Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hallow Hallow

I'm positive that a certain percentage of the massive moviegoing crowd descending upon theaters to watch HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS has neither seen any of the previous movies nor read any of the novels, and will wander out of the theater wondering, "What the hell was that?"

Because the filmmakers aren't wasting any time trying to orient folks watching this for the first time. It's too late for that, so you either grab on and enjoy the ride or get flung off.

The DEATHLY HALLOWS is one of the best of the film series. Not only has director David Yates (who directed the previous two movies as well) found his storytelling tone for this movie, but the film benefits greatly from three developments. One is cutting the final Potter novel into two parts, allowing time for this movie to actually tell a cinematic story rather than be consumed by the labrythine plot. Another is that the characters and cast have become young adults -- which makes some of the plot developments and scenes a lot less creepy (in the non-entertaining sense) than they would otherwise be. And finally, the story breaks away from that damned school, allowing Harry, Ron and Hermione to traipse and apparate over the length and breadth of England, from the heart of London to the cliffs of Dover, as they become a guerilla band of resistance fighters, sort of Harry Potter and His Hogwarts Commandos.

Another great touch is a scene in which Hermione tells a folk story integral to the plot, which the filmmakers depict in animation which recalls shadow puppets and El Greco art.

And the production values are stunning. Little expense has been spared, with a cast of thousands including lots of characters from previous movies.

Unfortunately, the slow, depressing segment of the novel -- in which the characters wander around, accomplishing nothing but getting on each other's nerves -- is here in its entirety, just as slow and just as depressing. True, there's some quality character development in the segment (one scene with Harry and Hermione, added for the movie, is just delightful). But it's a bit of a slog. Fortunately, the action scenes more than make up for the slow sections. (The segments with Voldemort's giant snake pal, Nagini, are truly cringeworthy.)

We saw the film at a 9:30 a.m. Imax presentation. The presentation was sold out. To me, that indicates the film is going to make a huge chunk of change this weekend -- as will the final film this summer. But the folks watching this won't care. They'll just enjoy a well-made fantasy adventure.

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