Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
For me, family films are relegated to a completely different form of entertainment. When someone tells me that the latest Pixar offering is the best film of the year it's hard to hold back my laughter. Not to say Pixar films are subpar, I loved the hell out of Toy Story 3, it's just nowhere in the same universe as say Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans.
The Harry Potter films are a strange breed because i for one can not relegate them to a different form of entertainment. I take them as full on adventure films that I compare toe to toe with any non-family feature. I didn't always feel this way, in fact I once looked down upon the franchise as an overloved fantasy drivel fest that turned witches and wizards into children who say silly words like "Hogwarts" and have stupid names like "Dumbledore". It was Lord of the Rings for a select sect of our East end costumers if anything.
It wasn't until years later that I came across (shit... i'm doing it again aren't I? I don't have an obsession with him... really) Roger Ebert's review of the first Potter film where he went on to say that the film joined the pantheon of classic adventure films such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Wizard of Oz that i reconsidered my initial thoughts on Harry Potter.
Earlier this year I sat down to the first film with a complete open mind and just like that i was lost in a different world. I hadn't felt something remotely similar to it since when I first watched Star Wars at 4 years old. I quickly ate up the six films we have in stock but my hunger for boy wizard flesh did not subside, then Kendall handed me off the books. Reading a series of 7 books, the majority of which hit closely or over the 700 page mark, seemed daunting. I started in March and was finished all of them by June.
What separates these films from other kid's fantasy films is the immense and fantastic adult cast made up of some of the finest British actors ever. They take to their roles with such dedication and seriousness. The caliber of perfomance from the likes of Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Kenneth Brannagh, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, and Brendan Gleeson (just to name a small few) is one not usually seen in the realm of family entertainment. This grounds the films with merit and stops them from ever becoming completely exclusive to children.
I'm not trying to say a Harry Potter film deserves to clean up at the Academy Awards or anything, just that being dismissive of these films and books should not be ones gut reaction as it was once mine. There's actual substance here waiting for those willing to let their imaginations run away with them.
The franchise is finally reaching its eventual conclusion and of course, Warner Bros. panicking over losing its biggest franchise has decided to split the last story into two parts. The first of which was recently released into cinemas and that i finally found the time to check out.
This is the Harry Potter film i want to show to non-believers. It's dark (figuratively and literally), sad, long, complex, and has no ending whatsoever. It completely embraces the mature tone of the book it was based on and delivers a surprisingly accurate retelling of the story.
In what makes up the first half of the book and this film, we follow Harry, Ron, and Hermonie, on the run from the dark lord Voldemort who has taken over the wizarding world. With a very vague idea of what they can do to stop the villain the trio travels the vast British landscape, moving from camp to camp while trying to figure out what to do. The psychological weight of their dilemma takes its toll on the trio and it isn't long before they start to break down. Their strife is painted as one similar to those surviving an end of the world type of scenario and it's only going to be so long until the hordes catch up with them.
Trading in the usual location of a wizarding school is instead beautiful photography of various locales around Britian, at times making things feel more Middle-Earth than boy wizard.
The film is relentless and you'll find yourself wondering when the heroes are going to catch a break and thankfully they never do. This is mean stuff. This is the Empire Strikes Back of the franchise and I couldn't be happier with it.
While i doubt highly I'll convince those who could care less for Harry Potter to actually see this film (or read this review for that matter) I will still contest that it's one hell of a ride that's definitely worth getting to if you have yet to see the other films... although those are great too.