Part 1 does what most mega-franchise blockbusters tend to ignore: atmosphere, storytelling, and character development. It's not about action or spectacle, but how children and young adults are on the brink of having to serve a tyranny.
We've had some time to digest Part 1. It's definitely a uniquely remarkable film. Ever since I saw Yates' Order of the Phoenix, I knew from that point that this was the right guy for the rest of the series. I'll try to keep this short, but what I love the most about this series is the characters. They're really the driving force here. It's not about action or spectacle, but how children and young adults are on the brink of having to serve a tyranny.
I think it's incredibly impressive of the studio and the filmmakers to allow a film like Part 1 to happen. In virtually any other situation, it would have been action focused, we wouldn't have gotten much character development and we certainly wouldn't have gotten sequences like The Tale of the Three Brothers. Looking back, I really, really wish I didn't know about that. To the studio's credit, they did keep it relatively hush-hush, but test screenings and advance screenings always kill surprises like that.
A lot of people nitpick about various things, but I think it's easy to lose sight of how much appreciation the filmmakers clearly have for the source material. Filmmaking is a very strict practice; for the most part it's done for money and studios are huge on the financial ramifications; that's their job. However, I also think that their job should also entail that they ensure that whatever project they're working on, that they give it the utmost respect and attention.
Many say "oh, well, they handled this wrong or left this out or didn't do this part justice." That's fine-- everyone has an opinion. However, speaking personally on the matter, I know how filmmaking works. I'm writing a screenplay for a horror film right now that is going to be shot on a $250,000 budget. I have some connections, I study film in college, and I have a firm grasp on how the process goes-- and I can absolutely tell each and every one of you right now that Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is something of a miracle.
It's a miracle because, while there are a few action scenes in the film, Part 1 does what most mega-franchise blockbusters tend to ignore: atmosphere, storytelling, and character development. It sounds like a negative in saying that WB took a "risk" by splitting the last book into two films. But sometimes, risk is good, and risk also tells me that they had full, complete faith in not only David Yates and the other filmmakers, but with the source material as well. It doesn't take a genius to realize that Harry Potter is successful because so many people love the characters and universe. Keeping it as one film that mostly focuses on action and ends with the huge battles coming in Part 2 is what most studios would have done-- and I wouldn't even disagree that, from a marketing and financial standpoint, that it would have been the way to go.
The fact is, however, that WB didn't do this. They said, you know, this series is great because of its depth. Not because of its spectacle. The spectacle will come naturally because Rowling brilliantly weaved her action around the storytelling. Story comes first. It always should. Through Kloves' and Yates' care for the narrative, we got sequences like the Three Brothers, like Harry and Hermione sharing an innocent, non-romantic dance, the film opening with Hermione wiping herself from her parents' memory in an attempt to protect them through the best method she knows of-- this is the sign of a studio and of writers and filmmakers who understand what Harry Potter is, what makes Harry Potter fantastic and different from other huge franchises that are all about delivering nothing but entertainment value without much substance.
When Part 2 comes out and both parts are combined as one huge film, I suspect people will really be taken back by just how much effort and thought, and risk that went into this. Having all the scenes, character development, and plot progression from Part 1 combined with all the emotional intensity from Part 2 will come together to make a truly astonishing work of cinema, and an unforgettable closer to an unforgettable story that actually made it to film despite a few rough spots that will, I suspect, long be ignored in favor of everything that the filmmakers did right. When Harry is walking to his death, remember his dance with Hermione. That guy, dancing with her, sharing a warm moment, is about to be murdered.
It's been mentioned before by myself and a few others, but I want to remark about the Snatcher chase. In the previews, they made it out to be this huge, typical kind of chase sequence. Final film? Awesome, "Bourne" style cinematography from Eduardo Serra, and instead of a generic action sequence track, Alexandre Desplat applies this really suspenseful, building music that begins with the low breath of an exotic instrument-- that builds and grows faster as the chase nears its climax. The sequence is fantastic, but it really left me shocked and with a smile on my face because it was one of the most uniquely handled bits of action I've ever seen in any film, period.
And then you have the ending, with the truly special directing of Dobby's death. Most of the time, cinematography during special effects sequences lives and breathes on the actual effects-- you usually get stationary shots so that it's easier for the animators to apply CGI characters and such without worrying about the camera moving around, the lighting changing too much, etc. But what happened? Dobby was treated like he was a real, physical character. Serra's camerawork and Yates' direction made no apologies nor cut any corners for the effects animators-- they shot that like it was a real person dying. There was a bit of shaky cam and that's usually a big no-no for shots that have a CGI character because it turns it into a nightmare for the effects house.
That's all I'll say for now. I want this to be a great discussion. It doesn't have to be all positive because a great discussion can't just consist of nothing but positivity. Nothing is ever, ever perfect. I want this to promote some deep discussion so if you don't intend on contributing something worthwhile, frankly put I'd rather you not post at all. But no matter what your stance on the film is, I'm sure that you can find something to say, whether it's good or bad-- I just really want this to be about the artistic choices made for Part 1 and how it bodes for Part 2 as well as the combination of both films, which will be an especially exciting venture when we get to that point.
Part 1 is a miracle. And you should be thankful for that.