The trailer says this movie is “the event of a generation”. Assuming they are aiming that promise at the kids, they failed. Most teenagers in the packed Stratford Picture House seemed to disagree, finding much more joy in a variety of buzzing and clicking phone applications. I feel the kids were right to be just a little bored and disappointed.
Wonderful moments abound. A chase through the Dartford Tunnel – using every surface possible – is absolutely enchanting. Aerial fights remind you of the best “Battle of Britain” footage. The Ministry of Magic scenes rival “Inception” for ingenuity and visual invention. But these are only moments and they melt into endless emptiness.
Is it just that Hogwarts School is mostly absent? Does the bleak sense of our three young heroes on the run slow the pace? Something basic is lacking here. There is little warmth and wit and those saved the previous movies from being dull. The two hours and 25 minutes of this film seem to stretch into all eternity.
One issue with this book, for me, is that J.K. Rowling was not tightly edited enough. The earliest books were shorter and snappier. So “HP 7” seems to go on and on and on, taking all the fun out of the magic by browbeating each detail to death.
The plot is dark and the movie is too. The other HP movies had quite a lot of light in with the dark and that made for balance. The floating candles of Hogwarts mixed in with the darkness of the Chamber of Secrets and the mix worked. David Yates’ direction does not keep to a consistent rhythm and you watch a wonderful set piece with a London bus and a cafe melt into lengthy emptiness. This film lacks focus and unity.
In this, Harry. Ron and Hermione go on the run to find the horcruxes, which are bad supermagic objects conferring dark power on their owner. Lord Voldemort is played by Ralph Fiennes with greenish makeup, bald and with no nose. He still wants to kill Harry but, despite all that evil power, he’s having some problems doing this.
He is a little more successful in killing others and there are some genuinely sad death scenes here. There’s a who’s who of British acting and technical talent that you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
And the landscapes are simply lovely. The whipped-up fury against muggles feels real in its moment, but is not sustained. The snake scenes are genuinely threatening, but pass too quickly.
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are all just too old to be playing 17 and 18-year-olds. There is something knowing and world-weary in their eyes and shoulders.
My companion is just about the most fun person to see a movie with. He is discerning and has introduced me to many new movies and ways of thinking. During this, he was respectful and silent, scoffing at the warning we had from the staff that “it’s packed full of noisy kids”. We both enjoyed the noise and energy of the film’s fiercest critics – the teenagers watching – and we almost forgave them their critical comment of “it’s gay” as they came out. We just need to educate them to go back to saying “pants”.
Bill Nighy, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman (hey, bro), Carolyn Pickles, Brendan Gleeson, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Isaacs, David Ryall, David Thewlis, Rhys Ifans, John Hurt, Evanna Lynch and Clemence Poesy all do their bit in lifting this film.
But I think the lasting legacy of this will be the Deathly Hallows necklace . It will be a best-selling jewellery item very soon.
I will see the last movie in this series when it comes out, for the sake of completion. But I feel a little saddened that the first part isn’t even the best movie I saw this weekend.
The wonderful folks at www.seefilmfirst.com have asked me to say – I forgot – that “Unstoppable” was their freebie. They ask you to join them. This is my 100th post. Thank you to all of you for reading this, especially those who subscribe and comment. I do this for me, but I am very glad that so many of you enjoy this site. Bless your hearts. Here’s to the next 100.