“These are dark times, there’s no denying”
I saw it this morning, in the IMAX theater at Tyson’s Corner. And, in a word, it was AWESOME!!! (like the WB promo shown above)
It’s hardly a secret that Deathly Hallows is my favorite Harry Potter book. It’s also not a secret that I found the Half-Blood Prince movie… disappointing.
In HPB, the filmmakers wasted precious time burning the Burrow, when they could have been giving us another Pensieve memory of Tom Riddle’s family background or some additional face time with the Half-Blood Prince’s Potions book.
I feared that, given the complexity of the DH narrative, director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves would trash the story, chop it up, render it incomprehensible in an attempt to simplify it for movie-only viewers. I wondered if, in the end, moviegoers would understand who Dumbledore was, who Snape was, and how the twin themes of redemption and remorse that play out in these men’s lives ultimately help Harry confront Voldemort with the things the Dark Lord doesn’t understand.
Well, we won’t know the answer to that question until we reach the end of DH2. But DH1 gives me good reason to hope that the filmmakers will capture much of the richness of this narrative… and offer up a successful resolution to the Harry Potter saga.
For me, the DH movies carry the biggest stakes because they also carry the most profound part of Harry Potter’s story. I already knew going in to DH1 that the split would occur at Dumbledore’s tomb. And I knew just from watching the trailers that DH1 would include both Malfoy Manor sequences, the 7 Potters, Bill and Fleur’s wedding, the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, the splinching scene, Ron’s confrontation with Harry, at least some of the visit to Godric’s Hollow, the destruction of the locket horcrux, the visit to Xenophilius Lovegood, and Voldemort’s retrieval of the wand.
Here are some other elements that I was hoping to see in DH1:
- Dudley’s attempt to reconcile with Harry
- Kreacher’s Tale (including a flashback to the Cave and Regulus’ heroism)
- Some of Dumbledore’s backstory (and Harry’s struggle to come to grips with it)
- Hermione’s conversations with the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black (including a flashback of Snape catching Neville, Ginny, and Luna trying to steal the Sword of Gryffindor)
- Harry’s dialogue with Ron after Ron confronts his fears and destroys the locket horcrux
- Grindelwald’s refusal to betray Dumbledore’s possession of the Elder Wand to Voldemort
- The Tale of the Three Brothers
Okay, so one of those wishes came true. But we missed Dudley, most of Kreacher’s Tale, nearly all of Dumbledore’s backstory, Phineas’ portrait, and (alas) Harry’s awesome “I thought you knew.”
I understand some of those decisions. Really, I do. Flashbacks would have dragged out the film (no matter how gratifying I find those strands of plot to be). And Dumbledore’s backstory can be covered more fully in DH2 at the Hogs Head and in King’s Cross.
But why not include the Dudley scene or Phineas’ portrait or Harry’s dialogue with Ron? And why, WHY, WHY violate the character of Gellert Grindelwald? (more on that in another post).
Regardless, the movie overall does about as fine a job with DH1 as I could have hoped. Here are some of the highlights:
- An absolutely wrenching scene (told, not shown, in the book) in which Hermione obliviates her parents
- Nearly the entire opening sequence at Malfoy Manor – with stunning performances by Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, and – really – the whole Death Eater cast
- A truly creepy Bathilda Bagshot sequence
- A beautiful Silver Doe/Retrieval of the Sword sequence – almost exactly as I had pictured it
- The Tale of the Three Brothers – an EPIC WIN animation – including a narrative containing, I think, every word in the story
And of course, it sure didn’t hurt to be viewing all of this on an IMAX screen. I’ll be back later with a bit more analysis. But for now, I’ll just say that, overall, this film is TEH AWESOME!!! (And I wasn’t saying that after the last one).