Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

I am on record as not liking the 6th book in this series, and liking the seventh book even less. In contrast, I was favorably impressed by John Yates’s adaptation of the sixth book to the screen, so I remained cautiously optimistic about the prospects for this film.

Well, this worked out almost half-decently. Escaping from the confines of Rowling’s often ill-turned phrases helps. I couldn’t ask for excellence given how much unmitigated crap there was in the plot of the original work, but Yates once again showed a sense of discrimination, and a lot of the offensively stupid bits were conspicuously absent (the Ron-disguising-a-ghoul bit, the coy teasing with bits of Dumbledore backstory, Fleur’s outrageous accent) or changed up enough to actually fit tonally (the random professor tortured at the beginning of the story, Hermione’s frequent mind-erasures). There’s enough relationship tension between Hermione and Harry to actually make Ron’s frustration seem contextually more appropriate. The individual elements of this story are actually fitted together to work, which is a nice change.

The acting’s also good, but we know these actors by this point in the series and can trust them. Lamentably, the plot is contrived to keep the brilliant British adult actors who shone in the first few films offscreen for most of the running time, but the kids do an acceptable job. The cinematography and the effects are also excellent. The real problems with this film, alas, are the plot-structure bits which are dumb or uncinematic but couldn’t be excised completely, most conspicuously the central structure of sitting around in a tent waiting for a deus ex machina to drop in and put the plot back on rails. There are a couple of magical-mechanical things which were iffy and were lamentably left in: that the deluminator has the second and completely unrelated function as a magical Google Latitude, or that the Sword of Godric Gryffindor can destroy horcruxes because it once had contact with basilisk venom. But the fact that I’m reduced to this sort of niggle in discussing a film based on as flawed a book as this one was is a testament to the filmmaker’s craft.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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