Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1

Statistics prove that the movie watching populace today is clearly divided into two parts. Those who know the difference between petrify and stupefy (may their numbers grow), and those who think these are no more than two words from Webster’s Dictionary. And the latter is an aging race that diminishes in number every time someone turns a page.

For the 11 of you who read this blog, and the 61 of you who haven’t read a single book of Harry Potter (and who, almost certainly, don’t read this blog), the seventh installment of this top-grossing movie franchise might be the safest place to begin the journey. Only because, Deathly Hallows part 1 is completely devoid of anything out of a textbook on magical creatures. Well, almost. Also, there are absolutely no boring potion classes to attend. No new spells to learn. No pretty seniors to ‘charm’. No accidents on the Quidditch field. No points to be won for Griffindor house. No Hogwarts rules to be broken. For Potterheads, it’s almost tantamount to being expelled during the Happy Hours at the Three Broomsticks. This is undoubtedly the most non-magical movie about the wizarding world.

Simply put, it’s a story of three young wizards, Harry, Ron and Hermione, who are absconding from the wizarding world in search of something called hocruxes. That it happens to be a bone of contention for Lord Voldemort (very much like Darth Vader from our times) is inferred when his minions called ‘Death Eaters’ (the dark forces) wreck havoc while chasing the three friends. And just as you figure out what the title actually alludes to, you realise that you’ve just watched the longest movie trailer ever, clocking at 150 minutes. Confused? Surely. The movie really wasn't made for you anyway.

But then, as your young friends will tell you, you need a lot more than just a wand or some spell to create some magic. And this movie is visual proof of what Dumbledore meant when he said something in the tune of ‘Love and friendship can encompass everything. Even that which your wand can’t’. (Well, something of the sort. Only read the books once, you know. But you get the drift, don't you?)

While DH part 1 may seem very distant from the magical realms of Hogwarts, it is the one movie that is most loyal to its protagonists. For once, we know more about Harry, Ron and Hermione without ever getting distracted by their academic or trivial pursuits. Here are three friends, who have been driven out of their cocoon of adult supervision, and are racing against time to survive several onslaughts from the dark forces of Lord Voldemort. And the only thing working for them, when even their own wands fail, is each other’s company. But then, it is under such immense pressure that the strongest bonds are forged. Here's where the world of wizards comes closest to reality.

The utter frustration of the characters under overwhelming odds considerably slows down the pace of the movie. At times, you feel as impatient as the characters themselves. At times, you feel a sense of nostalgia, thinking of the good old days at Hogwarts. At times, you are left wondering if it’s a children’s movie any more. The harsh reality dawns upon the characters and the audience alike, that childhood was a thing of the past. And life will only continue to be unfair. So much so that a few lighter moments that emerge out of long dark hours seem no more than a fleeting respite. A Waltz between Harry and Hermione when they are on the verge of giving up is one such poignant moment.

There are two other sequences that will remain etched in the memory for some time. Firstly, there’s Hermione who reluctantly erases herself from her parents’ life, thus keeping them out of harm’s way. And then there is an animated narrative of the legend of the Deathly Hallows. These were the best sequences in this movie.

However, for all its brilliance, DH part 1 does offer an unbiased critic a lot of scope for nitpicking. The effect of wearing a hocrux surely reminds you of Frodo Baggins. Lord Voldemort certainly doesn’t seem half as scary as he’s made out to be. And then, as is the case with most movies that are based on books, DH part 1 proves to be the proverbial mini-skirt, concealing a whole lot more than what it reveals. But among book-based movies, I’d rank DH part 1 alongside Godfather 2, in that it lays greater emphasis on the characters of the story, as opposed to the main plot. That was one aspect of the movie I found most fascinating.

Of course, we do realise that a critique for any movie from this franchise is a futile exercise. If you do watch this in a theatre, just pay attention to the disappointment of the 10-year old who is a complete authority on all magical creatures Harry has encountered so far, or the ecstatic 12-year old who has all the magical spells by heart, and is completely armed to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts, come July 2011. That to me is the best critical analysis Deathly Hallows part one can get.


sam said...

I am too heavily invested in this series now to skip the last movie although the first part sucks.

I mean, there's no intensity to the movie. Forget Hogwarts. Forget the spells and the magical creatures. The movie felt more like a documentary than a movie.

What I love about the LOTR movies is the fact that they were't obsessed with being true to every single detail. The movies hold their own even if you haven't read the books. Sure, the books are a million times more awesome. But with the HP movies, I think my imagination is more exciting than the movies.

Aractus said...

interesting obs about the movie concentrating on the characters rather than the bigger stuff. and Hogwarts was missed so dearly !

Sudhir Pai said...

@sam: Very true. The HP franchise can never match LOTR in the fact that those movies also gave people the opportunity to enjoy the movie without having read the books. I guess it's because JK Rowling has had a big say in the production of the films, which is why, they don't really simplify the plot for first-timers. Having said that, the movie franchise is already set to become the biggest one ever, not to mention book sales, which has enjoyed an upward surge with the release of every single movie.

Sudhir Pai said...

aractus: But having read the book already, that was expected, wasn't it? Waiting to see the last one next july.