Here we go, folks, the crazy train is leaving the station and it’s got a big old “Hogwart’s Express” stamped on the front of it. It’s quarter of three in the morning and I’ve just got back from the 12:01 showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, featuring a whole load of kids who will probably be useless in school tomorrow, and I’m not just talking about the ones in the movie. You just read my cohort Eoin’s take on this particular matter, and now you get my shot at it. And the best part? I’m not at all happy.
We join Harry and company in the midst of the beginning of the end, as Voldemort and his assortment of cronies are running riot in the world of wizardry and planning to take it to the non-magical Muggles on a scale that can only be described as pure Cobra Commander in its genocidal glee. Naturally, Harry and company find this distasteful, and are out to round up Voldemort’s collection of Horcruxes, or, random objects that hold chunks of Voldemort’s life force / power / chi / whatever ridiculous concept’s been cobbled up to try and explain this mush.
You would think that, by about the third installment of a seven or eight film franchise, you’d pretty much have all the names and places and concepts you needed down, and that you could run the events of the world just fine with what you have on hand. Not Harry Potter, oh no. Rowling’s going to be tossing brand new names and concepts out there like we’re still back in book one. Harry will have somehow learned a panoply of new spells that actually have some offensive use for a change, there will be a whole collection of strange new objects that are somehow vital to the entirety of the film but were never so much as mentioned (that I recall, anyway) before hand, and all sorts of new characters, new places, and new nouns aplenty.
The entire film feels rushed and yet still overlong, with events that should have been huge being glossed over (for instance, the death of Mad-Eye Moody, a big character in previous installments, was essentially reduced to one character–I think it was a Weasley–saying “Oh yeah, by the way, Mad-Eye Moody’s dead.” in roughly the same tone of voice one reserves to mention that a party host is out of shrimp puffs), and events that are ridiculously insignificant being dragged out for several minutes (like Harry’s baffling insistence that Dobby must be buried. With full honors. And no magic. And where the hell did he get the shovel, anyway?). And all the while, things I never knew existed kept popping up, like Hermione’s Preposterously Oversized Handbag, or the strange medical condition that just suddenly hit Ron and tore open his arm while they were teleporting all over England.
And I’m sure that someone, somewhere, has an explanation for how Dobby manages to teleport everywhere that regular wizards can’t, yet somehow, elves are the slave race. Seriously, what’s with that? Harry Potter’s locked in a basement that no one can teleport out of because it’s so very enchanted, not even the absolute chosen king of all wizardry Harry Potter, but here’s Dobby. Oh, sure, it’s absolutely no problem to the only elf in the movie that just learned how SHOES WORK.
The only problem is, I don’t particularly care what that explanation is. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a big, shiny disaster of poor writing, worse adaptation, and acting that to this second makes me cringe, with the lone exception of Helena Bonham Carter, who still plays lunatics like an absolute champ. And don’t even get me started on all the shakycam work. This movie had enough wobbly frames to make me wonder if Voldemort had recently recruited the Blair Witch.
The Screenhead Ten Scale gives an exasperated sigh and hands Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One a four out of ten. Oh, sure, it’s fun enough–there’s plenty of action to go around, but the writing is inches from pure incomprehensibility as a movie unaided by book knowledge. And to misquote Animal House: “Big, shiny and dumb is no way to go through life, son.”