One of the several nice things about the new digital project at Astro Theatres is that we seem to be getting movies much faster than before. Getting a movie on its opening weekend was normally a once a year rarity. But it's happening a bit more frequently, including getting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this weekend.
So how is the next-to-last Potter film? I think it's as good as it can be. The last book was always a bit of a wobbly beast. The monster that scared J.K. Rowling the most was never Voldemort, but an editor. In a novel that had some of the most exciting passages in all of the books, it also had the most deathly boring passages of the series, with Harry, Ron and Hermonine wandering around lost in rural England.
All things considered, the movie does the best it can with the source material. There's some healthy purging of the unending scenes of the characters wandering around looking for horcruxes. It's visually stunning and practically oozing in atmosphere. And the little animation sequence explaining the Deathly Hallows is as clever a thing as we've seen in the movie series so far.
It's also worth mentioning that this is probably the best acted of the bunch. Child actors have a grim track record in entertainment. However Radcliffe, Watson and Grint turn in some of their best work in the movie. They're not the wobbly kids from The Philosopher Stone anymore. If nothing else, spending a decade working with some of the very best of British actors should give you a few tips. I'm not saying they're all going to have stellar post-Potter careers (you can't help but feel Grint is probably doomed), but they have the chance.
But of course there are problems. No matter how much purging you do, there's still an awful lot of wandering around lost. Comparisons have been made to Empire Strikes Back or Two Towers. The movie ends on not exactly a happy note and a cliff hanger of sorts. The one good thing is that unlike the other movies, where the wait was a year or more, at least you'll get to see how things wrap up in about seven months.
Also, and I mention this because I was talking to a friend about coming to see the movie with us last night. He said he hadn't seen the last two movies. I'm not sure this is the friendliest movie in the world to walk into without being pretty thoroughly aware of your Potter lore. The writer and director are assuming you're going to know a lot of things from the past movies. I admire the bravery, actually. To not have to waste five or 10 minutes recapping everything. But if you're coming to Potter cold, or have missed the last few movies, even if you've read the books, it could be a bit much to keep up with.
I like it well enough, although it's not my favourite of the Potter films (the Prisoner of Azkaban is mine) and judging by the Rotten Tomatoes rating, a lot of people feel the same way. At 79% positive, it's in the bottom third of the movies. It's fine and all, a nice place holder, but bring on the meat of part 2.
1. Celebration - Kings of Leon
2. From a whisper to a scream - Allen Touissaint
3. Champions of nothing (live) - Matthew Good
4. Stop bringing me down - Ian Foster Band
5. The miracle of childbirth (comedy)* - Patton Oswalt