I have a difficult time with this half-movie, because reviewing it as a reader inhibits me from reviewing it as a moviegoer. I will say this once: a movie that is based on a book should not require you to have read the book to enjoy the movie, or it fails as a film. I won’t be discussing the books here, because other than being the source material for the film they have no place in this discussion. A good movie is a good movie, and that’s that. You don’t review an original work by saying “Well, it kept most of the elements of the original script in and that’s why it’s good.” You review a film on its own merits. In that vein, these movies are patently hard to review simply because of the fact that there are seven of them interconnected. Not a trilogy like Star Wars or Lord of The Rings. Not four movies over the span of twenty years like Die Hard. This is a complete heptalogy with a continuous plot, released virtually within the same decade. Daunting to make, daunting to perceive. So I’ll start simple. DH P.I is, easily argued, the best film in the series precluding the impending presence of its conclusion. Where the previous six movies have struggled sometimes nobly but always in vain to crawl out from under the crushing onus of the novels, this film manages to more or less release itself from that weight and limp away on its own. Hell, there are sequences in the middle that run full speed into a soaring glide. However, it all drops dead in the last twenty minutes and crams in the necessary content in the driest fashion. That’s the shortfall of a movie in two parts. If you’re going to split something like this, even for the sake of money, there needs to be a sense of wholeness and contrast (as much as I hate to admit it, Kill Bill is a fine example) that DH P.I definitely frames, but ultimately lacks for the time being.
Watching this film, I realized something that made me all the more disappointed in the franchise complete. Harry Potter films always make money. There is literally no necessity or obligation to adhere strictly to the text. Every director has had a golden opportunity to reinvent the material in the books for the screen in exciting, creative ways. Unfortunately the only two to have come close are Cuarón (Azkaban) and David Yates. In the case of the latter it has been an uphill climb, and his Order of The Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, while each have distinct creative strokes, are still slavish adaptations of the books and feel slow, forced, and awkward through most of their run. On the whole, however much better this final chapter in the series is, it’s too little too late for a series that could have been so very much more. As a fan, I am permanently disappointed, and am reminded of what happened to the Watchmen film. In a phrase, for something so important to so many, “Good enough” is not good enough.
Good things about Deathly Hallows Part I: Really good cinematography. There is a much stronger emphasis on the use of organic settings and somber tones, especially in the middle arcs in rural parts of England. A unique quality of this film is that its most engaging scenes don’t have any special effects at all; they rely on the actors for their magic. The main characters actually develop over the course of this film, as opposed to the previous model of one character trait evolving over the course of three. Better acting from all, although I still think Voldemort looks, moves, and speaks like a mutant drag queen without makeup. The dialogue is more natural, and the drama between Harry, Ron, and Hermione actually comes from somewhere other than the script. Everyone involved seems to be taking the franchise seriously for once. At the very least, their fake crying has gotten better. The story is told fairly clearly, no real narrative experimentation although there is a Henry Sellick-esque depiction of a wizard fairy tale that made me smile. The vague overtones of post-World War II spy parallelism are interesting if they’re even intentional.
Final note: I know British teenagers. Why the fuck does nobody in this franchise smoke?
I just got feedback from my Northwest Undergrad Lit. Conference advisor, and he told me which of the two candidates I should go with. The “winner” is a piece called Apostles. It’s a story based on my time in San Francisco. Here’s a preview (apologies for the formatting):
Sam offered Wesley lunch.
Wesley considered the proposition momentarily, mildly surprised.
Sam was bountiful of the appropriate questions to ask vagrants because he’d read a pamphlet on it at the beginning of his term. The cover bore the image of a bearded man in shabby clothes talking to a Hispanic boy and a blond girl. Bright, honest looking kids making a man’s life better with their company. The lamination of the pamphlet made Sam think of shrink-wrap, little happy people sealed hermetically forever.
“This is my only really earthly possession.” He drew his sweater up to reveal a belt buckle, mounted on a cinched piece of leather around a skeletally slim waistline. “When I saw it in a store, I just knew I needed it.”
Samuel nodded, and looked upon the chunk of hammered metal bearing resemblance to a human skull with great horns, recognizing it as the symbol of Glenn Danzig.
Wesley confirmed “Danzig had one just like it when I saw him in concert. A bolt of jealousy shot through Samuel, forgetting everything about the two of them for a moment and thinking only “This guy got to see Danzig before he sold out.”
They entered the McDonalds confidently, knowing that there would be a level of familiarity there.
“What would you like to eat Wesley?”
His feet were sore and he had a headache.
“Whatever you’re getting is fine.”
Sam had known what Wesley was doing when he pulled his eyelid tight across his cornea to stretch it into a shape suitable for seeing the faraway words on the menu. Sam asked him if he was allergic to anything. Wesley told him, “no, no allergies,” and felt momentarily like he was in a doctor’s office. The food came quickly, Sam retrieved it and they sat down. Next to them, an Asian man in a dirty white shirt was taking a nap. The bag in front of him had been torn open to create a den for his now devoured lunch.
“You do this a lot?” Wesley asked.
“Sort of. I’m out here with a service group; we do lots of different things. Mostly just try to be nice.”
“You part of a church or something?”
Sam chuckled because he couldn’t hold it back. “Not personally. I…uh…I joined up because of a girl.”
Wesley smiled, “I know how that goes.”
They ate and Samuel continued exercising his training. Wesley obliged with a description of the events in his life that had led him to this point. There were inaccuracies and questionable events but all were described in vivid detail.
Wesley was forty, by his recollection. He had grown up the son of a military man, and the older brother of a highly successful real estate agent. He had thought of joining the military, passed all the tests, but he told them straight out that he had a problem with authority. The recruiting officer reminded him that in the military he would be expected to follow orders like holy writ. He gave Wesley half an hour to think it over; Wesley left after twenty minutes. Wesley had been diagnosed and in the past been treated for Bipolar disorder. He was quick to point out that while he could function fairly well, his imprisoned girlfriend could not. She was “Abraxas” the fiery spectacle; Wesley had at one point read Carl Jung, and Sam was impressed by the reference. In travels with his girlfriend Wesley had met the son of Anton LaVey, whom he called Stanton LaVey. Samuel knew that Anton LaVey had had no male heirs, but he held his tongue.
“There’s a singer, named Marilyn Manson, you heard of him?” Sam nodded. “Well, his name begins with the letters M and M, and upside down that’s WW for Wesley White, always thought of that. I was born on Halloween, always thought of that.”
In the bible, it says, “deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the Antichrist.” Neither man, the young Samuel or the older Wesley was familiar with this passage in letter.
On days like these I wish god was real, so I could give him the hard right cross.
All I see on the feeds today are people who had no idea who Guy Fawkes was before V for Vendetta was made into a movie, and don’t understand that they’re endorsing terrorism. I believe in what the Catholics were fighting for, because an oppressive regime is an impressive regime, but it disheartens me to see so many tacitly endorsing bloodshed because they thought a movie was cool (which it was). Intentionality implies understanding. Most of these, have none.
That’s not to say that people shouldn’t express their love of good works. But that’s not what Guy Fawkes Day is about. I don’t even understand why Americans are “celebrating”…