Almost there folks. We’re at the penultimate part of the Harry Potter saga. Battle lines have been drawn and Voldemort is ready to kick some serious wizardly arse. Harry knows about the Horcruxes and is intent on finding and destroying them all so he can defeat The Dark Lord. What could possibly stand in his way?… other than the forces of evil of course.
A bloody long trek around the UK, that’s what! I may have gotten ahead of myself there so I’ll backtrack and fill in the plot. As stated Harry now knows about the 7 Horcruxes Voldemort has place parts of his soul within. As long as they exist if Voldemort’s body is destroyed he can be brought back to life. Turns out Harry had destroyed on of these, in the form of Tom Riddles diary, in The Chamber of Secrets. Turns out the Philosophers stone was just a macguffin. I figured, knowing about the Horcrux already, that that would have been one of them. Whatevs, it’s a confusing place the wizardly world of Harry Potter is. Dumbledore had destroyed another in the form of a ring. Harry now knows what the 3rd is and is off to find it and figure out how to destroy it.
Obviously Voldemort is quite keen to not let that happen and is after Harry for his own nefarious deeds. He’s also in the market for a wand that can destroy Harry because something about their wands being twins so he can’t kill harry with his. Random thing to just throw in at the last minute. Gives Voldy an excuse to go do something for the 2 and a half hour duration of the movie though I guess. The wand he really needs is tied to the Deathly Hallows of the films title. Something we’re not informed of until near the 2 hour mark. But I guess this is a 2 part film so in the grand scheme of things that’s not so bad.
The film starts off well enough. There’s magical goings on, a quite cool sky battle/chase scene and a whole lot of Harry, Ron and Hermione on the run. It’s the strongest part of the film for sure. They’re being proactive, getting into adventurous scrapes and making some form of progress. And then they head out to the middle of nowhere and everything grinds to a halt. Suddenly, an hour in, everything slows down to a crawl and the urgency of their situation is lost. Yes they’re on the run so they have to hide but that’s not the most proactive way for characters to act. It’s also not particularly interesting for the audience.
They do make progress but it’s gradual and the places they visit have little to do with the progress at the time. The locations do eventually point them towards a genuine plot progression but most of their progression during the second hour is based on them just thinking about something. There’s on bit where Harry has a dream which makes him realise what can destroy a Horcrux, he heads out to tell Hermione who has also just figured something out. No scene of investigation, no finding of a clue or uncovering of a secret. They just figure it out. Harry’s visions/dreams are a lazy device to feed him information and by this point they’ve gotten really tired.
A lot of this second hour is spent with the characters pushing each other apart, partly because of the Horcrux they’re carrying but also because of the general stress of being on the run. Ron buggers off for a while because he get’s all emo about Harry and Hermione being friends and then just turns up because, I’m not kidding, he heard Hermione whisper his name from a device Ron received in Dumbledore’s will and a light that touched his heart led him to her. This second half is also unrelentingly bleak. You’d honestly think you’d switch over to watch The Road at some points. There should be a growing sense of foreboding dread growing at this point but it’s just not there. No amount of saturating the colour palette or using handheld cameras is gonna force tension where there is little. During this point there should have been a series of scenes showing you what Voldemort was up to. Showing how close he was to the powerful wand he was after. After 7 films you’d think they’d actually give him some decent screentime but he’s still just an evil guy that crops up from time to time.
The film does have it’s strong points though. Performances are strong and that can partly be thanks to the kids not being at Hogwarts this year. Generally the performances that drag the films down a notch are those of the ancillary students. Because they are gone there’s more time to concentrate on Harry and his pals as they get all moody and depressed. The tone stays dark throughout maintaining the more mature vibe the previous film was somewhat lacking until it’s final act. There’s a cool little animated sequence as Hermione tells a story from The Tales Of Beedle The Bard, a book Hermione received in Dumbledore’s plot device laden will. It’s an interestingly animated sequence thanks to it’s shadow puppet style and it’s grim fairy tale tones. It really does give the film a bit of a jolt when it kicks in.
The final act is full of tension and evil doing and is just the sort of climax you’d expect in a film such as this. There’s a little wand dueling, some Hermione torture action and Dobby coming to save the day. There’s a lot less of the secondary character overall in the film but this final part brings a fair few of them back together and sets you up for the big showdown to occur in the next film. I would guess that the next film will largely be set in Hogwarts and will focus on finding the final Horcruxes and weakening Voldemort enough for Harry’s final confrontation with him. Hopefully The Dark Lord will get plenty of screen time too because seeing as he returned in Goblet Of Fire he’s not really done much except destroy a whole lot of the Ministry of Magic. Speaking of the Ministry Of Magic I quite liked the 1981 totalitarian vibe I got from the way it changed once Voldemort’s men were in charge.
Overall the film starts off very strong but that second hour of wandering around being miserable really slows it down too far. They really should have either spent more time with the villains or just cut all those sequences down. it’s baggy and is in real danger of causing the viewer to lose their interest. Technically the film is fine and the action scenes that are there are all fairly unique to that film. There’s also none of the oft repeated uses of Cloaks of Invisibility, Quidditch games or the usual formulaic format. I think the break from Hogwarts actually helps quite a bit too as the film is almost entirely set in real world locations, effectively making the magic real for the first time. They even visit Shaftsbury Avenue which, I can assure people who have never been there, Is certainly not the New York Broadway of London as they make it out to be. It’s really quite a dull street on the outside. Anyway, watch because you have to but don’t expect anything as good as Goblet Of Fire or Order Of The Phoenix.