. And without the castle and the structure of a school year, it was difficult to get a sense of the passage of time.
However, that served a distinct purpose in the book and the film. Our characters are lost and disoriented, too. The different scene locations that Yates & Co. used (misty English forests, the underside of a run-down bridge) were not only gorgeously shot, they were also used effectively to mirror the emotions of our hopeless, confused trio.
Character Development Hermione was the emotional story arc of the film, and it was executed ridiculously well by both David Yates and Emma Watson. From the opening scene, where she nearly broke my heart with her emotional restraint, to the reunion with Ron (come on, Emma, you can swing a rucksack harder than that!), Emma Watson was the core of the story progression. She was at her weakest (withdrawn and disconsolate after Ron left), and at her strongest (refusing to betray her friends and their mission even while Bellatrix carved rude words into her arm).
That was the true story of the first half – our characters were tested and brought to rock bottom. But, in the end, they are reinvigorated with the true sense of friendship that has gotten them through every scrape they’ve been in before. (And that sets us up for Part II, in which they have a renewed sense of purpose and do incredible BAMFy things like fly on dragons and OMFG I am so excited.)
Lovey-Dovey Whereas in The Half-Blood Prince I felt that David Yates’ attempts to illustrate the group’s growing romantic tensions were clunky and heavy-handed (Ginny bending over to tie Harry’s shoe? Really?gag), I thought this time around was subtle and touching. The opening shot after the first night in 13 Grimmauld Place, with Hermione and Ron’s hands barely touching, was lifted right from the book, and was all we needed to see to get an accurate sense of their budding romantic feelings. (I totally swooned.)
Minor Characters Shine Some of our favorite non-trio characters (Snape, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Draco Malfoy) had only fleeting scenes in Part I. However, each one of them really maximized their screen time. Most especially, IMO, Snape and Draco. Alan Rickman (an absolute genius, per usual) gave such a subtle performance (doesn’t he always?) and his expression when he saw his Hogwarts co-worker floating above him, begging for help, was completely devastating. And Tom Felton (looking increasingly attractive off-screen, might I add) was brilliant in evoking Draco’s growing internal struggle between begrudging loyalty to/fear for Voldemort and increasing understanding and respect for Harry.
So… Sorry to be overly verbose (as is my wont) but those are my main take-aways from the movie. In fact, after writing this post and thinking even more about it, I enjoyed the film very, very much. What about you? What did you think?