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By the end of the last Harry Potter movie, this franchise started to turn into a bad case of what the industry calls the “Matrix Revolutions”.
This is caused by films that owe their existence purely to a marketing series momentum that has long since outlived the original fun. The principle symptom is a mythically complicated, wonderful, disastrous and fantastically gloomy clash between good and evil, about whose representatives there is nothing essential left to learn. The Harry Potter brand was clearly made to run a cruel headless-chicken marathon right through its two remaining movies to the bitter end.
But it must to be said that now there are odd and rather unforeseen signs of life. By simply not taking place in Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie seems much freer. Just by not compelling the viewer with the restless routine of coming back for a new term, seeing those cute moving panel portraits in the wood and introducing one new British character actor in the gallery of well-known British character actors on the instructing staff – all of which had become a dull tradition in the 20-minute opening of a Harry Potter movie – this one can breathe more easily. It saves it even though just a bit from the sense of déjà-vu.
DH1, as none with the smallest self-respect is referring it, is still weighed down with the usual loyalty to the fandom. There are some impenetrable story twists, and it brings the usual mythical element, but more gracefully than usual. As a non-fan of the Harry Potter franchise, I found myself questioning: what if you had never seen any of the previous movies and knew little or nothing about them? Might you not be anticipated by the weird story of three adolescences, precariously possessed of magical abilities, suddenly disappearing and reappearing in different locations, who are making a poor attempt at survival, and who are nervously coming to terms with the status rivalry and sensual tension between them? The answer is yes, some sort of.
The film starts with an exciting “conference of evil” led by the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), discussing where and in what way to torture our hero, in which Voldemort’s contemptuous gaze drops on the unpleasant Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), dispossessing him of his wand, making this tool’s Freudian implications clearer than ever: Hermione (Emma Watson) afterward injures Harry’s and he irritatingly asks to use hers. Voldemort attempts everything but press a Doctor Evil-style-cliché button for Lucius to fall through a trapdoor.
Potter, portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe – once as moon-faced and round as his glasses, now rangy and tough – have to try escaping across open country, followed by Hermione and Ron (Rupert Grint). Watson’s Hermione is still very feminine and earnest, whereas Grint’s Ron now seems mature, slightly grizzled and bucolic. Grint’s very development to his second-in-command rank is fun. It is a long journey from the silly face he always had to show in the first movie.
Almost lack of allies and weapons, the heroes now must destroy the Horcruxes, which grant Voldemort’s great power, and they have to decode the mystery of the Deathly Hallows that viewers must wait until the very end of the movie to understand.
Like the previous ones, there is a decent 90-minute story visible inside this nicely decorated circus elephant of a movie. An experimental, low-budget version of Harry Potter might show only Harry, Ron and Hermione wandering in vast Beckettian wildernesses, shabby urban bars and deserted Orwellian ministerial hallways, arguing unstoppably among themselves. And still it is only when the trio is on their own that the movie comes to life: specifically in the mysterious Forest of Dean or a hazy Shaftesbury Avenue cafe in central London where they have a magic face-off with two foes.
The most interesting moment arrives when Ron is agonized by a paranoid, jealous dream of Hermione’s passionate love for Harry. It is relatively a gamey sequence. Something human and real is taking place, a sense of coming to the dramatic climax. Does Ron secretly doubt that Hermione would rather play something other than Quidditch?
Well, after Lord of the Rings, we’re used to the masterpiece that ends over and over again, and when the franchise finally does, at the end of the following movie, some retrospective shape and meaning may be given all that has already gone. I regret the Harry Potter films only had as much interest and power as one of the bests rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. They will be efficiently created, exciting-looking entertainment. Anything more would be magic.