Saturday, 13 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One - A spoilerific exploration

This post will include just about every spoiler imaginable for Part One of the Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows film, so if you haven’t read the book, or don’t want to know how certain things were covered on screen, then go and read my spoiler-free review of the film at: instead.


I’m going to look at the film scene by scene, see how it works in comparison to the book, and give any general thoughts on the piece as it goes along. So without further ado, here we are

The Opening Sequence: Making a bold move, they opted not to open at Malfoy Manor as the book does (although that scene does come up very quickly). Instead they open with a montage of the trio, each at their own house. We see the Dursleys leave (unfortunately losing Dudley’s touching goodbye, but ah well), we see Hermione erase her parents memories, and we see Ron, stood in front of the Burrow, realising that soon he will leave it, possibly forever.

This sequence is great, and it really makes us realise that all three of them, not just Harry, are making a huge sacrifice when it comes to going off hunting horcruxes. It’s a bleak beginning, but honestly: it sets the tone for what is certainly the darkest HP film to date.

Malfoy Manor: Now we are back with the scene which should have opened the film, and it’s practically verbatim from the book, minus the bit about the peacocks. Snape swoops in through the huge gates of Malfoy Manor, and arrives at the table, Charity Burbage hung above it, with Death Eaters all around. I’m pretty sure the script is taken straight from the page here, and it’s great to see Lucius tremble in fear as he realises that the Dark Lord no longer needs him.

Seven Potters and the arrival at the Burrow: This is one of the most action packed sequences in this half of the book, and as you’d expect, they’ve taken it even further on screen. The transformation sequence is just as fun – and funny – as we’d want it to be, and once the gang are in the air, the broomstick battle is incredible to behold. Not purely restricted to the skies, Harry and Hagrid race on the motorbike along the M25, with Death Eaters in hot pursuit, flipping cars, caravans and all sorts before the bike manages to get airborne again.

Hedwig’s death is understated, but touching nonetheless, and the arrival at the Burrow is superb. The slightly mad glint in Remus’ eye as he grabs Harry to check if he is an impostor, and the “I’m holy” joke from George both make the cut, in a scene which is as close to the book as anything Kloves has written to date.

So far so good then!!

The Wedding: Following the long awaited arrival of Bill Weasley to the series during the Seven Potter sequence, we’re straight into his and Fleur’s wedding. It’s a lavish and beautiful affair, and there are a couple of great lines for Luna, which will no doubt get a laugh.

Of course the important part here is the moment the Patronus appears, and the moment it does all hell breaks loose. People are apparating in and out all over the place, and the tent catches fire as the Death Eaters descend. Harry’s instincts are to grab his wand and fight, but thankfully Remus grabs him, thrusts him at Hermione and Ron, and the trio disapparate, leaving carnage behind them.

Shaftesbury Avenue and the Café: In the book, the trio end up on Tottenham Court Road, and it always seemed an odd choice to me to be honest. It’s a central road in London sure, but I can’t see why it would be the first to come to mind. The filmmakers clearly had the same idea, and have opted to swap TCR for Piccadilly Circus, with the trio apparating in front of a bus in the middle of the packed square. I was lucky enough to see them film these sequences, so to see them on the big screen particularly excited me.

The fight in the café is well shot, and for the first time we see Ron’s dark side come out, as he wants to kill the two fallen Death Eaters, saying: “What if it was one of them who killed Mad Eye, would you want them to live then?” Up until now in the series Ron has really been the comic relief character, and while he has some comedy moments in this one he also grows SO much as a character, and the credit for portraying that so well really does lie with Rupert Grint

Kreacher’s Tale: Having made their way to Grimmauld Place, and found the name Regulus Arcturus Black on a bedroom door, the gang quickly searches out Kreacher regarding the missing locket.

This is the one part of the film I really didn’t like, as I would have loved to have seen the whole of Kreacher’s Tale included, as it is the redemption of the character, and our chance to find out why he is the screwed up way he is. Instead we just jump straight to the fact that: Yes, there was another locket and that Mundungus stole it. End of. I know why it was done that way, (because it would have cost FAR too much to rebuild that Cave for a 2minute scene when there was another way of doing it), but it still bugged me a little bit.

Ministry: Probably the funniest sequence in the film, the trio take the Polyjuice potion and turn into the 3 ministry representatives. I spoke to David O Hara (who plays the body of Runcorn, Harry’s unsuspecting body double), and he was talking about how difficult it was for the adult counterparts to learn the mannerisms of the way Dan, Rupert and Emma carry themselves, and to sync the audio of the young actors voices to the adult’s lip sync, but honestly: it works superbly on screen.

The Hogwarts Express: A little added scene that’s not in the books, (just to remind us that the rest of the young actors still exist), sees a Death Eater stop the Hogwarts Express on the tracks, and march through it, looking for Harry. We get to see the beginnings of Neville’s growth into the young rebel, and although he only gets one line, it’s enough for me to know that Matt Lewis will do just fine when his big turn comes around next time

Camping: This was where DH Part One was going to be won or lost really. The camping sections in the book are so long, and with not an awful lot happening that these scenes could easily have devolved into boredom. Thankfully they’ve been shot in such a way that one minute we’re looking at a beautiful landscape (and every place they stop really is BEAUTIFUL), and the next we’re met with a great radio montage of Ron listening to the radio, day after day, waiting for news. It’s not perfect, but with the small amount of material they had to build upon, they’ve made a sequence which at least works on screen, which is something anyway.

