I’m not a massive Potter head. I have seen all the movies and enjoyed them, some more than others! Years ago, I read the first two books, so I guess I have quite a good knowledge of the Harry Potter world. I enjoyed the movie. It was action packed and well made. The audience cheered at all the big moments. I thought the first half of the film was brilliant fun but then the second half, though kinetic to watch, felt a bit flat.
There was an amazing action scene at the start where the trio of heroes break into Gringots Bank and some stellar British thesp acting from Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Warwick Davies. The kids were better than previous films. Daniel Radcliffe has sometimes seemed a bit wooden to me but here he holds his own up against the A-listers. Rupert Grint seemed bored with the whole thing for most of the film. Emma Watson is, for me, the best actor of these three, but they all have likeable screen presence now, like old friends.
Story wise, there was too much Voldermort and Harry. The other characters are all backgrounded, in the story, and literally in the staging. Ron and Hermione spent every scene standing a little behind Harry, one side or the other. Bellatrix, Snape and the Mallfoys, all lined up behind Voldermort. Hermione and Ron aren’t really given enough to do for most of the movie. Which is odd as, to me, they are the strongest characters after Harry. I have no idea who most of the minor characters are, some of them are given little moments, which are nice, but some hardly feature at all, and then we are supposed to care when they die. I was disappointed there wasn’t more of Hagrid, he is one of the best characters too. Neville Longbottom got far too much screen time. I thought some of his action stuff should have gone to Ron, who is more of a lead character.
There are lots of Magic McGuffins that need destroying or collected before Harry can defeat Voldermort, but somehow these do not add enough tension as they have no real function in the story. They all require convoluted explanations etc and there are so many of them it’s a bit like a video-game. I couldn’t help thinking of the simplicity of the Lord of the Rings, when all they have to destroy is the one ring and the parallel stories, help build tension to that.
There is a flashback and a dream sequence (or death/unconscious sequence) stuck in the middle of the action. These dispelled a bit of tension too. The flashback works well, but the dream sequence was decidedly odd, though there was a good speech at the end of it from Michael Gambon as Dumbledor. Both these scenes revealed twists regarding Snape, Dumbledor and Harry’s destiny, which were a little complex to follow for me in terms of character logic.
Overall I enjoyed it, but much like all the other Harry Potter films, it reminded me of Lord of the Rings, which to my mind is infinitely better. The only thing that is much better in Harry Potter is that the end is short and sweet, compared to LOTR where it is dragged out forever.
I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t particularly like it either, and this is coming from a person who loves every other Terrence Malick film!
It was a beautifully shot film. Malick seems to have totally abandoned narrative, dialogue and actors performance, in favour of his distinct visual style: Images of pastoral, bucolic, nature, and people running around, like it’s the Garden of Eden. But, because there is no story, this style started to grate. It felt clichéd to me. In fact, old Malick films do it better, because their variation between static dialogue scenes and these moments, give the films more visual and stylistic texture.
Here, there is a constant use of tight steady-cam shots following characters around, spinning around them. The edits jump cut fragments together: moments of silence and looks, hands on backs, ignoring any hint of a conventional dialogue scene. Choral music is plastered over everything and voices whisper little bits of voice over.
There is a half hour digression that takes in the creation of earth and includes some terrible CGI dinosaurs. It is pretty clichéd, a mix of 2001, Fantasia and Walking with Dinosaurs, and look the dinosaurs have morality! At this point my mind began to wander and I asked myself: if these dinosaurs are part of this story, why aren’t they all jump cuts and steady-cam’d up?
I thought the story, or to be more precise the conceit, was self-indulgent and made no sense whatsoever. I simply didn’t understand the logic of it. I know it was all about Life and Spirituality but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a few narrative hooks to pin it on and make it more logical. For example:
If it was about Sean Penn remembering his fifties childhood, because his brother died. Then his brother’s death in the now should spark that story. Or the break up of his marriage or his mum or dad dying or something. That kind of thing make more narrative sense and gives some reason for the present day story.
If it’s just about a Sean Penn remembering his life, then why does he remember the beginning of time and a load of dinosaurs? Then a summer when he was ten. It’s a pretty strange selection of life memories: a load of stuff that never happened to you, and one summer. If he was thinking about all this because of the death of his brother, ten years later, wouldn’t he remember that time too and his reaction to the death, not just his parents reaction?
Basically the film isn’t about that Sean Penn character at all. It’s the director’s vision of his childhood played out by actors. A Hopper-Wyeth, Fifties, Pastoral, America and I don’t mind that, just please give me a little bit of story to hook it to . Otherwise I might as well just be watching Malick’s home movies.
The idea of ‘The Graveyard Book’ – A little boy is raised by ghosts / the dead who have lives, homes and a society of their own – made me think a little of ‘How the Dead Live’ by WIll Self. But the similarities are mostly just the comic dead characters and their voices/personalities. These characters, I thought, were well written and funny – each with a distinctive personality and way of speaking. Of the main characters – I particularly loved the characters of Silas and Mrs Lupescu, plus the villain The Man Jack.
The gang of Jacks made me think a little of the gang in ‘The Ladykillers’ – but I think this was as much to do with Chris Riddell’s amazing illustrations as the characters themselves.
Overall I really enjoyed it and I thought it pulled together an exhilarating and page turning end. Though it was strange to send a boy of fifteen out into the world alone – I was a little worried for Bod, not all the baddies in the world are 1950’s villains in black. But I guess if I worry for him that shows I believed in him as a character, he was a very likeable hero.
Screenwriter/Director George Gallo (Bad Boys, Midnight Run and Wise Guys) discusses his experience writing movies such as Wise Guys, Midnight Run and Bad Boys. We are allowed a glimpse into Gallo’s past, and discover how a small town boy from New York State ended up as a big shot director living in the Los Angeles.