Everything here is just like a simile, and almost completely alliterative.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

movie review: Deathly Hallows I

It's impossible to say anything definitive about a movie that is only half-finished -- if I had walked out feeling fulfilled, narratively speaking, I wouldn't have much motivation to drag myself to a movie theater next spring, I guess. So my main impression is of scenes and parts.

Things I thought were wonderful:

a) the Three Brothers animation. Oh WOW. I almost hated leaving that world to go back to real people world. Elegant, was the only word I could think of for that paper-cut animation. What a brilliant choice to portray a world of childhood fantasy and sinister mystery all at once.

b) interpersonal relationships among the Trio. Really well done. That dancing scene with Harry and Hermione really underscored what I've heard said before about their dynamic -- how in the books, you could buy how Harry and Hermione would not end up together, but movie!Harry and movie!Hermione have undoubtedly active chemistry. And it seemed plain to me in that scene that it was really a bit of a seduction on Harry's part -- not so much a "let me slip your knickers off now" kind of seduction, but a stab not just at making her happy for a few minutes but at maybe seeing if he could be, perhaps, the one to make her happy for longer than just a few minutes. And the sweetly regretful turn of her back -- to me that said it all. And reading the scene that way -- as I think the director clearly intended one to be able to take it -- means that Ron's fears were not entirely irrational, and thus the voice of the Horcrux not some fantasy, but a magnification and distortion of reality, and thus all the more threatening. So Ron's fears are off-base, but not entirely so; Harry would, if there were an opening, step in, but the point is there isn't one.

c) the whole decision to split this movie into two parts. It was wonderful not to feel rushed through any of the book's richness and detail. Knowing I could relax and sip my slushie and be treated to the movie experience anyone who enjoys a book might want, instead of wincing at elisions and missed scenes. . . that was fun.

d) Bellatrix Lestrange. Honestly, HBC, is that hair getting bigger with every film? Work it, girl. Way to make very single other actor on the screen with you look like they're reading off a teleprompter -- Jason Isaacs is about the only one who can even hold on next to her, and that only with fingernails and teeth.

e) Lucius Malfoy the Broken. Oh my. Oh my my my. He's always been interesting in a kind of chilly, remote way -- not so much my taste as other people's, but I appreciate the principle. But this. . . from the very first shot of his angular spottily-shaven face and haunted bloodshot eyes, every cell in my body sat up and said WHY HULLO THAR LUCIUS MALFOY.

f) the Polyjuice Ministry scene. Bravo to those three actors, because they put in serious work following their young counterparts around to get it right. It would bother me, were I those kids, to see myself so caricatured, but it made the scene completely alive.

g) beginning from Snape's perspective. A sop to the fans, but a great choice, to see that opening scene through his eyes as he arrives. Rickman's shuttered face looked less sallow and puffy than it has, and his hair much more tousled and Snapish; his impassivity in that scene, and the horror and distaste pulsating behind it, were powerful to watch. I felt like I could see his quick calculation in his eyes -- can I get away with killing Charity Burbage and shortening her suffering? No? Then I won't look away.

Things that bothered me:

a) The movie was based on the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. Which means that as awesome as parts of the movie were, the book it's based on was still kind of a jumble of stuff. We were still going endlessly camping without really offering an explanation for it -- are we looking for something? trying to escape someone chasing us? just trying to throw people off our trail, or stay safe? who knows! -- and that got kind of wearing.

b) Killing off pets and servants is quite the emotional cheat. Again, a problem with the book, not so much the film, but if the death of Hedwig gave me an "aww, that's too bad" moment, Dobby's death had me checking my watch. I am an easy cry on the best of days, and I'm so hormonal right now (full disclosure: gestating) that I literally cried at an effing Kahlil Gibran poem the other day, so if you can't get me to choke up after knifing a midget* in the chest, you know it's bad. Honestly, I did not so much give a shit. (P.S. Mad-Eye's death was off-screen and totally did not count. And by the way, did we have to make sure that knife was out of Dobby's chest before the frontal shot in order to preserve the PG-13 rating? Can you keep your rating with chest wound as long as the knife isn't actually sticking out of it? Again, kind of a cheat -- didn't they know this was exactly the audience that would yell flesh-wound jokes?)

c) Suspending my disbelief that these broad-chested, shadow-jawed, deep-voiced males in front of me are 17 is getting a bit tough. I mean, yeah, of course they've always been a bit older, for obvious reasons, but I'm sure glad they've already got Part II in the can so I don't have to worry about Ron Weasley sprouting ear-hair between now and then. Yes, I'm around teenagers quite a lot, and yes, I am perfectly aware that some of them do indeed look like that by 17, but there's a particular deepness and dimensionality of face that males only develop in their early 20s. Seriously, Draco looked like he was mainly worried about getting home in time to tuck his kids in bed.

d) Okay, the Weasleys moved, right? Right? Because that is NOT the house they were living in back whenever it was we first visited the Burrow, or the times since then -- it seriously wasn't! In the very first scene we see Ron, and he's standing outside a house, I thought, oh my! I didn't remember that the Weasleys had had to flee to a safe house! But that must be what has happened! So I was quite confused. Am I crazy? Is that the same house? IT'S NOT THE SAME HOUSE, RIGHT?

e) I'm not sure if this bothers me, or if I agree with it, but I notice how both screenwriter and director have just washed their hands of making us believe Harry/Ginny in any particular way. It's incredible that a young man who's gone through so much would end up with someone he hasn't shared any of that with -- I mean, his connection with Luna has actual chemistry, for God's sake. I would believe that he was in love with Molly before I would believe he gave a shit about Ginny, other than as the only fuckable Weasley. Those two are just like repelling magnets when onscreen together, so I'm appreciative of the minimization of her frankly annoying presence. Sorry this perfectly nice young actor got stuck with such an irredeemable role, but maybe she'll get better work after this.

On balance, the wonderful outweighed the annoying in this film, which is not really a film per se since it's only half of one, so I don't really know how to respond to it. I wouldn't have given my opinion of the book halfway through, so I don't see how I can for a film either.

*Yes, I said midget. Get over it. Dobby's not an actual person, so I figure I'm allowed.

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