I’ll go ahead and clear the air here; I’m not the biggest Harry Potter fan in the world. Not to say I don’t like the films or the books though. I saw the first two films whenever they came out in theaters, and I remember seeing and really enjoying the fourth film. Until now I’ve not seen either the 5th or the 6th films, and I’m not a big reader, so none of the books ever really caught my eye. I can also say that I’m not the biggest fan of the latest installment in the Harry Potter series. The newest film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the David Yates-directed penultimate volume in the Harry Potter film series. The final result isn’t a bad film; in fact it definitely has and will please millions of fans. I, on the other hand, have never been a fan of films in which nothing happens and it seems like things are just being dragged out as long as possible. Much like the past 6 films, the talented cast reprises their roles. Daniel Radcliffe, who has come to define the role of Harry Potter, does a perfectly fine job, and Rupert Grint will hopefully get more film roles outside of Harry Potter thanks to an exceptional performance here. Emma Watson is easy on the eyes, and has her moments from time to time. Ralph Fiennes, playing he who must not be named, is suitable although he’s not really in the film all that much. Also, although I’ve not been the biggest fan of her in the past, Helena Bonham Carter does a fantastic job as one of Voldemort’s evil henchwomen. She cackles and sneers as one of the film’s few shining moments. Although some of the performances are exceptionally great, other times the movie takes itself a little too serious. I get that that’s the general tone of the series and the books, but it’d be nice to see Yates take more light-hearted liberties like one particular disguise scene early on more throughout the film. At times the seriousness of the set pieces and characters came off a little bit as laughable. By far the biggest drawback of the film is the fact that there’s little to nothing happening through a majority of the movie. Now understand, this isn’t some angry fan boy whining because I didn’t understand the movie or what was going on, I followed the movie 90% having not seen the previous two films or read any of the books. It’s safe to say that 90% of the film is exposition, and 70% of that 90% exposition is needlessly slow or could have easily been cut from the final product of the film. I respect the ideas that are being presented and the way that they’re advancing the story, but did it have to be in such a dull way? It almost feels like the movie should be called “Harry and Friends Go Camping!” because that’s where we spend a majority of our time; in the woods. While the introduction of this grand story might be grand in concept, in execution throughout the film little to nothing happens. Even when something perked my interest and I was starting to get involved with where the story was going, it was delivered in such a drawn-out manner that I couldn’t help but realize the whole film feels like 7 sentences of story stretched over 3 hours. Not only is that a little bit of story stretched out a lot, it means a lot of that previously mentioned “dull momentum” isn’t much more than filler. Sure that’s great for the fans and all to have two different movies to “enjoy”, but it’s even better for Warner Bros. considering that instead of $1 Billion they’ll get $2 Billion. Overall, although I was interested in the chunks of fine storytelling found here and there, there’s an unbelievable amount of material here, filler and plot elements alike, that should have been cut to benefit the overall movie. Maybe the concept of one film instead of one camping trip movie and one action-fest summer film isn’t such a crazy idea. Although that seems like a lot of nitpicking, I’m not quite done yet. Although it’s nowhere near the structural mess Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender”, there are a few elements here in Deathly Hallows structure that rubbed me the wrong way. While I do understand that’s sort of the point of a Part 1, there’s really not a huge sense of escalation until the final 5 minutes when the cliffhanger comes in. The first 30 minutes move quickly and tackle a lot of material fast, and the next 2 hours sort of go with a whimper. It almost works in a backward sense compared to a regular film, in that it goes from a climax to a consistently slow slew of “discovery scenes”, where things get slower and slower until the movie peters out with a final, quick action piece. Although I do appreciate certain elements being presented here, and it definitely gives that Empire Strikes Back feel by the end of the film, one of my best friends put it best by saying the entire film is a first act, and it never really starts. It knew what it wanted to be (besides a cash-grab), but it just doesn’t know how to get there. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can say that there are parts of Deathly Hallows Part 1 that I did like. Much like I said earlier, it’s not a bad film in the slightest. What few action scenes there are (towards the beginning and right at the end, if you’ve seen any of the television spots you’ve seen every action moment in the film) are well made. There’s some great staging, a lot of fun elements going on at once, and for once I didn’t have as much trouble taking the wizardry action seriously. There’s one forest chase right at the end that, although short, is a lot of fun to watch. Also, some of the actors and a good amount of the set pieces have a great style. The special effects look fantastic, even though some of the basic effects on Voldemort’s nose and the later appearance of Dobbie didn’t look quite right. All of the costumes look spectacular, sets like the Ministry of Magic and Voldemort’s “Evil Lair” look phenomenal, and a few of the actors there much like Carter clearly were made for their role. To close things up here, I feel like I can put my feelings best when I say that Harry Potter 7-1 isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just really uninspired. I don’t think you can really argue that Warner Bros. and the rest of the crew aren’t trying to make more money by splitting this final chapter in half. In case the past weekend’s box office gross wasn’t evidence enough, the film’s beyond dull pacing and excess of both plot and needless exposition should convince you. There are things that I liked about the film, and I have all the respect in the world for people that stayed awake through the whole thing when they saw it at midnight last week. However, Harry Potter 7-1 plays it far too safe, trusting in their fans’ eagerness to see this final chapter a bit too much, and the end result is a film that drags its feet too much in anticipation of the sure-fire box office breaker that’s coming in June 2011.
3 out of 5