The online film critic community seems to be divisible into two camps when it comes to the Harry Potter franchise. One group is completely indifferent towards the franchise and they like to pretend that its existence has no bearing on any given year of film. The other group obsesses over every morsel of Harry Potter news and eagerly awaits the arrival of every subsequent film. Readers of this website are undoubtedly aware that I proudly belong to the latter camp. Every year I greet the next film in the Harry Potter series with great anticipation and I am rarely disappointed. With exactly one week before the release of the 7th film in the franchise, my excitement may be higher than ever as I prepare for David Yates’ continued vision for the series.
Yesterday the film had its World Premiere in England and the British film community is abuzz. Several London critics and a few American critics have weighed in with their initial thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. This is the type of film where reviews mean absolutely nothing because many critics have an inexplicable grudge against the Potter films and regardless of opinions it will still have exorbitant success at the Box Office. However, I do like to hear what the film minds think of what will likely be one of the biggest films of the year.
Initial reviews from the American critics are mostly positive. Todd McCarthy who now writes for The Hollywood Reporter says the film does its best to appease fans of the franchise by tying in all of the important story strands. However, he does not believe that the film suffers as a result:
Arguing in favor of the extensive treatment is the fact that in Deathly Hallows, screenwriter Steve Kloves must pull together multiple story strands and dozens of characters that, as especially will be the case in Part 2, date back to the series’ prepubescent days. To cram the essentials covered in Part 1 and to do justice to the climaxes that await would represent a very tall order for a single conventional-length film. So it seems reasonable enough to say why not do it all, shoot the works, show every scene millions of readers want to see, give every character his or her proper curtain call, be expansive rather than constrained? In this case, probably better a bit too much — even a dull scene here and there — than not enough.
Justin Chang of Variety is even more praise-worthy of the film with a review that borders on all-out rave. Chang mostly appreciates that the film continues to build on the deep and dismal tone of the previous films, making this the most adult-geared Potter film of them all:
But the emotional centerpiece of “Deathly Hallows” is a relatively static stretch during which our heroes seek refuge in the woods, and the tight bond of Harry and Ron’s friendship begins to fray as they grapple with frustration, uncertainty and jealousy over Hermione’s perceived affections. It’s a parched, depressive interlude, marked by a strong feeling of isolation (and beautifully shot at Blighty’s Burnham Beeches) that may bore some viewers, but as the major turning point for the saga’s foundational relationships, it affords Radcliffe, Grint and Watson some of their finest moments.
The British critics were more split on their response to the film. James Mottram of The Independent gives it four out of five stars and also praises it for being adult-geared and quite scary:
Then there’s the inevitable darkness that envelopes much of Rowling’s conclusion. To be fair, Yates doesn’t shy away from it. The opening scenes, as the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) rages “I must be the one to kill Harry Potter”, are as ominous as the dark clouds that swirl overhead. By the time a giant snake slithers down a table, opening its jaws to the camera, it’s clear this will be the scariest Potter since Alfonso CuarÃ³n’s 2004 effort Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, arguably the best of the series to date.
Another distinguished British newspaper was less praiseworthy of the effort. Xan Brooks of The Guardian says that the latest franchise continues on the series’ diminishing returns and is devoid of any wit or substance:
Deathly Hallows looks great, in the way that a show home looks great. Director David Yates has arranged the furniture to perfection. He has laid on the fireworks (I particularly liked The Tale of the Three Brothers, rendered as a shadow-play) and filled the interior with a rich array of celebrity guests, so that the likes of Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Imelda Staunton and Helena Bonham Carter flit between the scenes with the satisfied air of jobbing actors who have been offered walk on roles at the world’s most expensive fancy dress ball.
The only thing that these reviews have served to do (even the negative ones) is get me ever more excited for the release of the final film. I will be there midnight on Thursday with all of the other Potter faithful awaiting the glory of Wizarddom to wash over me.
On a scale of 1 to 10 rate your excitement for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.