So, the prolonged death rattle of Harry Potter begins. A shrieking gurgle that starts in November 2010 and may finally croak its last in July 2011, unless J.K. Rowling announces she’ll churn out another novel.
But assuming that doesn’t happen, this is the first in a two-part adaptation of the final book. Does it carry the necessary drama? Does that controversial split-in-half justify itself? Let’s see.
Harry Potter And The Slavish Adaptation
The previous Potter films have had an edited highlights feel to them. They’ve zipped through plot points, rarely stopping for niggles or thoughtful character-building scenes. One outcome of the doubled length here is a more thorough adaptation than we had before, with more characters pausing for thought.
Which means Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, the stars of this metafictional Truman Show of a franchise, get to do some proper acting. Happily, it turns out they’re actually alright at it. Grint, in particular, gets much more than his usual comic relief bits.
On the other hand, it also means the interminable camping sequences from the book remain intact. Hard to blame the film-makers, but it does sag a bit in the middle. That was one time I hoped they’d indulge in some strategic chopping.
Harry Potter And The Pretty Direction
Without the need to march onwards quite as briskly, David Yates indulges in some directorial flourishes, clearly enjoying outdoor scenes rather than the endless stone corridors of Hogwarts. There’s also a short animated sequence that was beautifully done.
One interesting point: this film is such a thorough adaptation, it resolves storylines that previous ones didn’t bother setting up. For example, the replacing of the old Minister for Magic with Scrimgeour (played here by Bill Nighy) in book six was never mentioned, yet he turns up as if we already know who he is. Similarly, we get the wedding of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour, whose relationship had been excised from the movie franchise until now.
Harry Potter And The Non-Ending
And then, the end-in-the-middle. There’s a decent attempt to position it after a big action sequence and mini-cliffhanger, but really, this doesn’t feel like a whole movie. It’s hard to make a savage criticism of that, it’s clearly advertised in the title after all, but there it is nonetheless.
So does this work? Well, it has the requisite sense of dread, and the three main actors work very well together after all these years. As mentioned, it looks lovely. Fans are unlikely to be disappointed. Non-fans… well, surely you’ve stopped bothering by now? Or have you? Do chime in below with your thoughts on this cultural milestone.