As the years go by, I find that I am less and less interested in the latest additions to the fantasy genre. Even the “best of the best” isn’t really appealing to me, as evidenced by my recent tete-a-tete with Bryan regarding his inclusion of not one but all three Lord of the Rings films in his top twenty of the decade (and as one film, no less, which is just doubly preposterous). In fact, I’d choose to watch Best of the Best (and Best of the Best 2) before I’d watch most recent fantasy films. Even the Harry Potter series failed to keep my interest, prompting me to skip seeing last years Half-Blood Prince in theaters. I did eventually see it, and I wound up rather enjoying it. Still, it was with much trepidation that I ventured to the theater to see the penultimate Potter film.
Of course, the seventh installment of the Potter series has been billed as a much darker departure from previous films, frequently being dubbed “Scary Potter,” which was a small consolation going in. Sadly, all the “scares” hidden up director David Yates‘ sleeve are rote jump-scares. But I digress, this isn’t a horror film.
Part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finds Harry, Hermione, and Ron embarking on a quest to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes so they can defeat the evil, olfactorily-impaired Lord Voldemort, whose increasing power has enabled him to take over the Ministry of Magic. Voldemort’s steely grip on the world of witchcraft and wizardry tightens, making it increasingly difficult for the three friends to operate under the new world order of his fascist puppet-state. Harry is declared “undesirable #1.” The Death Eaters are running the show. Snatchers are hunting down Muggle-borns and “blood-traitors.”
Basically, if this were a Michael Bay film, this would be the point when the protagonists do a reverse-reveal, rising into frame as the camera rotates around them and one of them declares, “Shit just got real.” It all sounds pretty exciting, vaguely reminiscent of another fantasy film involving a group on a quest to destroy a sacred artifact in an attempt to thwart the rise of a dark overlord who threatens all the land (What was that called again?), but exciting nonetheless.
Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly, considering my feelings on the aforementioned quest-related fantasy film), I found Deathly Hallows: Part One quite boring, for the most part, and very uneven. It starts off nicely enough, setting the somber tone with Hermione and Harry cutting their ties to the world of Muggles, while Voldemort and his Death Eaters plot to kill Harry, which segues into a thrilling chase, dovetailing into Voldemort’s fairly quick rise to power. All of which makes the film very top-heavy, there’s a rushed, hurry-up-and-wait feeling.
Everything happens so quickly, then plateaus and for about 80 of its 146 minutes the film plays like a ridiculously long J. Crew or Levis (Go Forth) ad, with lots of beautifully bleak, expansive vistas, sexual tension, young people brooding as they stare off into the distance, and lots of walking. Nice to look at, for a while, but not terribly entertaining. Throw in some awkward melodrama, a slap-dash ending, and you’ve got a mediocre reworking of Lord of the Rings meets Empire Strikes Back. One saving grace, as usual, is the wonderful cast. Also, the animated telling of “The Tale of the Three Brothers” was a nice change of pace.
Perhaps I’m out of the loop since I haven’t read all of the books, but the ending seemed to sneak up on me, and not in an “Ah!” sort of way, but more of an “oh?” or an “eh…” It was as if the filmmakers fell asleep, woke up with a start, realizing, “Oh shit, we’ve got slap some semblance of an ending on this thing…. yada, yada, yada… throw all of this together… does this matter… idunno… throw it in there anyway… abracadabra… the end… er… to be continued… shit…” And this leaves you feeling very “meh.” That’s about it: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One… meh.