I had waited for it for years. Being satisfied with the first through sixth films in the franchise, I expected “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to be as riveting. Unfortunately, the film’s producers seem to have misplaced their riveter this time.
Getting down to nuts and bolts, this interpretation is lackluster and slow-paced for two-thirds of the film, but after that redeems itself with a selfless death and other advances to the story.
To be fair, the book was the longest of the seven in the series and really, it was nearly all about a long and interminable camping trip. After upheavals in the Ministry of Magic, and more skullduggery by He Who Must…okay, Voldemort and his henchmen, the lives of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are forever transformed by having to flee their homes and go into hiding. In the woods. In a tent that emerges from Hermione’s tiny beaded bag that seems to extend into another dimension and thus possesses infinite space within. Now that bag is cool.
Harry is still on a mission from Dumbledore to find the other horcruxes and destroy them before Voldemort gets to them first. No spoilers here, but if you read the book (if you haven’t, I highly recommend you do so), you’ll know how it all turns out.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) and her beaded bag that extends into a parallel dimension – I WANT ONE. Image from here.
What’s to like about the movie? It captures the bleakness of Harry’s soul, the internal suffering that he carries from his unloved boyhood into his late adolescence when people around him are getting hurt or dying to help him on his quest.
At first Harry thinks it’s all about him, and the guilt gets to be too much to bear so he attempts to strike out on his own, but Ron tells him, it isn’t all about you, it never was. Harry then realizes that though he is somehow central to the events, in the end he is just an element in the greater scheme of things and he must play his part.
But it’s not easy for Harry, it’s not just a matter of waving wands about and exercising limitless magical power. It’s still about the old-fashioned heroic values – belief in good over evil, perseverance, determination, self-sacrifice, friendship, and love. The film delivers that message, and it may be that the slow pace set the tone for that.
On the visual side, the settings for their tent-in-exile were magnificently desolate – lonely woods, a barren rocky hilltop, salt flats. The tent got larger and grander until by the end of the movie it was a multi-room affair complete with sleeping bags, the omnipresent veddy veddy British teakettle, a dining-cum-conference table, and spoons and forks in a mug.
Harry and Hermione sport clothing of somber colors, in keeping with the landscape. I WANT HER CLOTHES. Especially that peacoat. Image here.
Since many of us have read the entire Harry Potter canon by JK Rowling anyway, I won’t go into deeper analysis except to say that it belongs to the fantasy/magical genre that British authors have developed to the highest point. No one does it as well as they do – among them Tolkien, CS Lewis, Carroll, and Conan Doyle along with the other Victorians who collected and wrote fairy tales – and now Rowling is carrying on the tradition.
On a lighter note, a dozen things I liked:
1. Emma Watson’s clothes. I love that blue peacoat!
2. Hermione’s beaded bag that holds everything in the world.
3. Dobby’s self-sacrifice. He died Apparating the good guys from a villainous stronghold.
4. Bellatrix Lestrange’s rat’s-nest hair and dagger-flinging accuracy.
5. Severus Snape’s billowing black robes that proclaim “I am a serious, traditional, magic-using academic”. I WANT ONE.
6. Dolores Umbridge’s pink kitten-head scarf. Meow!
7. The Godric’s Hollow set – a typical, storybook hamlet. I’d like to live in one of the cottages there. Yes, even with that creepy old lady Bathilda Bagshot for a neighbor, it would be magical.
8. Bathilda Bagshot’s creepiness. The ultimate in old-lady oddity! Remind me to be like her when I become aged and decrepit. It would be fun freaking everyone out.
9. The dirigible plums at the Lovegood’s – that was a whimsical touch.
10. Patchwork everywhere – on nearly all the beds and throw pillows in the movie, the curtains and tablecloths in the Weasley home, and Xenophilius Lovegood’s shirt.
11. Bill and Fleur’s wedding – sigh. So romantic. My next wedding will be like that, I swear, in a tent with all my most eccentric friends and family in attendance.
12. How much Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint’s acting have improved. Emma Watson was fantastic from the beginning of the series and has developed into an actor with solid talent.
Overall: you must see this if you enjoyed the book and watched the previous films in the series, if only to get one more step closer to closure. Though the producers could have cut much of the camping trip out and reduced the running time from three hours to two-and-a-half or even less without sacrificing important narrative elements, it’s still worth watching.
ACCIO BLUE PEACOAT!