I have many fond memories of the Harry Potter books. I remember my
overwhelming sense of curiosity while reading those opening chapters of
the first book. I remember my sister waking me up in the middle of the
night because she’d been reading Chamber of Secrets and wanted to know
if Ginny would be all right. I remember reading a couple of pages over
and over while asking “Wait, did Sirius just die?” I remember constantly
going online to read interviews with J.K. Rowling and to join in
speculation about what would happen next. I remember going to the local
Barnes & Noble for the release parties of the last two books. I
remember reading through the last book as fast as I possibly could
because I wanted to finish it before going to work.

But as for the movies, I’ve got nothing.

I simply don’t get the Harry Potter movies. That’s not to say that I
hate them or that I don’t understand why Warner Bros.
keeps making them
, it’s just that I don’t get the excitement over
them. For one thing, we always know the stories in advance. The movies
have always premiered a couple of years and at least one book after the
release of their source material, which means that the audience has
always been a mile ahead of the filmmakers. Of course, it’s not like
this is new with adaptations, but this particular situation is quite

There have been six Harry Potter movies so far. SIX MOVIES. In
all six of those films, none of the characters have been recast, save
only for Albus Dumbledore and Tom Riddle. The previous two films were
directed by the same guy who’s helming both halves of the final one. All
of the movies with one exception were written by the same man. The
musical scores and character themes composed by John Williams have been
the basis of the score through the entire series. The visuals, set
designs and special effects have all stringently followed the blueprint
established by Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuaron. Hell, even the
floating Warner Bros. shield is visibly and literally worn from overuse
by the start of this latest film.

That’s not to say that I’d rather the movies had been made with no
regard for continuity. Far from it. Rather, my point is that by film
five or six, we should’ve all known what the films going forward would
look and sound like. We should’ve known who’d be playing Harry, Ron and
Hermione. We should’ve known what magic looks like. We should’ve known
how the score would sound. Any Harry Potter fan should’ve been able to
read Deathly Hallows on the day of its release and get a pretty solid
idea of what its movie would look like. Really, it seems to me like the
only motivation to watch these movies is to see how the books will be
condensed and which characters will be cut. Doesn’t seem like much fun
to me.

This was essentially my attitude going into Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1
and it hasn’t really changed much since. But when the film opened and
Hermione does something new, unexpected and poignant, I was quite ready
to start giving it a bit more credit.

The latest movie is inherently different for the same reason that
Book Seven is different: Because the focus is solely on Harry, Ron and
Hermione. Sure, they’ve always been the core of the series, but this
film focuses on them with only scarce distraction from Hogwarts,
Quidditch or any of the myriad secondary and tertiary characters. This
is the story that sees our trinity completely alone. On the run and in
unknown territory with no one but themselves to trust or depend on,
stuck on a mission of global importance with no idea of how to complete
it. This is the time when our heroes truly grow up, as whatever
insecurities, grudges and fears they still have come to a head like
never before.

Fortunately, these three characters are played by actors who have now
grown up with each other and with their characters. The chemistry and
trust between Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson has become
iron-clad and this is the movie in which their mutual history pays off
in ways that defy description. Individually, Radcliffe is still Harry
personified and Watson is even better and more beautiful than ever as

Still, I think that it’s Grint that saw the biggest improvement. I’ve
never been very fond of Ron’s movie portrayal as an overly broad comic
relief and laughingstock, and I’m sorry to say that there are many times
when he’s still used as such. For example, there’s a particularly bad
mini-subplot in which Ron — to break into the Ministry of Magic —
unknowingly disguises himself as man whose wife is currently on trial
for blood purity. I realize that this was a story point from the books
and God forbid the filmmakers should omit the Ministry’s trials. What I
don’t approve of is just how much the film played this story point for
laughs. I found it to be annoying and idiotic that Ron should get
carried away with his ruse to the degree that he did. What’s more, Harry
and Hermione had to spend so much time in the Ministry’s halls while
Ron reconciled with his “wife” that it’s no wonder they were all seen by
Ministry officials. Stupid.

Nevertheless, Ron does redeem himself on a number of occasions. His
row with Harry was very well-done, his destruction of the pendant
Horcrux was spectacular to watch and his reconciliation with Harry and
Hermione was beautifully acted. Ron acquits himself wonderfully on many
occasions in the movie and again, so much of that comes back to how
perfectly these three actors play off each other.

As to how the story was adapted, I have a lot of mixed feelings. On
the one hand, all the camping scenes were well-paced and eventful, with
such brilliant new scenes as the dance between Harry and Hermione. On
the other hand, so much of the film felt rushed. This hastiness is most
clearly felt near the start of the film, when David Yates and company
try to crowbar in all of the relevant characters and arcs that were
omitted from the previous movies. Mundungus Fletcher gets introduced
during this time, as do Fleur and Bill Weasley, and the introductions
are all clumsily done with roughly five seconds each.

The score and sound design were very well-done, particularly the
pendant Horcrux’s theme. It was an atonal high metallic pitch that I
found appealing in its garishness and subtlety, rather like Hans
Zimmer’s Joker theme from The Dark Knight. Additionally, there
are several scenes that were clearly meant to be in 3D, though I remain
thankful that the 3D post-conversion was scrapped. Watching Nagini lunge
toward the camera (not once, but twice!) would’ve looked gimmicky as
hell, and anyway — as I always say — fuck 3D post-conversion.

I should also mention the origin story of the Deathly Hallows. Yates
and company wisely decided to show the fairy tale itself, rather than
focus on Hermione simply reading it. The result is a strange CGI puppet
show that I found quite visually appealing, though I felt like it
belonged in a different movie altogether. Seems to me like the
children’s book should’ve had some illustrations that might’ve been used

But then came the ending (or is it the halfway point?), which
concerns my single largest gripe of the film: Dobby. I was shocked when
Dobby died in the seventh book because I didn’t see it coming, the scene
was beautifully written and because he went out like a hero. In the
movie, however, I found Dobby’s demise absolutely grating. Sure, the
special effects on him have come a long way since Chamber of Secrets,
but that house-elf was so ungodly annoying that I actually found myself
thankful he’d snuffed it. What’s more, the murder itself was convoluted
and horribly shot, with close-ups, slo-mo and grandiose speeches that
ruined any subtlety or surprise the death may have had. Furthermore, our
characters spend forever mourning the little guy. It’s been a
while since I last saw Order of the Phoenix, but I think that
Dobby’s death may have been played for more drama than that of Sirius
friggin’ Black. Hell, Mad-Eye Moody didn’t get so much as the memorial
toast that he was given in the book, yet Dobby gets five minutes of
grieving and goodbyes. What the hell?!

Overall, my feelings on Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 are very mixed.
I’m really not sure how good it is in comparison to the book, and so
much of the story is rushed that I’m not sure how the film stands on its
own, either. In any case, I strongly doubt that my opinions about this
will matter very much. No matter what I say, this film will make at
least $100 million this weekend and you’ve undoubtedly made up your mind
already about whether or not you’re seeing it. Hell, you’ve probably
seen it already. And that’s fine. Sure, the movies are nothing more than
transparent attempts to milk the Harry Potter franchise for all it’s
worth, but at least the films are competently made, respectful to the
fans and as faithful to the source material as screen time and budget
will allow. This film in particular may be the best and most respectful
film of them all.

I’m still not sure about that, though. Get back to me on that when
the film is finished this July. Maybe by then, I’ll have finally,
conclusively sorted out my feelings on the film in particular and the
series in general.