So said the teenager a couple of seats across from me at the preview screening as the end credits rolled.
Then, as we walked out of the theatre, a colleague asked me, “Was it just me, or was that a bit of a snooze?”
I had to agree with her.
Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. But isn’t it strange? I thought young people were supposed to have the short attention span. Not where JK Rowling is concerned. Here we are, six films and… I don’t know… 15 hours into the saga, and still no climax in sight!
The rule of thumb for literary adaptations always used to be, “Not as good as the book”. HP fans can be an exacting lot, but they’re absolutely the bedrock of support for these movies… I haven’t read Deathly Hallows and nor has my colleague, but I know the teenagers had – the girl next to me couldn’t stop herself from commenting whenever the movie strayed from Rowling’s sacred text. (Don’t worry: not often.) Now the rule of thumb seems to be: it’s as good as the book, as long as it’s the same as the book.
A quick recap for the uninitiated: Lord Voldemort is in the ascendant, and breathing down Harry Potter’s neck. But Harry, Hermione and Ron are also on the attack, tracking down bits and pieces of Voldemort’s soul – dispersed and hidden in “horcruxes” – and destroying them as they go.
So how many horcruxes do they destroy in the course of this penultimate movie’s 146 minutes do you suppose? Not too many! They do locate a locket in the Ministry of Magic, but it appears to be indestructible…
David Mamet famously described the art of storytelling as “What happens next?” but whatever the magical hold of the Harry Potter series may be, that’s not it.
The pleasure in the movies involves suspense and danger, of course, and more of it as the children mature, but it’s at least as bound up in texture: the careful layering of Rowling’s imagination… with out-size personalities: often comical at first, but generally revealing sensitivity and depth… and of course with supernatural spectacle: magical gizmos that fascinate in the same way as Q’s toys do in the Bond movies; the un-corporeal wraiths, death-eaters, disguises, charms and enchantments that shimmer and sparkle through almost all of the movies’ scenes.
Directed again by David Yates (who was also responsible for the previous two instalments), Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, it sets out like it means business with an exciting aerial escape involving Harry and half a dozen decoys. The infiltration of the Ministry is fun, but the laughs soon dry up when Ron is wounded and they fall under the Tolkien-ian shadow of the evil locket.
Yates handles the action with due competence, but doesn’t have a firm handle on the overall rhythm and flow. A good deal of time is devoted to the dynamics of Ron and Hermione’s relationship, but too much, really – we have been here before, it’s about time they moved it up a notch, don’t you think?
A dance between Harry and Hermione is a novel touch, courtesy of screenwriter Steve Kloves, and one of the film’s sweetest moments, but on the whole acting honours fall to the bad guys. The delicious way Ralph Fiennes invites his pet python to dinner in one of the film’s earliest scenes (supping on a Hogwarts faculty member) is almost worth the price of admission alone. Perhaps inspired by the reptile, Helena Bonham Carter practically eats Emma Watson alive in their big showdown at the end. But there’s an awful lot of padding in between.