Monday, November 29, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1

It's been a while since I reviewed anything because I haven't seen anything. I haven't seen anything because no one is paying for me to watch movies. Just as well though because until the Christmas season, there wasn't much of anything I really wanted to see. Now Harry Potter is out. If you're a Potter fan, you've already seen it. If you're on the fence, let me first tell you this: watch the others before this one. If you don't, you may find yourself lost. But it'll be the most fun being lost you've had in a while.

On to the meat of things. This is far and away the best adaptation of the books so far. In previous installments, someone who has read the book was always disappointed that one thing or another was cut out. Well, almost nothing was cut out of this one. That being said, the movie now has most of the flaws of the book. There aren't many; some are nit-picky, but they exist.

Also, this movie also has the best visuals of the series so far. The CG is seamless. It just looks fantastic.

I'm going to switch gears here. Picture yourself the fan of some band. You've been a fan of this band for just about your entire life. The first album is very exciting. There's a lot of fanfare, it's totally enjoyable, accessible yet deep, etc. The band releases five more albums, all different and one building complexity subtly onto the previous, yet they maintain a formula that maintains that accessibility and is comfortable. But by the time their six album comes out, you wouldn't mind really if they tossed the formula. So, for the seventh album, they do. They toss the formula. The band has announced this will be their last go of it, and for their finale everything is different. It's exciting and dynamic and complex and tops everything off, but you can't help but feel just a tad ... what is this feeling? Betrayed? Do you feel that A) they could have given me this a while ago instead of sticking with the formula for so long, or B) they have come to be defined by the formula and that charming accessibility is gone and only the depth remains?

See, Harry Potter's like that. The formula is steadfast, but the books have matured with the readers. For the seventh, the formula of "New Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is here, there's trouble at Hogwarts, who's to blame: Snape or Voldemort (probably Voldemort), Dumbledore's known all along but let Harry figure it out -- even though it was really Hermione that figured it out and Harry just rushed into it, they manage to escape unscathed but Voldemort is still out there and already plotting his next scheme." That's basically it. Book 7 does away with that entirely. I think it's good. In general, I'm against formulas. But some could make the argument that it's not a real Harry Potter movie because it doesn't follow the formula. Like, Majora's Mask isn't a real Zelda game because it doesn't follow the formula. I disagree. I believe it's the characters that make the thing, and by taking these characters out of the formula, we get a better sense of who they really are and what they're really like.

Although, you could argue that Hogwarts is as important a character in the franchise as Harry is, and the movie's lack of any Hogwarts at all is disappointing. Arguably damaging.

The effects are good. The story is good. The characters are round, complex, and dynamic. All of them, except really for Voldemort. He's fairly one-dimensional. And Bellatrix. She's fairly flat too. But since they're bad guys, it's totally okay. The Malfoys are very complex here, and the three heroes are probably the most complex they've ever been. Which brings me to my first sticking point.

Sticking point: These three interact like teenagers. Well, they are. But they are teenagers who have faced the greatest evil in the world six times, nearly died annually for seven years now, have fought and suffered together for as long as they've known each other. Why do they bicker so much? Where is the camaraderie? It's there, but there's too much other stuff. It's totally nit-picky, but really. Their hormones must be off the charts.

Sticking point and SPOILER: Mad-Eye dies off-screen. Okay. One of the coolest characters in the Harry Potter verse doesn't even get an honorable death. He goes out like a punk. He's the most knowledgeable of the Dark Arts and the most seasoned auror, and we don't get to see his last stand. It's fitting, because now Harry's world is much darker and much less safe, but as a fan I want to see Mad-Eye go down fighting.

You know, that's really it. It's a good movie. It's certainly a good adaptation. Heh, in fact, it's such a good adaptation that they include scenes and characters from the book that have been there and properly set up in previous books, but the films cut them out for economy's sake. Who can blame them? Still, the film tries to catch the viewer up on all the things he or she needed to know for some of these things to make sense. Like Bill Weasley's and Fleur's wedding. Kind of out of left field and all of a sudden. But it's in the book, so it's there. It's actually a very important scene, but we haven't seen Fleur since Goblet of Fire and we've never met Bill.

Anyway. Like I said, if you're a fan, you've seen it already. If not, what's the matter with you? If you haven't seen the other movies but you want to watch this one, why not? You might get lost fairly quick, but it might not suck.