Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I certainly didn't envy the managers of the Harry Potter movie franchise their task in bringing this movie to the screen. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS received decidedly mixed reviews when it was published, and one of the main objections to the massive tome was the inordinate amount of time spent in the early portion of the book on what fittingly became known as "The Camping Trip From Hell" -- viz. Harry, Ron, and Hermione's long sojourn in the English countryside as they (1) try to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes containing the pieces of Lord Voldemort's soul and (2) feast on a heaping plate of blood-raw teen angst, complete with jealous misunderstandings. The decision to split the movie version of DEATHLY HALLOWS into two parts (with the other slated to be released next Summer) thus guaranteed that Part One would be a long, hard, depressing slog, made all the more difficult to endure by the fact that the familiar supporting characters only make brief appearances. Director David Yates certainly gets the gloomy tone of the "Camping Trip" right, but not even Frank Capra at his corniest would have been able to inject much color into this mix. The concluding scene -- one of the few actual action scenes in the movie -- works well; there's a touching moment at the start in which a grieving Hermione wipes her parents' memories of her clean in order to protect them from Voldemort and the Death Eaters; and the brief dance sequence between Harry and Hermione (in the absence of the fuming, jealous Ron) is a warm reminder of the strong friendship that exists between them. Other than these, however, truly memorable highlights are conspicuous by their absence, and there's a definite sense 0f time-marking while we wait for the upcoming Battle of Hogwarts to commence.

While the movie-makers have to take the blame for the consequences of the decision to make Deathly Hallows: The Movie a "two-fer," the other major problem that becomes clear during the film is a direct result of what I consider to be J.K. Rowling's primary mistake while constructing the Potter series. I have always felt that Voldemort regained his full powers too quickly; the inevitable result was that, the longer he was allowed to hold a piece of the stage, the more he would come to resemble "super-villains" that we all know and loathe -- and, in some cases, are distressingly easy to parody. Deathly Hallows 1's opening "board meeting" with Voldemort and the main Death Eaters comes across like nothing so much as one of Blofeld's SPECTRE meetings in an early James Bond film, or, taking things to another level (or depth), a "conference table" scene with Dr. Evil. Even if Voldemort did not actually say, "This organization does not tolerate failure" or "Throw me a frickin' bone here!", I'm sure that some people were letting their minds wander along those lines. Voldemort's grotesque physical appearance also works against him the longer he is permitted to be visible; all sorts of jokes about "Ol' Turtle Face" immediately come to mind. J.R.R. Tolkien's decision to let the Dark Lord Sauron work entirely through intermediaries looks better all the time. My own preference would have been to have had Voldemort's "full recovery" coincide with Dumbledore's death in some way. Of course, that might have required DEATHLY HALLOWS to be even thicker, but we might have gained something back through the excision of some of the camping-trip padding in the seventh volume... which, among other things, would have given this well-intentioned but glum visual entry the added energy it so desperately needed.

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