Do you remember your last semester of high school? You know, the one where you’d already fulfilled most if not all of your requirements? The one where, if you hadn’t gotten the jump on college with some PSEO classes, you filled out your schedule with easy pass classes?

Do you remember that anxious-tedious feeling you had knowing that you were, for all intents and purposes, done but still had to hang around for the big celebratory graduation ceremony?

Part one of the bifurcated movie adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is positively cloaked in that pointless sensation. Set aside the special effects (which are one of the only things that seem to mature with the series along with its characters) and the top-notch cinematography (Oscar-nominee Eduardo Serra was a fine, if late, addition to the Potter fold) and what are you left with aside from over two hours’ worth of laborious set up for the expected fireworks of the second Deathly Hallows installment?

For a series that, in both book and movie form, has always seemed overly reliant on highly episodic plots, Hallows: Part 1 grinds the entire proceedings to a dead halt. Which is admittedly appropriate, given the Nazi-esque living death the Hogwarts School-slash-Ministry of Propoganda has entered under the eyes (and lack of nose) of Voldemort, who has set into motion a fear-based crusade of ethnic purification. He seeks to eliminate “half-blood” wizards, among whom include the precocious and talented Hermione.

Harry Potter remains, as the late Dumbledore presaged, the wizard world’s best hope to defeat Voldemort. And Voldemort knows it. He and his whirligig phalanx of jet-black specter-troops, the Death Eaters, are trying every which way they can to cut the not-so-young Mr. Potter down. That, in turn, forces Harry and his cohorts Hermione and Ron (staging their won “on again, off again” act) into bilocating their way into the most remote corners of England to avoid detection.

And that’s where they spend the better part of two hours, camped out in the woods and on rocky peaks, arguing and shivering and hiding and running and plotting and hiding and sneaking and whispering and hiding. And then Lord Vold gets ahold of Dumbledore’s all-powerful wand, holds it into the air triumphantly, where it’s met with bolts of lightning like the sword of Greyskull. And the movie ends, leaving nothing but prologue in its wake.

Director David Yates (the only other director aside from Chris Columbus to direct more than one installment in the series) has one or two good tricks up his sleeve, most notably an attractively understated, computer animated shadow-puppet enactment of the central “Deathly Hallows” fable. And did I mention how beautiful Serra’s cinematography is?

Look, I understand how this equivalent of narrative treading water could’ve all been used to effectively demonstrate Potter & Company’s growing frustration with the magnitude of their quest. Unfortunately, the decision to split the (endless) novel into two films removes the catharsis that would’ve made the wait bearable. Instead, audiences are left to suffer the purgatory without giving them the chance to arrive, revealing the bisection to be an all-too-obviously commercial decision. Hallows: Part 1 isn’t a film at all. It’s a placeholder. And it’s makers are making fans pay for the privilege of remaining caught up.

Eric Henderson is a web producer and film blogger for WCCO.COM.

Comments (18)
  1. Doug says:

    Harry Potter = B O R I N G ! ! ! ! !

  2. Annette Costello Lee says:

    This really isn’t a terribly surprising review, as Eric himself had already declared the novel as “endless”. I wonder if he’s even read it, because if he had, he would certainly understand the need for it’s being split into two films. The lengthy book, upon which the films are based, simply would not have worked in a single movie, unless you either exclude all the major activities, motivations, thoughts and preludes to retreiving ALL the Horcruxes to defeat the Dark Lord, or have a 5+ hour movie. So it should be just said Voldemort’s power is growing stronger and that he now has control over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts, and of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s decision to finish Dumbledore’s work, rather than showing it and all that that encompasses, eh? And as the book was a page-turner to many (myself included), and at last count had sold more than 44 million copies, it seems you might be mistaken in assuming it’s all unnecessary.

    1. ephenderson says:

      Annette, to my taste, a full five-hour movie would’ve been, by a good measure, less boring than a 145-minute movie without any dramatic structure.

    2. Brian says:

      Perfectly honest, the entire wandering-around-the-countryside portion of the movie (most of this film, in fact) could have been condensed into a 10-15 minute montage stopping long enough to understand the point to it all. While this section of the book is lengthy and only somewhat works in book format, on film it’s rather boring. By condensing the entire roaming portion into a montage, this 145 minute film could have been trimmed to probably 60-70 minutes. This would have left at least another 80 minutes to complete the second half (part II). There really was no need for two films to this novel. It really could have been comfortably produced with one film.

      I personally would have preferred one film and have it all over… but WB got greedy and wanted to milk it. Hence, two films. If any HP book deserved two films, it was Goblet of Fire. That film was so chopped up and missing so much, it only barely worked. Deathly Hallows honestly doesn’t have enough material for two films. The slowness in pacing of Part I is a definite indication that they didn’t have enough material. Overall, Part I was good, but I think the story could have been better told in one single film.

    3. apedanger says:

      I completely agree and would have found it perfectly acceptable for The Half Blood Prince to have also been made as two movies in order to include the full backstory to Tom Riddles upbringing and more weight over the dealing of Dumbledoors demise. It’s not cashing in if it tells the full story that is there to be told.

      You could some up all the Potters with ‘Wizard boy avenges the death of his parents.’ This does not mean it should be made into a two minute film and the rest is a studio cashing in.

    4. Nick Vennarucci says:

      if david yates can put book 5 in one movie than he most certainly can put book 7. considering how long book 5 was. the problem with the two movies was that part 1 was the build up to final 3rd or 4th of the novel, so obviously its going to have slow parts. the gringots scene aswell as the hogwartz was the final section of book 7, yates could have easily cut short a few scenes in part 1 and added part 2 to the end. ofcourse the moive would considerably longer, but if you cant sit down and watch a movie for 3 hours, then your stupid. LOTR faired fine, i was only 11 or 12 when those movies came out and i was fine watching them. These movies are too damn short, and people wonder why they suck. if its a long book make it a long movie.

