Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part I DVD Review

Is Harry Potter now a deathly bore?
This is the question that keeps swimming through my mind as I wait for the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to begin.
I’ve never been a fan of the books.

And am proud to say I’ve yet to read a single one.
Still, since being introduced to Harry Potter films by a friend of mine who was particularly keen on them – or perhaps that should be a friend I was particularly keen on – I do have a soft spot for them.

With their fantastical stories of wizards, magic and monsters; it’s hard not to fall under the escapism spell Hogwarts casts over you.

Distracting its audience from the hum drum reality of everyday life.
But as the characters have grown up, and the subject matter turned ever darker, the adventures of Harry Potter and co have become increasingly joyless.
And the seventh film in J K Rowling’s golden goose franchise shows no signs of reversing this trend.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows begins with the wizarding world in torment.

Lord Voldemort’s ascent to power carries on unabated, as his acolytes are appointed to positions of increasing influence and power at the Ministry of Magic.

Young wizard’s from a less than pure heritage sever ties with their past, so as to protect their mortal families from any possible reprisals.
And even as I type this, I’m finding it difficult to take any of this as seriously as I’m supposed to.
Which is precisely the problem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
As an audience, we’re asked to take the essentially ridiculous material of this film so damn earnestly.
Now, where’s the fun in that?
Particularly when it was precisely the ridiculousness of this mystical and mythical world that made it fun in the first place.
Without this joie de vivre, all a Harry Potter film has to fall back on is some distinctly wooden acting from the principle “child” actors.
Admittedly, this is offset by the increasingly stellar list of British actors who make up the supporting roles.
And whilst the three young leads have all improved as they’ve grown with the films, you wouldn’t go and see any of them for their acting ability.
Which is another problem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
It focuses so completely on Harry’s journey, accompanied by Ron and Hermione of course, but at the expense of every other character’s story.
So there’s no real brevity to the dark, heavy tones; no light to contrast against the tortured, emotional journey we’re supposed to embark upon with Harry.
And even a child could tell you that light gives meaning to the dark.
All the humour and magic of previous instalments usually supplied by the supporting characters has been drained, so what we’re left with is a distinctly formulaic script that doesn’t really engage you; played out by actors whose craft isn’t yet deserving of such screen time.
There is one animated short adroitly interwoven into proceedings towards the end of the film that’s very enjoyable.
But this only serves to condemn the dull, plodding nature of so much that went before it.
Of course, this may not be the fault of anyone involved in the film. Most likely, it’s a damning indictment on the lack of wit in JK Rowling’s final book.

At various moments throughout this Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling seems hell bent on plagiarising Tolkien; such as the way one of the “Horcruxes” – don’t ask – will poison its wearer’s thoughts when worn around the neck.

What I don’t understand is why Rowling didn’t take a further page out of J.R.’s book, by weaving a parallel storyline throughout Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; one that follows the minor characters on their respective journeys, who were always such a big part of previous instalments charm.

This would also allow for a few light-hearted scenes to ease the mood, which are desperately needed to keep the audience engaged, as well as adding greater gravitas to any harrowing scenes Potter has to face.
I suspect the success of Harry Potter cast a spell over any clarity of thought JK Rowling initially possessed when she first penned the adventures of a young, orphaned wizard.
Or even worse.

There simply wasn’t any original message at the heart of her creation in the first place.
It feels increasingly as though the original spirit of earlier stories has been lost in the madness of squeezing as much money from the global audience that has latched onto this series as is humanly possible.
Sadly, I’m too emotionally invested in finding out how this particular story ends to let go.
Even when faced with such deathly boredom.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

May 2011