Now Playing: ‘Harry Potter’ 7A Is Truly Magical

The penultimate entry in the ‘Harry Potter’ film franchise (based on the first half of J.K. Rowling’s bestselling novel) broke all types of records when it opened back on November 19th. People turned out in droves. The “everyday folk” I’ve talked to have been either warmly enthusiastic or more than a little pissed off about the experience. What’s so odd is that the irate one are the most die-hard fans of the book. This is especially baffling when you consider that the novel was divided into two movies so that they could each be more faithful to the source material. Suck it up, people. ‘Deathly Hallows, Part 1’ is really great.

Now, there are a few reasons why I think the movie is so terrific. Director David Yates (previously a BBC hired gun who was employed and then kept on by Warner Bros. to become the de-facto franchise godfather because he’s cheap and efficient) is kind of a genius. Of course, in explaining my reasons, I will have to talk specifics. So if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book (or both), you might want to head back.

Still there?

Moving on, then!

The first thing Yates did that was so phenomenal was – over the course of his tenure – to drain the color out of the franchise. Earlier movies (particularly Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Prisoner of Azkaban‘) featured deep, naturalistic colors. Think about Dumbledore’s fez or the ivory-white feathers of the griffin. In recent movies, the tone and accompanying color palette have become bleaker and less colorful. In ‘Deathly Hallows, Part 1’, this is taken to a ridiculous degree. There’s a moment in the film where Hermione is wearing a red dress, and it’s so shocking in part because of the color; you can’t feasibly wrap your mind around a moment when such a joyous color would be employed.

This aspect of the movie is most striking during the prolonged infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, which some critics singled out as either the film’s high point or low point. (How they’d imagine that this is anything but rip-snorting fun is beyond me.) In this scene, you see the magic world truly transformed by the reappearance of the Dark Wizard Voldemort (a snake-like Ralph Fiennes, color drained from his face). The Ministry is now all glassy blacks and cold, hard grays. When the kids use their Polyjuice potion to impersonate some Ministry officials and sit in on a trial, wraith-like Dementors swirl above them, like they’re all trapped in some mystical aquarium.

The other thing that Yates does is to doggedly shoot, edit, and compose the movie almost from Harry’s point of view. The best (and possibly worst) example of this is during the opening chase sequence through real-life London. Death Eaters (followers of the Dark Lord) attack various members of the Order of the Phoenix who are all disguised (again: Polyjuice potion!) to look like the Boy Who Lived. This is relentlessly entertaining, a furiously cut-together action sequence that trumps almost any similar scene in a more straight Hollywood actioner. At the end of the sequence, a key member of the team is lost. Why don’t we see this heroic figure fall? Because Yates has kept with Harry so intensively.

Occasionally, of course, he will clue us in to what the baddies are up to. Yet there always seems to be an emotional design to these decisions.

Other than that, I feel like this movie could be one of the best in the franchise, although I really loved the last one (and Cuaron’s third entry). For me, the pacing feels just right, and the movie ends on an appropriate cliffhanger. Plus, it’s nice to see the kids doing a little bit more acting (and, you know, actually being able to handle that acting). But really, we should just be thankful that the last section of the book is in the more-than-capable hands of David Yates. Mercifully, composer Alexandre Desplat will be back for round two as well!

5 comments

  1. I enjoyed the most recent Potter, but my main complaints were with Yates’ annoying use of desaturating everything, and making it ALL dark and grey. To the point where you feel you’re nearly watching a B&W movie with a projector bulb that’s about to give up the ghost.

    I thought the big action scenes (Like the opening one referred to) were fairly mediocre due to the over-reliance on quick cuts/blurred movement/etc. to the point of incomprehensibility.

    Other than that, it was great fun. 😉 And I thought the death of a certain character at the end, was far more moving than Dumbledore’s demise at the end of the last film.

