Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Question for all of you.
Im having a bit of trouble deciding how I feel about The Deathly Hallows (Part 1), the penultimate release in the Harry Potter film series. Im hoping to get some feedback from other Harry Potter fans reading this to help me sort out my mixed emotions. Maybe you guys are feeling torn by the same quandary thats gnawing at me.
Were all smart enough to at least entertain the notion that the only reason Warner Bros. split J.K. Rowlings final climactic Harry Potter novel into two parts was to be sure to get every last dollar out of the final chapter of what has been one of the most lucrative film series of all time. If true, Its really annoying that the studio would pull such a mercenary move and cast such a cynical pall over the big finish of what has been for the loyal legions of fans the world over an ongoing epic of decency, bravery and hope triumphing over evil, cruelty and, well, mercenary cynicism. But, on the other hand, J.K. Rowlings tomes have gotten longer and longer, so maybe the final film chapter could only be done properly as two movies. So maybe having Part 1 and Part 2 would mean just all that much more Harry, Ron and Hermione to enjoy one last time before Daniel, Rupert and Emma graduate Hogwarts and move on to their adult acting careers. That was my hope. But going in for my first viewing I couldnt help but think that an author writes a novel a narrative with a sustained story arc; a beginning, middle and ending as one book for a reason. A novel builds to a final climax. It doesnt stop half way to the big ending the author has imagined and then say: Thats all for now! Be sure to buy the next book to find out what happens! So, my question going in: Would Part 1 be able to build, sustain and satisfy a full story arc or would the movie seem like a bridge built only halfway across a raging river, the banks of victory and salvation still miles away and hidden from sight?
Sure enough, upon first viewing, my fears proved well warranted. After experiencing the sheer velocity of super-torqued storytelling tension that propelled the action-packed and emotionally devastating Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, this Part 1 of what should be the even more brain-shattering and heart-rending final chapter seemed downright sleepy. The action sequences, evenly paced through a two and a half hour half-story, dont provide enough of a wallop to make up for all the long, contemplative scenes delving at length into the Harry-Ron-Hermione relationship. And while the several long treks across vistas of hostile but beautiful landscapes are, well, really beautifully photographed, it got to the point of recalling the endless walkings of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so well lampooned in Clerks II. And then there was the problem of the ending, which was, of course, really only an intermission point in the final chapter and as such, only packed the cinematic punch and emotional resonance of, yes, an intermission point.
Im certain this entry in the Potter film series will not go down with fans as being in any way in contention for favorite Potter film. This aint no Empire.
But then again, upon a second viewing
Im wondering if we should really be bothered by this being a place-keeper film, a film that doesnt really stand-up as a stand-alone story needing no further conclusion. Maybe what disappointed so many Matrix fans about The Matrix II simply has no equivalence for us as Potter loyalists. Lets face it, whether Hallows was shot as one or two features, anyone buying a ticket with no familiarity with the prior films, let alone the books, is going to be completely lost. And maybe, rather than this being a filmmaking faux pas (as any film school professor would insist), it is instead an absolutely right and proper thing. The Matrix had no other reference beyond the films themselves, and so, could only be judged by that sui generis standard. The Potter movies, on the other hand, are made first and foremost for the fans of the books. There is an authoritative reference point, a Bible, which the movies only serve to illustrate. The films rise or fall on how well they meet the (novel-reading) fans expectations of evoking the same excitement and sheer joy experienced by reading the books. And so just maybe spending so much time on the Harry-Hermione-Ron triangle, and honoring the quest of these three young heroes by so beautifully framing their long journey through the wilderness is all perfectly alright. The fans already know the story known it since just a few hours after the last midnight book release party. With that satisfying experience still fresh in memory who wouldn't enjoy an extra hour or two of their heroes discursive ruminations about their hopes and dreams
Maybe the Harry Potter series deserves no, demands! a two-volume send-off. Its a way of honoring a story thats touched so many heads and hearts, thats provided so many hours of joy and ignited the imaginations of so many across the whole world. Maybe for its fans the Harry Potter narrative has now become as iconic and ineradicable as Shakespeares plays. And in the same way that a particular actors or particular acting troupes poor performance of Hamlet in no way diminishes the magnificence of that story, already known by heart by generations, so too my misgivings about the cinematic pitfalls inherent in stretching a novel over two movies dont matter a damn when the story is already so well-known and so well-loved by the majority of the people in the theater. Unlike the others, just checking out the latest movie release theyre celebrating in a tribal gathering of the faithful. They are the ones who lift Part 1 high above any Death Eater pall of studio marketing cynicism and imbue this film with its true value as an important moment in movie (and their own personal) history. Its for the fans, and not the critics and film school professors.
So there you have it. I thought it wasnt so hot and kind of disappointing. Then again, I thought it was really great and even admirable. All of this conflict is probably a result of how much I loved "Harry Potter And the Half Blood Prince" not only as fantastic entry in the series as a whole but as a stand alone film as well. Any insightful enlightenment or clearing-up of my tangled reasoning process in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
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