Mladen and Del review ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1’

Image courtesy of Warner Brothers.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” Starring Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint. Directed by David Yates. 146 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Mladen’s take

The wizard in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” was a charming wussie.

The two wizards in 1981’s “Dragonslayer” were powerful servants of goodness.

The three principal wand-wavers in 2010’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” are mopey and brooding, which must violate some kind of law of Wizard Conduct and Coolness.

The bad witch in Oz was shrill, menacing. Her flying monkeys to this day haunt children’s dreams. “Dragonslayer” offered a formidable and sentient dragon, which sought to protect its offspring and Vermithrax bloodline, as the creature to defeat. By the way, the book on which the movie is based is very good. The evil wizard in “HP and the DH” is as comically fierce as his name, Voldemort. Picture a pale green being with black teeth and gill slits for nostrils.

I somewhat enjoyed the first 90 minutes of “HP and the DH.” The remaining eternity was dull, barring a semi-touching death scene toward the end. I probably would have liked the second-to-last of the HP movies a pinch more had I brought a wizard’s dictionary, thesaurus, and voice translator to the theater. The cockney accent of the red-headed wizard played by Rupert Grint couldn’t be processed by my admittedly inadequate brain. Note to producers of “HP and the DH, Part 2”: Use subtitles whenever red-head speaks.

It makes sense, I suppose, that the HP movies have devolved from wistful to bleak as the principal wizards grew from children to adolescents. But, it was a substantial error to cloak the film’s special effects in grays. Even daylight was shot as though it was perpetual twilight in Potter’s lands. The result was loss of crucial detail that makes battle scenes plausible and thrilling or chilling.

Superb special effects, I suspect, would have been available in glorious brightness had “HP and the DH” moviemakers shifted some of the budget from rendering the movie too long to making it compelling. See “Starship Troopers” for an example of the way sunlit daytime reinforces a film’s plot and believability.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll see “HP and the DH, Part 2” at a theater when it’s released later this year. I’m mildly interested in witnessing the outcome of Hermione’s, Harry’s, and Ron’s search for the horcruxes, medallions that give Voldemort his strength. I’m also mildly interested in seeing what havoc the Dark Lord causes now that he has the Elder wand.

Then again, who cares?

The first “HP and the DH” was disappointing and, I understand, the second was shot at the same time.

Del’s take

I’m not a “Harry Potter” fan, which is not to say I dislike “Harry Potter.” Though I haven’t read the books I did see the first four movies. I thought they were perfectly fine, even fun, entertainment.

I knew going into “Deathly Hallows Part 1” I’d have some catching up to do. Much had taken place in “Order of the Phoenix” and “Half-Blood Prince.” While I expected to wander the Hogwart world in confusion at first, I assumed the pieces would fill themselves in.

What I didn’t expect was to be bored.

In a nutshell, “Deathly Hallows” follows Harry, Hermoine and Ron as they cross the globe – or at least the UK – searching for the Horcruxes that will allow the evil Lord Voldemort to consolidate his hold over all things magic. They must destroy the Horcruxes, a feat they discover will be impossible without the Sword of Gryffindor. Along the way they scramble from subplot to subplot, escaping death by the hairs of Harry’s chinny-chin-chin.

People die, both good and evil. Battles rage. All things hang in the balance. And the movie ends with a cliffhanger – a perfectly adequate way of setting up the final chapter in the Potter saga, due in theaters this summer.

But in “Deathly Hallows” the magic vanishes. Not the wand-waving and incantations we’ve grown to know and like about the previous Potter movies. I’m talking about the innocence and the wonder of the Hogwarts universe, where children and evil trees and dragons co-exist, the world of possible anythings.

In “Deathly Hallows” wands become assault rifles and magic a banana clip. As Mladen noticed, the world is rendered in sad tones of gray. Relationships between characters take on the maroon shadows of a soap opera, all grim and unhappy and suspicious.

I agree with Mladen about Ron’s spoken lines – I could barely understand his mumbled Cockneyed accent. Hermoine’s perpetual foul mood diminished my sympathy for her. And Harry struck me as subtracted from the passion of events, as if he were preoccupied with an algabraic word problem.

I understand “Potter” author J.K. Rowling aged the characters from one book to the next, and darkened the plot in a similar fashion. Director Yates’ rendering of “Hallows” is true to the book. I don’t fault him for that.

But I think it’s a mistake to remove the one ingredient that made all the “Potter” movies so enjoyable – the fun. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” is no fun. It’s dark, moody and depressing – and way too long.

I might pass on Part 2, because as Mladen said, who cares?

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.