  2. Well IMO the whole ending of the last film was flubbed up due to them pretty much changing it entirely, so I have no excuse for how moving it should or shouldnt have been, could have been setup much more powerful if they had left the battle in with the Aurors (I love how they just magically disappeared all of a sudden, even after they’ve been guarding the castle the whole year) and the kids, it really was a turning point in their adult lives and all of that was let go for a more subtle ending that just didnt fit, all because “we are doing that at the end of the next movie and it would be redundant” yeah whatever…..

    As I stated in another Potter thread, I havent liked Yates changes to the films, while I also agree that this could very well be the best in the series, I dont think thats because of Yates, the adaption and the story and actors abilities are what shone through to me more so this time around and thats because they ARE splitting the book up to encompass it all, not because Yates really knows what he’s doing, I havent liked the fact that he’s brought the focus in on mostly Harry and nothing else, there is too much happening in the world and with other important characters that I feel a lot of of what made the books so great has been left on the back burner.

    The chase in the beginning with all the Harrys was much more suspenseful and better played out in the book, following just Harry in the movie was a bad move and it didnt show us any of the struggle that the others were willing to and did do for Harrys sake, it just got shoved out of focus and out of mind until someone just said what happened, and for a movie thats a BIG no no.

    I myself enjoyed the first few films the most, 1 & 2 I felt gave the most when it came to bringing the “world” of Harry Potter to life while telling his story at the same time, later films just focused too much on Harry and it probably had to be done that way to get most stuff to fit into the movies run time, but all in all I’ve felt Yates has taken away most of the wonder and the world that fans have come to love from the books, at least with this last movie we are getting a good 5 hour or so telling of the final chapter and that in itself is whats going to make it the best out of all the movies, the time and resources was put into putting a top notch adaption on the big screen and it shows for sure

  3. motorheadache

    I was really impressed with this latest Potter flick– it was also the first of the films I watched having read the book beforehand. It was extremely well-made and and all of the actors involved really pulled off the various emotional moments in the story. Even at 2 1/2 hours, I felt at the end that I could have gone right on to Part 2.

    I don’t know what to say to fans that don’t like these films. I don’t know what they expected or how one could reasonably make a better filmed adaptation– it’s not about filming everything from the book, its about finding the heart of the story and creating a film based on that. So far I think every director (including Yates) has pulled that off very well.

  4. Callenby

    Every chapter in Rowling’s books – with the exception of the opening two chapters in Half Blood Prince – were written in third person limited from Harry’s point of view. To decry Yates’ movies for being told mostly from Harry’s point of view and therefore not being faithful enough to the novels’ universe is … poorly thought out.

    Also, isn’t the title of every novel so far “Harry Potter and the…” Chaz, you might have room to argue if the fifth or sixth book had been “Rubeus Hagrid and the Dire Dirigible” or something of the like.

    The reason the seventh film seems to work in its extensive bifurcated format is because the seventh book, of the longer novels, is the most plot-heavy. “Goblet”, “Order”, and “Prince” are all very subplot-heavy.

    I didn’t care for Yates at first (partly because of his cronyistic hiring of lackluster television composer Nicholas Hooper). I’ve come around to him, though, and 7A is close to the top of the pile (for me, it’s a juggle between 3, 4 and 7A). In this movie, more than any other, the tone is perfectly matched with the tone of its gloomy source material.

    My biggest complaint about the movie: the forest chase looked like it was filmed from a moving lawnmower and then edited with the same lawnmower. This is Harry Potter, not Jason Bourne.

  5. Obviously Harry has always been the focus, I wasnt denying that, but the movies have turned him more into the full blown star than the books seemed to make him, even though he was the star in the novels the world around him was as well, but the later films took away most of the world he was involved in and came in to close for comfort in the story telling, mind you this isnt an issue really for me as these films are on the top of my list as all time classics I will enjoy till I’m dead, I’m just comparing what I thought of the first few films to when Yates took over

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