November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

A terrific adaptation of the first half of the final Harry Potter book. Thank goodness they didn't try to cram the whole book into two or three hours!

Things they got right:
  • I liked seeing Hermione wiping herself from her parents' lives.
  • The battle in the coffee shop: I loved the dodging, the loud cracks, the flying pots and cups.
  • The bottomless beaded handbag looked great. I loved watching Hermione sink elbow-deep into the bag, also, the sound of her library stack falling over.
  • I loved the comedy of Harry, Ron, and Hermione creeping around the Ministry as Albert Runcorn, Reg Cattermole, and Mafalda Hopkirk. When I read the book, I hoped they would NOT use Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson in these scenes. I was excited at the prospect of three unknown actors playing them for the whole sequence, and I was not disappointed (see photo + my notes, below.)
  • Ron's splinch wounds were very scary. The way he was moaning and panting on the ground was perfect.
  • Harry and Ron discovering the sword in the frozen pond was just as I imagined.
  • When the locket Horcrux finally opens, the black cloud of Voldemort's soul is bigger and more terrifying than I imagined. I found Ron's "visions" of Harry and Hermione very creepy, and their nude kissing was just gross! Emily said "they look like Japanese anime characters!"
  • Bathilda Bagshot was very creepy, with her bulging, watery eyes.
  • The tale of the Three Brothers was nicely portrayed, silouhette-style, almost like paper marionettes.
  • Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) was great (and very tall!) with his one line aboard the Hogwarts Express: "Hey losers, he's not here!" According to the end credits, the camera must have panned past every Hogwarts student we know in that one shot! I didn't notice, but according to the IMDb, Lavender Brown, Romilda Vane, Goyle, Cho Chang, Katie Bell, Zabini, McLaggen, Pansy Parkinson, and Padma Patil were all aboard.
  • Kreacher and Dobby looked A. maz. ing! They looked really real. They made Gollum look like a sock puppet.
Things I missed
  • In the book, when the Death Eaters ambush Harry's escape from Privet Drive, they discover he's the "real" Harry because he doesn't shoot to kill the Imperiused Stan Shunpike. Later, Lupin lectures him on this point. In the movie, Harry releases Hedwig from her cage before they depart. She later defends Harry from the Death Eaters, which tips them off to his identity. Harry has had to carry around that ginormous birdcage in every story. It's a big pain in the storytelling butt. In the book, Hagrid's sidecar is big enough to hold Harry and a giant birdcage? I bet the screenwriter rewrote the scene so the director would not have to show a sidecar so enormous that a 17-year-old boy and a giant birdcage both fit inside. It makes more sense for Harry to release the owl, but why would the Death Eaters know that that owl is Harry's owl anyway? Very clunky.
  • When George loses his ear in the book, it's really gone, like Reservoir Dogs gone. I think the director didn't have the nerve to show a severed ear-hole in his movie.
  • In the book, it feels like Voldemort is breathing down their necks the whole time they're on the run. When they're captured by the Snatchers, it feels like he's going to apparate at any moment. Heck, he's in the same room with Harry and Hermione as they escape Nagini at Bathilda Bagshot's house. In the movie, Voldemort spends his time searching for the Elder Wand, but I never felt that creeping doom of his iminient appearance. The scariest moment of the book is when Harry and Hermione are struggling to escape from Nagini. Nagini has just summoned Voldemort. Voldemort runs up the cottage stairs (very scary Jung-ian moment), and enters the room just as Harry and Hermione fling themselves out the window and disapparate. I was sad that that moment was missing.
  • My wife is always frustrated that Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena) only gets one line in each movie.
Mafalda Hopkirk (Hermione), Harry (in Albert Runcorn's clothes), Mary Cattermole, and Reg Cattermole (Ron) escape the Dementors at the Ministry.

When I read Deathly Hallows, I was excited to see Mafalda Hopkirk make a reappearance. Actually "reappearance' is the wrong word, because the last time we heard from Mafalda, it was her voice only: Jessica Stevenson was the voice of Hopkirk, emanating from a magical letter, in Order of the Phoenix. Why should I care about such a marginal character? I am a huge fan of Jessica Stevenson for co-creating and co-starring on the terrific TV show SPACED, with Simon Pegg. We only heard her voice in Phoenix, so when I read she was returning to the screen in Hallows, I was excited that she might show her face at last? And I was doubly excited, because in Hallows she would appear in the flesh, but her voice would be "looped in" by Emma Watson. How delicious that she would appear "voice only" in the fifth movie, and "body only" in the seventh!Alas, it was not to be. Instead, Mafalda Hopkirk's body is played by Sophie Thompson, sister of Professor Trelawney herself, Emma Thompson. I know Sophie Thompson best as Bride # 2 Lydia, in Four Weddings & A Funeral.

THEATER NOTES: With my lovely wife and the lovely Laura, Showcase Cinemas Du Lux (screen 7) at Legacy Place, Dedham. This was the second time I spent the big bucks for the "lux level" seating (21+, super-cushy leather reserved seating, wait service in the theater) but I don't think I'll do it again. The seats are great, and it's nice to have popcorn and beer brought to my seat, but the price is steep ($25, minus $5 food credit) and they leave the lights on dim so guests can see their food.