So, I took The Daughter to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the other day. We loved the movie, just loved it; but then, we've loved the entire series to this point -- even the occasionally sickeningly-sweet first two, directed by Chris Columbus -- and this is the one where it all comes together. Some of this will involve spoilers, so my thoughts are below the fold.
What I liked most about Deathly Hallows was that it didn't make the mistake lots of movies make these days: it didn't confuse "dark" with "relentlessly grim". The film is dark, make no mistake about it. The way JK Rowling wrote the story, this is the one where Harry and friends basically get their arses kicked around for just about all of the story before finally figuring out how to turn the tide. Prices are paid -- heavy, sad prices. Hermione must bid farewell to her family, magically erasing their memories of her so as to protect them; Harry has to watch the Dursleys, who never liked him much at all, give up their home so as to protect them. More and more unhappy events are piled on, along the way, and the film ends with the saddest loss of all.
But for all that, there is quite a lot of humor in the film: some genuinely funny stuff, and some stuff that is the humor that comes of people who are in the midst of grief but who find themselves laughing because they must. Deathly Hallows piles on, but it doesn't do so relentlessly, which is a very welcome development. That's what I liked most about the film.
:: There isn't a single weak link in the entire cast. Not one. I love how perfectly the three leads -- Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson -- have been together long enough now that they can play off each other almost effortlessly. Their friendship is real, and it shows onscreen.
:: Some critics have noted dismay at the perfunctory nature with which Mad Eye Moody's death was handled, but it felt real to me, in a way. Not everyone dies in a heroic final act, filmed in slow motion, with everyone else watching him go. Sometimes you have no idea until someone just bluntly tells you: "Mad Eye is dead." The moment lingered, just enough, and then it was on to the next thing, because sometimes in war you don't even have time to grieve.
:: I also think that by handling Moody's death in this way, it made Dobby's death at the end that much more emotional. There have been deaths along the way, and losses, and constant fear of losses -- before we finally get one that hits home in all the usual cinematic ways. I found Dobby's passing to be the best ending point for half the story; it leaves Harry at his lowest point. How can he keep going now? It's been so hard just to find one Horcrux and destroy it. There are three more out there, and Voldemort has just found the Elder Wand. What a witheringly bad place to be, heading into the story's climax.
:: The film didn't really solve the structural problem JK Rowling created with the "camping all over England until they happen upon relevant information" nature of the central part of the story, but the film did take advantage of that opportunity to highlight some fine character moments, including the wonderful scene where Harry and Hermione dance to some rock tune.
:: In the book, Neville Longbottom doesn't show up until the end; but here, we get one quick glimpse of him, standing up to Death Eaters who are searching the Hogwarts Express. The overall arc of Neville's life, from loserish nerd to Kicker of Magical Arse, is one of the most satisfying things about the books, and I look forward to seeing Neville's huge moment at the end of Part II.
:: There's a "jump out of your seat" moment in the film that doesn't conceal itself at all. You know it's coming. You even know when it's coming. And you still jump. That is effective filmmaking, folks.
:: The animation that accompanies Hermione's telling of the story of the Deathly Hallows is absolutely brilliant. It's one of the finest moments in a fine film.
:: Bring on Part II! (July? WTF, Warner's?!)