'Deathly Hallows' Needs some life

By: Danny Sedlezak
Harry Potter. Those two words will forever be branded into the minds of our generation. Whether a fan or a nay-sayer, you’ve heard the name. It propelled J.K. Rowling to become the richest person in Britain, even richer than the queen herself! It’s a cultural landmark. It’s our Star Wars and Lord of the Rings wrapped together. It spawned a hoard of imitators (with the Twilight series being the most visible) and in many ways, re-opened the joy of reading to a generation raised on television and the internet.
            So of course, we’re obligated to see the last true remnants of this series on the silver screen. Even though the final written installment of the same name appeared over three years ago, people are still interested. That right there is a testament to its power – captivating us, a generation that is impatient if Facebook takes more than 10 seconds to load. The film companies know this and split the final book into two movies. Some say it’s to avoid making an extremely long film that still leaves out much of the plot a la Return of the King. Others say it’s to maximize profits. Either way, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is similar to the book in that it sits in the middle of the series in quality. No, it’s not as good as The Sorcerer’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets, nor is it as bad as Order of the Phoenix.
            It’s hard to grasp why they decided to split this movie into two parts. Sure, it’s the longest novel, sprawling a whooping 759 pages in the first edition hardcover. Still, the plot, as I remember, consisted of Harry, Hermione, and Ron sitting in a tent in the woods. Would you divide a book where, I’d estimate, a good third of it is simply plodding dialogue in the middle of a forest? I don’t think so. Even though it’s bookmarked with action packed scenes, they are hardly expansive enough to justify two movies. I could easily have seen this being a Return of the King type movie. Yes, it would have been around three hours (maybe longer), but at least it wouldn’t spend so much time plodding around a single plot item. (Most of this film revolves around the gang trying to find item number three of seven, and they don’t even get to number four in this movie.) The movie also never really resolves anything. Even though it’s supposed to set up a suspenseful sequel, I was more curious than anticipating about the next film.
            Another element that seemed to be missing was humor. Yes, I’m aware that this is supposed to be a bleak and dark movie. I get that. However, even the previous movie, Half Blood Prince, which had a much darker event than what occurs here, interjected enough humor to lighten the mood throughout most of the movie. Sure, there are one or two chuckles in this one, but not nearly enough to uplift a slow moving, bleak movie. It’s like eating baked potatoes without salt and pepper; while it may seem good, you know in the back of your mind it just needs a little extra kick in order for it to be elevated to a higher plane.
            There are still numerous positive aspects to HP7p1. The film is beautifully shot, especially during the wide angle, zoomed out shots. Whether it was on location or computer generated, there was not one shot where I was not impressed with how good it looked (and I didn’t even see the film in IMAX). One of my main problems with the past couple of HP movies, specifically Order of the Phoenix, was how terrible the lighting was. It was so dark, it sometimes made some of the better set pieces blend into the blackness. It felt like it was trying to be a Rob Zombie film, not a Harry Potter film. Fortunately, this film fixes that problem. While the lighting is still dark and grim when need be, it isn’t always dark and grim and is a much more enjoyable experience.
            The special effects are also gorgeous, though have they ever not been? They’re nothing to get in a ruckus about (like Avatar), but they’re still incredible. Especially in the opening scene, the effects shine. The acting, while not Oscar worthy, continues to uphold the series standard for good acting. Helena Bonham Carter, however, steals the show as Bellatrix Lestrange even though she only appears in a handful of scenes. No character is overly-clichéd. Still, this is Harry Potter. There are some clichéd moments, but they don’t take away from the overall experience, with the exception of a scene where two characters, out of the blue, decided to dance to 30’s music. I nearly died laughing, even though it was supposed to be a touching, rather than humorous moment. It reminded me of the dance montage in Spider-Man 3; it nearly killed the atmosphere of the rest of the film.
            All in all, I enjoyed HP7p1. Most of the elements were good (acting, special effects), some where excellent (the cinematography), but the film somehow felt average. If this film were in no way affiliated with Harry Potter, I think I wouldn’t be quite so quick to judge. Yet, that’s the curse of hype, especially this high. Either it’s a masterpiece, or it comes off average. Most of my gripes come with the plot. This was never, and never will be, my favorite book of the series. It feels muddled and overly slow for the most part, and it doesn’t help that the movie ends with very little resolution. Some questionable scenes didn’t help things. But I’m not going to stop you from seeing this. Like I said, Harry Potter is a mammoth of a franchise. You should see it for yourself, even if it is just to lampoon it. I was never the biggest fan of the books, or the movies for that matter, but I would still recommend this film to anyone who has invested any time in the series, no matter how little.
3/5