“What’s life without a few dragons?”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Continuing ITV’s so-called Harry Potter Season (I would have reviewed Half-Blood Prince earlier in the week, but the Pragmatist demanded Countryfile or something), we come to what should be the last film, but given Hollywood’s voracious desire for Money at the expense of Good Storytelling, it is in fact the penultimate instalment in the franchise, with the snappy title Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
OK, let’s get the inevitable Rant over with. Here’s the thing: I strongly object to the current vogue for adapting single books into multiple films. Because, more often than not, it does not work.
At this point, I would like to write angry things about The Hobbit, but I fear that if I start with that I will never stop. Suffice it to say that, structurally and filmically, splitting The Hobbit (a FAIRY TALE, Peter Jackson. A FAIRY TALE.) into three was an unmitigated disaster.
Then there was Breaking Dawn, which is a laugh because NOTHING HAPPENS for five hundred pages in Breaking Dawn. How they managed to get one film, let alone two, out of it is beyond me. Mind you, the Twilight series has never really been about plot, has it?
And, most confusingly of all, Mockingjay, the last Hunger Games book, is to be split into two. Has Francis Lawrence ever seen a paper copy of Mockingjay? He does realise it’s only 455 pages, right? How is this going to work?
From a story-telling point of view, there is absolutely no need to split any of these books up. And I resent being asked to hand over twice the money for the same amount of story. I don’t think any more interesting stuff makes it into two films than makes it into one, because there is a finite amount of filmable content in any book, so the rest, surely, is just filler. Unless, of course, you’re Peter Jackson, in which case you just make stuff up.
All of this is an extremely angry, roundabout way of saying that my main problem with the film adaptation of Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the fact that it is effectively only half of a film. Watching Harry, Ron and Hermione traipse endlessly around the Forest of Dean was not fun in the book, when there was at least the promise of a dramatic ending; in a film which we know is not going to provide any closure it’s even worse. At times you catch yourself thinking, “What’s the point? I could just watch the second part instead.”
Admittedly, it’s not all bad, and it’s better to watch on telly, where you’re used to inconclusive endings (Reichenbach Fall, anyone?) and where you haven’t paid an exorbitant price to watch a film without a proper ending. The “Tale of the Three Brothers” sequence, for example, is beautifully animated, with lovely, sinister silhouette effects. And although the acting quality is only marginally better than it was when the ka-tet were eleven years old, the atmosphere of the film is rather effective: grey, paranoid, full of fear and darkness and betrayal. Gone are the happy Hogwarts days when you could just brew up some Polyjuice Potion and everything would be all right; this is the real world now, and it’s scary.
To be scrupulously fair, David Yates has done his best with the whole splitting-in-half thing. This is very much the darkness-before-dawn film, lots of evil laughter and Death Eaters and kidnapped people, and admittedly quite effective in its bittersweet ending. But –
– it would have been better as one film. And that is the truth.