The best thing about the HARRY POTTER series of films?
The fact that I (and others apparently) feel that each successive film gets better and better. That’s funny because USUALLY in a film series, the sequel (s) drop in quality (there are a few exceptions of course) leaving fans feeling a bit disappointed. Warner Brothers HARRY POTTER does the exact opposite, with each successive film garnering more critical praise and making heavy bank at the box office.
HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I is no slouch in that department, and once again I have to echo others. This is hands down, the BEST HARRY POTTER film. EVER. No seriously, I can even say that knowing that I’ve yet to see the final part (I’ve read the book though so I know the outcome), because if the second part continues on like the first part did we are all in for a VERY big treat come next summer.
The first thing to notice here is how comfortable director David Yates is in this world with the two previous films under his belt. It really does feel as if the man who was handed the reins for the last 3 book-film conversions was the very perfect choice. He has a style and a grace in his direction that feels as perfectly adult as it needs to be without losing the fact that this is the last chapter in a young adult series. That said, you can also credit Steve Kloves screenplay for the flow here as well. Kloves characters act as real teens would in this situation, but it never feels overwrought or corny (like another YA series that shall remain nameless). That was nice to see. The dialogue is spot on and presents a tension that would ever be present in a world that had gone this far into domination by evil. These are dark times indeed and from minute one you get that. The film opens with the muggles running for the hills or scared of what is happening....and the three main characters go through their scenes and no one says a word for the first like 5 minutes. It’s ominous and telling and affected me as such. Then Hermione says one word (a spell) “Obliviate” and in that one world she sets the opening like no one else could. I was dazzled by that. Then from that we go right into the scene that takes place with the assembled Death Eaters at the Malfoy mansion, and we see the real cruelty of Voldemort and his minions for the first time, and it is unflinchingly brutal. After the opening with the protagonists and then this scene with Voldemort I knew I was in for a real treat. Yates was not going to pull punches. He was going to tell this story as it needed to be told and I for one am impressed on a level that I can’t even properly explain.
The performances here are aces across the board. There is a host of old characters that have come back, like John Hurt’s Wand-seller Ollivander, Brendan Gleeson’s Mad-Eye Moody, Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge and Timothy Spall’s Wormtail, and all hand in great performances. The standouts though are David Thewlis’s Remus Lupin who at this point in the story is about as paranoid and stretched to the very edges as he is one of the only ones who has lived through this terror once before and Thewlis is amazing, and then there is the return of Jason Issac’s Lucius Malfoy and my god he’s good. At this point in the story Malfoy has been through the ringer for his dark lord and it doesn’t get better as Voldemort feels he has failed him to many times. It shows throughout as well, Malfoy is haggard, unshaven with dark circles ringing his eyes and there is a fear below the surface of his skin that is so evident that I begin to feel for his character. Imagine you served a dark lord, and he was upset with you but hadn’t done away with you...what would that do to scar your psyche, let alone those around you. Issac’s is one of the best performances of the lot for me. A new character, Luna Lovegood’s father Xenophilius Lovegood is played with incredible deftness by Welsh actor Rhys Ifans and for his scenes at his house he is pitch perfect and exactly what he is supposed to be with every drop of dialogue delivered. The same I can say for Bill Nighy’s portrayal of lion-maned new Minister For Magic Rufus Scrimgeour as he oozes the blind defensiveness of the character that Fudge was missing previously.
The story in HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is one of despair. We are literally driving the good guys to the edge of their sanity. The Dark Lord is gaining in power and dominion, his 3 Horcruxes which prevent him being killed entirely are still unfound, the one they do have (Slytherin’s Locket) is having a foul effect on anyone who keeps it close causing problems for Harry, Hermione and Ron, and it can’t be destroyed by conventional means. On top of that we have taken away all the help Harry used to have (Dumbledore, Sirius) and even those he COULD have are in serious danger of being killed or maimed and so he doesn’t want them around. Basically, Harry has to snap. He has to reach a point where his survival is no longer paramount. He has to reach a point where he metaphorically throws down his gauntlets in front of Voldemort and screams “No! Enough is enough. Countless innocents have died. You and I, we’re doing this and I don’t care if I come out of this alive, but I promise you....you’ll be dead.” And What is wonderful here is that you can see that on the horizon, and it’s worth the applause in spades.
My final note on this fantastic film is that there is an animated sequence within it where Hermione tells the story of the Three Brothers from the fairytale book The Tales Of Beedle The Bard. That animation sequence is bloody unbelievably GORGEOUS. It has an aspect to it like 2-D tune shaded stuff that we saw in the opening of Hellboy 2 and I loved it. The other thing about it is that it wholeheartedly works at the point it appears in the story and I can think of no better way to have told the story of the Three Brothers.
This film is everything you heard it was. It is the overture to the final hurrah of Warner Brother’s juggernaut that is the HP series and I for one cannot wait for the final bit which will bow next summer. You will be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t get out and see this film over the holiday period. Probably the best thing I’ve seen all year aside from INCEPTION.