Roadshow Films/Warner Bros.
When it was announced that The Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter saga, would be made into two films there was always the fear that Part 1 would not succeed as a film in its own right but merely as the warm-up act for the finale (Part 2 arrives in July 2011). Sadly, that has proven to be the case.
Whether David Yates (director since Harry Potter film #5, Order of the Phoenix) and screenwriter Steve Kloves felt the need to reward die hard Potter fans by including as much of the source material as possible, or simply needed to justify splitting the book into two films, the resultant 146 minutes that constitutes The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is all set-up for the second film.
J.K. Rowling's final installment in the Potter saga was a hefty tome but not in need of two films. Rowling's books have always had fat to trim and the best adaptations – #3 Prisoner of Azkaban and #4 Goblet of Fire – succeeded by knowing what to cut.
For the first time since film #2, The Chamber of Secrets, a Harry Potter film is almost a chore to sit through (Chamber and #1, Philosopher's Stone, sagged under the weight of their literary fidelity). That's not because of the film's dark themes and tone or the lack of magic, cinematic rather than wizarding, but because for almost two and a half hours, nothing much happens.
Sporadic action sequences enliven proceedings but most of the film centres on Harry, Ron and Hermoine, on the run and camped out in the woods. School's out (forever) in HP7, with Hogwart's only mentioned in passing. That means school chums and, more disappointingly, a host of British character actors are sidelined.
So, too, is Voldemort. Since his resurrection in Goblet of Fire (still my favourite Potter book and film), The Dark Lord (and Ralph Fiennes who embodies him, sans nose) has been criminally underused.
You can understand Warner Bros eagerness to wring every last drop out of their cash cow (the most successful movie franchise ever), but filming The Deadly Hallows as two features is all about commerce and not art – or intelligent blockbuster entertainment, which the Potter films have proven to be.
But hats-off to the studio for dumping its planned conversion of the film to 3D – this time. Sadly, Part 2 will require eyewear. Here's hoping it will also require a box of tissues, for this fan is hoping for an emotional farewell to the Potter universe, in the form a truly great film and not a ploddingly faithful rendering of the book.
Note to filmmakers: Please DO NOT use the book's epilogue!