26 November 2010

First Impressions: Harry Pothead and the Deathly Swallows, Fart I

Alright mates, here we have the first half of the final installment of the Harry Potter Film Octology, Harry Pothead and the Deathly Swallows, Fart I (2010). Boo yah! This baby has gotten a good amount of critical acclaim, mostly with some grains of salt (get to that later) as well as more buckets of money than an Elder Wand could conjure! Hey oh! There's a lot to this shit, so let's dive in:

Context Amongst the Harry Pantheon:

Let's get this out of the way first. This film is very different from other films in the Harry Potter Franchise for a few reasons. Most of the complaints thus far from Critics seem to be that this isn't actually a whole movie, it just sort of ends at an okay spot with the intention to continue next summer. In fact, both films are really much less sequels to each other than just definitively split parts of the same film. Even Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004 respectively) were pretty different films (each of which also came to full, satisfied endings, if not as thoroughly as say, The Lord of the Rings Franchise).

That said, Deathly Swallows remains one of the most complete films in the entire franchise. See, all other Potter films don't have much of a coherent story. They're more like a bunch of stuff that happens. Not every scene is ever necessary for the fulfillment of eventual story and climax (which I guess consistently happens in Spring Semester for some reason). This is more true for flicks like Ass-Blood Prince (2009), during which nothing really important happens until the final twenty minutes and less true for something like Order of the Penis (2007) which has a continually driving conflict tied to the narrative. You may take a moment to enjoy the Potter Dirty Names. These films more often typically just feel like watching a interesting School Year than a real movie. Deathly Swallows, Fart I jettisons this formula by ignoring Hogwarts completely. Does Harry still get a diploma if he skips the entire first semester?

It's also more "movie-like" because the Harry Potter Universe typically has a wide focus on multiple characters at once, some handled well (Prisoner of Asskaban [2004]), others mismanaged (Gobtit of Fire [2005]...alright this is getting hard now. That's what she said). Without Hogwarts and after a quick intro to about a dozen people we've met years ago (including the wedding of a chick who has never been important that for some reason risks the entire Order...also more on that later) this film is able to get into some intricate character study of just a handful of main characters, mostly Ron, Hermione and Harry. Following just these kids on the run through the woods is much more film-like than watching them go to class.

Yes, coming along nicely.
There is also a great deal of maturity on display here. It's cool that Harry Potter has grown up with its fans, and there's not really anything kiddie-friendly anymore. Each film has gotten more intense and the situations more desperate than the one before, coinciding with both the growth of characters and determination of evil and as the penultimate film entry, Swallows, Fart I is very mature. Ahem. This is part of Harry Potter's brilliance.

From the first scene you know that evil is going nuts in this world and it's not really a cartoon anymore. Voldemort is a bad motherfucker, killing and torturing all kinds of mudbloods then setting up a Nazi Purging Regime in the Headquarters of Magic (What does the Ministry of Magic govern anyway? Like...all UK Magic users? They must have egregious taxes to afford those fancy haircuts). People get hurt, main characters die, this isn't holding anything back any more. There's some real pain and anger on display, violence, sex, disaster baby, this ain't your little sisters Pot anymore. The film really coolly interweaves these hints at a larger war while focusing on the three main character's struggles dancing to crackly radio music. Part of this is some side characters like Remus, Luna and Dobby popping up here and there without much need for characterisation because it's already been so thoroughly laid out. While this helps the pacing tremendously, it also renders any new viewer to this entry pretty dumbstruck. But anyway, Evil is truly allowed to be Evil here, which lends much more credibility to the perils of the story.

For comparison's sake, I'll take something like The Phantom Menace (1999). What real motivation does anyone in this film have to fight? The Trade Federation isn't really evil, they don't DO anything very offensive and the Droid Army is really just a threatening tool rather than a motivated, evil thinking enemy. I feel like bringing up The Phantom Menace is like resorting to Godwin's Law, but my point remains. The stakes in Deathly Swallows feel real.

This flick's also pretty sexy...in a Chris Hanson will find you sort of way. Ginny Weasley is growing into a babe, great zip-up scene, Harry must've sported half a chubby for that scene. Hermione is also coming along nicely, topless make-out with Harry in an evil Voldemort Soul Vision was pretty sexy. These are great times.

Context Amongst Shit That Don't Make No Sense:

Alright now, even though I enjoyed this film a lot, it's not without its problems. There is hardly an ending to this thing, I feel like it could have had a more significant cliffhanger. Again, I'm thinking of more explicitly split films like the latter Matrix flicks, Pirates of the Caribbean and even the Back to the Future Series. They each have a very compelling cliffhanger that really got the audience jazzed up to see the third installment (regardless of the quality of the third one. Remember when Reloaded [2003] ended? So pumped for Revolutions [2003] then...oh shit. Actually I really enjoyed Reloaded, I'll fight you). Deathly Swallows doesn't really have this. Oh shit, Morty's got the Elder Wand...which he got really easily after a long period of not interacting with the main characters.

Still looking like an old woman.
There is also some questionable shit going on here. What the hell was up with that wedding? It seems so obvious to me that the Death Eaters would attack the Weasleys, how was that their best hiding place for Harry? I mean, it fucking already happened once already! Why would they have a huge Wedding there that obviously everyone would know about. The film actually treats this stupidity well because you're watching and you think "That's so dumb, why don't the Death Eaters attack them?" and then the Death Eaters immediately attack them. The same thing happens when Hermione keeps apparating in the same forest (by the way, how many forests and beaches in England are completely abandoned? They never see anyone else around just strolling through as they come in). It's also the same forest where they already saw some bad dudes walking around. You think "That's so dumb, I can't believe they haven't found them yet." Immediately after they get caught. So the stupidity of the characters is somewhat balanced here. I guess.

So let's chat about this ice lake - are you kidding me? I thought this was a moronic trap set by some evil forces and there would be no way Harry would fall for it. Then he fell for it...and it wasnt a trap. What the hell, Godric Gryffindor, why keep your dagger at the bottom of a fucking ice lake. Although I'll contend that the Voldemort Mud-Soul-Monster was awesome. Sexy awesome.
Alright what else to wrap this up...it's nice to see that Dobby has evolved somewhat from what I always thought was a poor Gollum knockoff, he looked much better here than he did in Chamber of Semen (2002). A brief encounter of Dumbledore's Gay Lovers is welcome. I also liked the brief instance of Draco we saw, who is really just acting evil out of peer pressure, nervous and shaky even in his contempt. There's a bit of soul to save yet. He's still a wiener though.

In conclusion, the movies are way better, have yet to read a book and pretty proud of that. Hail Yates. Do you think this has a shot at Best Costume Design?

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