I’m not an enormous Harry Potter fan. I liked the series through books one and two, verged on agreeing that it was brilliant with book three, and fell out of love with it after book four. I think the thing that disenchanted the books for me was the first film. It showed the first book so very literally that it stripped the magic away. A hall full of floating candles sounded amazing when I read about it, but it looked kind of stupid in what was that bit closer to real life.
So, since book four, film one, I’ve been neither a believer nor an unbeliever in the HP camp. I like some things, dislike others, and taken as a whole can live with or without the series. My children, however, are more enthusiastic, so we had to go and see HP7 (part 1) today or face a combined case of the sulks.
Typically, I find myself ambivalent towards the film, though I think that the flaws of the movie can be laid at the door of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the first half. I’d been hoping that the film would do without most of the grinding boredom of the camping sequence which seemed to drag on forever in the book. But no, it reproduced it faithfully – thus descending into grinding boredom itself. And the end felt – as it was – as though it was really a middle. I’m not sure what was achieved by the (what felt like three hours of) camping that couldn’t have been achieved by a time-lapse montage of them quarrelling outside a tent, and then perhaps the whole story could have fitted into one film. But perhaps that would have made it more obvious that the beginning – with the horcruxes – had very little to do with the ending – with the hallows.
Maybe I’m missing the point – but if so, I don’t particularly give a damn. Ron and Hermione’s love life doesn’t really interest me. Rupert Grint does great things with what he’s given, but what he’s given is pretty thankless, poor soul.
Why exactly is this film not about Hermione? Why is she not the hero? She appears to be the only one of the three of them who is prepared, who knows what she’s doing and who is capable of heroic sacrifice. The scene of her wiping herself out of her parents’ memories and life was, for me, the most emotional and horrifying of the whole film. Also one of the most evil things done in the whole film, taking their lives and choices away as though they were of no account at all. I thought, watching it, that we were going to see something more nuanced and tragic than the film actually delivered.
Set against that, the later scene of Harry going all teary eyed at his parents’ grave gave me a moment of “oh, get over it!” As Ron says, at this point Harry is lucky to have no-one but himself to worry about. And frankly the tragic ‘I lost my parents, I’m the only one to have ever suffered’ thing just doesn’t work when everyone else is losing their loved ones all around him too. His wish to go back to where he was born and see the place where they died comes across (to me – waiting for something to happen, goddammit!) as self-indulgent and timewasting. It’s got so bad that people are having to tell us that Harry’s important (the Horcrux, Dobby) rather than relying on the film to show us. The only thing he appears to be really good at is being rescued by other characters.
What did I enjoy? Snape’s entrance and scene among the deatheaters was rather magnificent. The older Weasley boys make for fine eyecandy (I’m partial to redheads.) I enjoyed the whole thing from the beginning, through the Order of the Phoenix getting Harry out to the Burrow. (Lovely cameo by David Thewlis’ Lupin there – he actually made me believe things were really urgent.) I enjoyed the wedding and the chase through London, and the creepy totalitarianism of the Ministry of Magic. And then we got to the camping and all sense of urgency was lost. The question of saving the world was put on hold while Ron and Hermione discovered their feelings for each other in the most childish and stupid way possible, and Harry moped and needed to be rescued. After that, it never really recovered, for me.