In the penultimate Harry Potter film based on the series’ ultimate book, The Deathly Hallows, the best sequence doesn’t have Harry, Ron or any live action elements. It features the disembodied voice of Hermione (Emma Watson) reading a fable from the Potter verse.
Her bedtime story is inked in stylised, stenciled 3D/CGI animation set on a weathered old background. The fable, similar to those gathered by Brothers. Grimm in the olden days, tells the tale of death and three brothers bestowed with enchanted, dangerous gifts that may very well lead to godly omnipotence — or in Ralph Fiennes case, the ability to supremely ham the bejeezus out of whatever screen time he has, if he gets to them first.
Fiennes plays Lord Voldemort, the ruthless, bad-tothe-bone villain who’s a threat to anyone Muggle, magic or Potter-related. It is surprising that the film’s best sequence is a 3D-stenciled narrative of more or less a Macguffin, de signed by author J.K. Rowling to add structural weight to the Potter-verse. Harry and Co.’s penultimate outing is a big drum roll that condenses and unskillfully adapts all relevant parts of the book into a watered-down escapade that skips on chaos and big battles.
As the children leave Hogwarts, they brave a new world of suspicion, self-doubt and seclusion. What could have been a very indie-like experience about loneliness, desolation, jealousy and resolute camaraderie turns into a collection of vacantly-crafted, halfbaked scenes. So it’s about Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger — Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, respectively — who are searching for the scattered soul of Voldemort, kept safe in deadly household artifacts, jewellery and two living creatures (hint: Potter fans will know what I’m talking about). Finding and destroying these items is the bouncing board of The Deathly Hallows (and the earlier The Half-Blood Prince). Unlike other Potter adaptations, Deathly Hallows-Part 1 bounces over integral character introductions or scenes highlighting older cast members (Bill Nighy does a small, underthe-radar cameo as Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic). The best parts of the book are saved for Part 2, slated for return mid-next year.
Why am I seemingly so against a film that has (at the time of writing this piece) grossed over $600 million at the box-office? The answer is simple: the big box-office payday is because of the hype. The series has made $1.7 billion from the US alone before Hallows. Millions of Potter fans would indeed be lining up for tickets, especially for the finale, even if it is awkwardly tailored to the big-screen. They know their history well, even if screenwriter Steven Kloves (writer of all Potter films except Order of Pheonix) skips a few points. The numbers don’t count. They didn’t count for Twilight; they don’t count for Harry Potter.
What counts is the film-making. David Yates has been steadily graduating into a versatile director but he’s still a notch colourless and a dash pedestrian for the Potter world. It’s contrary to the fact that big, tent-pole film-making is about big, explosive special effects, (and in Potter’s world) high-flying Quidditch matches and routine climatic deaths of semi-central characters (which does happen in Deathly Hallows-Part 1).
His scenes operate on textbook cinematography ordered to cinematographer Eduardo Serra, and a diverse, if faintly used score by Alexandre Desplat that employs little of the trademark John Williams’ score. Yates has yet to stage scenes with conviction or a sense of completion and that is what counts in the end. Released by Warner Bros, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1 is rated PG-13. It has one on-screen death, one scene of terror (by an excellent, over-the-top Helena Bonham Carter) and loads of ham by Ralph Fiennes.