  3. B.Y. says:

    Saw the movie. Don’t know if i disagree. But Voldemort stole Dumbledore’s wand. also known as the Deathstick or Elder Wand. A damn sight more powerful than sword. And the campaign is against “Mudbloods” wizards born of two muggle parents. Half-bloods were being given a pass, because Voldemort himself is a half-blood.

    1. ephenderson says:

      Oops, you are correct. Don’t know why I typed sword. As for the distinction between mudbloods/muggles, I’ll admit I was just muddled on the whole thing.

  4. CRAHmann says:

    I’m sorry but I really don’t believe you have the prerequisites to be writing a review for this movie. A decent understanding of the book would suffice which you obviously don’t have. Next time you write a review on such a well known book I would do some studying up, or at least attempt to sound like you have a clue what happens in the book. Good day.

    1. Nick Vennarucci says:

      forget the damn book. this movie structurally is a disaster. he isnt bashing the story. just the anti climatic part 1.

  5. gbradley says:

    You’ll certainly have people that agree with you, but i wonder if you’re more interested in being a naysayer than giving a review. If this film had a limited release in Sweden and no one were talking about it can’t you honestly admit that you would be writing to tell everyone about how you found a unique and underrated treasure? I wonder.

    Undoubtedly you’ll have an answer for this too waiting in the wings but i hope i’ve made you reconsider even if for just a moment why you champion what you do.

  6. Emily says:

    … has this guy read the book at all? The movie pretty much followed it exactly. And well, when you’re making a movie based on the book… it’s pretty crucial to actually follow the book. The first half of the book DID consist of HP, Ron and Hermione camping out and looking for Horcruxes… this is an awful and quite obviously uneducated review.

    As for Brian’s review, I completely disagree with the claim that this movie could have been condensed into one. Much of the wandering-around-the-countryside portion WAS cut out of the movie. It just so happens that some pretty important details happened during that part that couldn’t afford to be cut. Also, by giving only 60-70 minutes for the second half of the film, so much would be lost. The second half has way too accomplish for a single hour. So many scenes would suffer. I don’t want to give too much away for people who have not actually read the books, but if you are familiar, take the Dumbledore and Snape chapters for examples. Such powerful scenes with such powerful information would have to rush through in a matter of a few minutes.

    I truly believe that the point of these last films is to remain true to the BOOK, which the first installment did an excellent job of while still managing to achieve qualities of a great film. If the films were to be condensed into one, loyalty to the novel could not be accomplished.

    1. ephenderson says:

      Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand the importance of this series in particular to maintain close fidelity with the source novels. I just question whether they can truly stand up on their own or as a big-budget audio-visual supplement to the book series.

      Some of my favorite literary adaptations have taken many liberties (Kubrick’s THE SHINING, Altman’s LONG GOODBYE, et al).

  7. Jim says:

    This guy speaks sense, unfortunately when it comes to Harry Potter fans they can get a little blinded by their passion.

    This film franchise can’t hold a candle to the books. For a start the material just doesn’t translate well to film mainly because the plot points are too complex to be adapted coherently to film, It would have been best had they made it into a TV series. On top of that there’s a fairly uninspiring team of script writers that just seem content on reciting scenes from the book rather than adapting them to work in a context of a film to perhaps induce a bit of tension in the character predicaments, the books have back story and narration to provide these elements. Lastly David Yates has to be one of the most uncreative, mercenary directors to do Harry Potter movies, he makes Christopher Columbus look like a genius for God’s sake. I’ll stop the rant there, these films were only meant to capitalize on the popularity of the books, let the fans see the story summarised on screen, make the effects and design look great, parade the cast around, then throw it out there to make some money (notice this formula has worked just as well for the twilight series). Everyone’s happy, hey I don’t mind the HP movies, I just don’t like to pretend that they’re great. .

  8. Haley M says:

    Look, Mr. Henderson. I respect your opinion and all, but you obviously haven’t read the book. If you had, you would know that the second half makes ZERO sense and can’t literally happen without this portion of the book. For instance, when they are caught by the snatchers and brought to Bellatrix, she gets nervous (uh, freaking out!) about them having the sword, and asking Hermione whether she had gotten it from her vault at Gringotts. This prompts Harry to think that Bellatrix is so nervous, not just because they possibly broke into her vault, but because there is something else of much more importance in there, like a horcrux. And although Bellatrix doesn’t know it’s a horcrux, she obviously knows it is important like V told her. With this particular bit of knowledge, H goes to steal the horcrux, prompting V to think H knows about other horcruxes, and thus begins the battle. So, no, part one is NOT a placeholder. Sorry.

  9. Chaz says:

    I have not read the book, I have enjoyed most of the Harry Potter movies but not really enjoyed any of the David Yates made films. I agree with Eric on this one, the film was dull and boring, it only made a little bit of sense to someone who had not read the book whereas earlier films were okay as standalone films.

    This film and acting made me cringe…why on EARTH would Hermione get up and dance with Harry moments after her friend has accused them of lusting after each other? It just boggles the mind and feels very unrealistic. Even if that happens in the book, it’s silly. The thing is, these actors are actually quite good, they just seem lost for direction the whole time…

    Funnily enough, my favourite film out of all of them has been “The Goblet of Fire”. I hope they put more effort into the final installment because this was poor poor poor.

  10. ronny says:

    There are obviously some people that still cannot get Harry Potter movies:

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