Sunday, November 28, 2010

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One" (2010) (Spoilers)

I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1with my mom the other night.  Here's my review...

The Good:

I liked the moment between Harry and Ginny before the wedding, with George interrupting. It was funny and another nail in the coffin of the "It's Not You, It's My Enemies" idiocy from the book. 

For those of you not familiar with TVTropes or the overall storyline, at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry breaks up with Ginny on the grounds that her association with him will put her in danger from Voldemort.  Never mind the fact that she's in danger anyway due to her being a Weasley and the events of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in which Harry prevented the shade of the teen Voldemort from using her soul to build himself a new body.  And Ginny, who in the past showed herself capable of being fierce at need, simply goes along with it.  The movies avoid that entirely, both in the Half-Blood Prince film (which does a better job showing the substance of Harry/Ginny than the book) and in this one.

Lupin's angst and his final debasement when he abandons his pregnant wife is left out.  That awful behavior on his part was one of the reasons Kyli Ann Rasco, one of the moderators at the Harry Potter site FictionAlley, and I decided to write Lord of the Werewolves--in fandom lingo, it was a "fix fic" repairing a part of the canon we didn't like.

Although Lupin has been depicted as being a weak character, especially when he was younger (aiding and abetting the bullying of the nerdy young Snape because he was grateful to James, Sirius, and Peter for being his friends), that was an entirely new level of gutlessness from him, especially since he's older and more mature.  In the film, Tonks nearly announces she is pregnant and some of the people on FictionAlley said they saw Lupin and Tonks talking to Molly Weasley about that during the wedding.  Teddy Remus Lupin's presumed appearance in the second film has been foreshadowed, although it could have been a bit more obvious.

Given how Dobby seems to have been hiding the last couple of movies, the explanation for his return (he saw Kreacher pursuing Mundungus and joined in) was good.

I really enjoyed the shadow-puppet version of "The Tale of the Three Brothers," especially the depiction of Death.  Telling the story in shadow-puppet form was a good way of differentiating it stylistically from the rest of the film and really cool.

Voldemort's close encounter with the power lines was fun to watch. I'm not sure if the power lines crumble because Voldemort is having a fit about the wand situation not working or because the wand-magic blew him backward into the lines, but it was a cool scene overall.

When Harry knocks out Dolores Umbridge, he begins his attack by calling her a liar to her face, quoting her "I must not tell lies" spiel from the fifth book, and then blasting her.  In his place, I would have used something a bit more destructive than Stupefy (for example, Harry used Sectumsempra on Draco only a few days or weeks before and given Umbridge's propensity to force students to cut themselves, slashing her would be really fitting), but it got the job done.  I think that deserves the designation Crowning Moment of Awesome.

I like the aesthetics of the Voldemort-controlled Ministry, especially the Nazi-like uniforms of some of the enforcer-types.  It would have been better if we saw more of the Magic Is Might monument other than just the Muggles being ground down, though.

When Umbridge is trying the Muggleborn woman for allegedly stealing magic from a "real" witch or wizard, just how this theoretically works is actually explained--Umbridge shows her her wand as though it were evidence and demands to know from which witch or wizard she stole it.  I don't know if the exact mechanism behind the alleged "stealing" of magic was ever actually explained in the books.

When Harry is going through Umbridge's office in search of the locket Horcrux, him finding the book "When Muggles Attack" and a list of Umbridge's enemies, the ones who have died being marked with an "x," was a nice touch.

The Bad

They left out Dudley's turnaround, which would have been a good bit of character growth.  In the books, the Dementor attack showed Dudley what he really was and this was an impetus for him to shed his bullying ways and start treating Harry better.  This culimates with him thanking Harry for saving him from the Dementors, which took place in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.

The Harry/Hermione dance seemed a bit jarring, although it is good that he does try to comfort her when Ron bolts.  At FictionAlley, there were people who complained about how, in the books, Harry doesn't care that Hermione is weeping every night about Ron's abandonment.  I don't remember that, but it has been a long time since I've read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

It wasn't initially clear whom the people Hermione encounters when she goes out by herself were--I first thought they were the group of fugitives the Trio overhear in the books, but it turns out they were Snatchers.  It's also not clear that the Snatcher with the ugly long hair is Fenrir Greyback, the ruler of the werewolves and an ally of Voldemort.  He is never named and he seems to defer to another Snatcher (IIRC the clean-looking one) rather than being the leader of the group as he was in the book.

It's not clear that Grindelwald was a Dark Lord in his own right that Dumbledore defeated in his youth.  In the movie, he seems to be little better than a common thief and his remorse for his years of being evil during the dialogue with Voldemort is missing.  The fact that he and Dumbledore were friends when they were younger never comes up at all.

Bill's disfigurement isn't even clear (we only see a couple of scars through his hair once, IIRC) and we only hear about it having taken place rather than seeing the attack on-screen. Given the abbreviated Battle of the Lightning-Struck Tower (the death of Dumbledore) in the last film, perhaps it would have been better to move it to the Battle of Seven Potters.  It would have been cool to see an airborne hand-to-hand brawl between Bill and Greyback.  Also during the Seven Potters, the fact it was Snape who took George's ear is never mentioned, even though in the books, it came up twice (Lupin wishing he could have paid back Snape in kind and Snape's post-mortem explanation for it).

Overall, I think I'll give it a 6 out of 10.  I'll definitely see the next one.

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