Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

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There's a veritable crucible of perceptions, emotions and hysterical anticipation to consider when evaluating the penultimate film in the Harry Potter saga. This Global Phenomenon (surely deserving of capitalisation) has claimed the fervent love of at least one generation; come the release of Part 2 in 2011, kids and adults alike will have spent an entire decade with the film versions. This is all by way of saying that the first installment of J.K Rowling's Deathly Hallows tome has undergone an utterly indulgent adaptation — 146 minutes of minutely, magnificently detailed, precisely paced, decidedly dark fare — and the fans wouldn't have it any other way.

Director David Yates, who has been helming the franchise since 2007s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, flexes his muscles with an opening extreme close-up shot of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour’s (Bill Nighy) eyes as he ominously intones, "These are dark times." Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves are unafraid of taking Rowling's story into the markedly more mature realm she outlines on the page; it's one made even more boldly disquieting with the striking visual allusions to the Inquisition and WWII eras, especially with regards to the ethnic cleansing of the Muggles. That said, Yates is not without a sense of humour; in one scene you can spy a hilariously titled piece of propaganda When Muggles Attack.

A quick recap (SPOILER alert!): Dumbledore is dead. Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) is wreaking havoc, and has Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) splashed across the papers as enemy no. 1. After a series of ruthless attacks, Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) go on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the hoards of Voldermort's nightmarish 'Snatchers'. The trio are also on the hunt for the remaining Horcruxes (splinters of Voldermort’s soul that sustain his immortality), at which point you can be forgiven for confusing the film with The Lord of the Rings. Even if one can argue Tolkien doesn't have the patent on the quest storyline, the similarities are frustratingly apparent, even including an unearthly apparition that uses the same visual effect as Galadriel’s ghostly transformation. Fortunately, however, Yates is blessed with some true geniuses in composer Alexandre Desplat and cinematographer Eduardo Serra, who conspire to create some of the most sublimely beautiful tableaux you’re likely to see this year out the plot's relative, derivative, monotony.

In fact one could wager Yates wants his audience to experience the tedium — punctuating it as he does with spine-tingling action — as well as the the hormone charged angst and the slow burn build up of tension for what promises to be a staggering climax in Part 2, and in 3D no less. It is definitely for the best that the production halted its mad dash 3D conversion for this installment (Serra's artistry is too thrilling to be ruined by a bad 3D render), but given the actors, director and entire production team are all now playing their A-Game, Part 2 could be absolutely magic.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 18 November 2010

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