Ron/Harry fight: Another shining scene for Ron’s character comes as he finally locks horns with Harry over the lack of anything resembling a plan. Jealous of Harry’s close friendship with Hermione (and completely missing the fact that she’s madly in love with him, because lets face it: he’s a dumb teenage boy), he storms out of the tent, leaving a silence behind him which says as much as the entire argument does. Rupert proves once again that he is one of the best actors in the series in this scene, and it really is a shame that the scripts up to now haven’t given him the opportunity to flex his skills this much.

The graveyard: Now alone, Harry and Hermione head for Godric’s Hollow, and head first for the graveyard where James and Lily are buried. Dan’s face when he looks down at the grave is enough to break anyone’s heart.

Bathilda’s House: Out of the corner of her eye, Hermione notices a CREEPY looking old lady stood watching them by the grave, beckoning them to follow her. This of course is Bathilda Bagshot, and man oh man did they get this scene right. It’s TERRIFYING as you see Nagini appear from within the body, and chase Harry through the house. This is one of the best scenes in the film, but also one in which I actually take issue with the 12A rating. This scene is GENUINELY scary, and I can only assume this was right on the boundary of pushing it too far and into a higher certificate. And the scares are not over yet.

Silver Doe and the destruction of the Locket: Back at the campsite, Harry sees an ethereal light through the trees and follows it, as it turns into a magnificent Doe Patronus. Racing down the hill behind it, it soon takes him to a frozen lake, with the sword of Gryffindor at the bottom. As he dives in though, the locket almost comes alive, and starts to strangle him, leaving him to drown.

As Ron makes his return, saving Harry’s life, we witness very simply the best scene Rupert has ever filmed for the franchise to date.

He takes up the sword, and Harry opens the locket, causing a huge explosion of a dark phantom like force, showing him his worst fears, one by one, first spiders, and then a Harry and Hermione who love each other. Rupert’s resolve as he finally takes control back, smashing the sword against the horcrux and ending it is wonderful, and his reunion with Hermione moments later is simply beautiful.

Xeno and The Tale of the Three Brothers: Rhys Ifans’ portrayal of Xenophilius Lovegood was always going to be an important one, as he would get to explain once and for all the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. He is an incredible actor, and brings out the on-edge feeling of the man who has lost his daughter very well.

The scene at his house is really dominated by the Tale of the Three Brothers though. An AMAZING animated sequence, with Emma reading the tale in voice-over over the top, the story is brought to life on screen in a way I hadn’t expected, and the sequence really stands out in my mind as one of the best in the film.

Malfoy Manor Again: Captured by Snatcher’s as they flee Xeno’s place, the trio find themselves at Malfoy Manor. Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix eclipses everyone else on screen here, her complete insanity outshining everything. As she tortures Hermione, it feels truly real, both from Emma’s portrayal and her own.

Then of course everyone’s favourite House Elf returns, as Dobby appears to rescue the trio. As he singlehandedly thwarts Bella, Narcissa and Lucius, he gives his empassioned “Dobby has no master. Dobby is a free elf.” speech, and I honestly felt like standing up and applauding/cheering right there in the middle of the screening (I didn’t but I wanted to)

Dobby: Unfortunately, just seconds later elation became tears. I sobbed when Dobby died in the book, and I’ll admit I shed a tear here too. Dan’s reaction as he holds the lifeless elf in his arms pushed me right over the edge, as you can see the anguish and heartbreak in his own eyes, as Dobby tells him that “[He] is glad to have been with [his] best friend Harry Potter” as he died. Fading to black as Harry finishes digging the grave, it looks like we’re done. But no: there is one final scene leading into the split between the movies.

The Split: Voldemort has spent the entire film (in a sequences of glimpses through Harry’s scar-vision which perfectly replicate the equivalent sequences for the book) searching for the Elder Wand, and as the film ends, we see the White Tomb open, and Riddle taking the Wand, firing a beam of light into the air and laughing maniacally. This was the perfect end for part one. The balance of power has shifted. Harry and the others have lost one of their best friends, their resolve is trembling, and Voldemort is suddenly at his most powerful. THAT is how you get an audience back for the conclusion.

And what a conclusion it promises to be. With rumours of a LONGER second half, and pretty much only Gringotts and the Battle to go, the vast majority of the second movie will take place during the battle, which is as it should be. Is it July yet?!?

1 comment:

  1. Opening scene I loved seeing Hermione's bit. I cried watching her erase herself from her family and the look on her mother's face, like she knew something was missing but couldn't quite reach the memory of what, it spoke to me off the power of a mother's love (huge theme in the series). Not sure it was intended but that's what I got there. I really felt the lack of any kind of exchange between Dudley and Harry and am really sad over it. I felt cheated almost.

    The 7 Potter was amazing, I loved the morphing. I loved that we got one of my favorite exchanges from HBP here, Fluer's beautiful
    remark. This was a well done section, and aside from them going to the Burrow and not Tonks' parents it was exact. I too love that they kept "Saint Like"

    I'm with you on Kreacher, I was hoping for more of him. The theater I was in, everyone cheered over Neville's one line. I lost it over Dobby (you know I have a Dobby tattoo right?) and having him talk to then die in Harry's arms!! Oh my!! I felt the split was a good one and I managed to be unspoiled until the moment I saw it!
    Oh and Ron/Rupert. I loved him here, more man less silly boy.

    And one more thing, I really wish we had seen Luna's ceiling. Her painting was something that moved and stuck with Harry.