By the time a film franchise arrives at its seventh and penultimate instalment, you probably know if it is something you enjoy or not, or at least I would hope so. Generally, Harry Potter is not something I’ve enjoyed over the years so, by the same logic, I shouldn’t have bothered with this but, having skipped the last one, I was curious. Have the characters grown up, and has the franchise grown up with it? To save you having to skim to the end for an answer, I will give it to you now: no. This film is the same as all the other films, which is fine if you like this sort of film, and not if you don’t and now here we are, back at the beginning. But by this stage in the game, there may not be anything else to say. This review is probably pointless, but that’s OK. I’m at ease with being pointless. It’s fine. And now I will carry on, pointlessly.
Actually, this is probably a good film of this type (if you like this type of film). The art direction and cinematography are wondrous, as are the special effects and attention to detail. I love Dobby, the elf. He’s so cute. There’s a five-minute shadow-play animation about death part-way through that is as beautiful as it is sinister. Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, with his terrifying no-nose, pushes at the edge at what is acceptably frightening for younger audiences, which is marvellous. (I’m all for terrorising children. They have it too easy.) Certainly, this film is darker and gloomier — some shots are as apocalyptic as The Road — although it may be a mistake to confuse this with maturity. The story remains the same. It is: ‘Run, Harry, run! Voldemort and the Death Eaters are coming!’ Then it is: ‘Phew, Harry. That was a close!’ It is this, over and over and over and over and over and over. This is one of the reasons I don’t like Harry Potter, and here are five others:
1. For the literal-minded, Harry Potter is pure torture. What are the rules exactly? If Harry can Apparate himself to a forest when the Death Eaters are at his throat, why can’t he Apparate himself to Club Med (Sardinia) for the summer, instead of always having to stay with the ghastly Dursley family? If there is a rule that says Harry cannot use his magic in this way, I would like to see it. If there isn’t a rule, how can any of the magic actually mean anything? (Also, why can’t Harry magic himself 20/20 vision? Even muggles can do this now with laser surgery.)
2. The three leads— Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley — are never going to win awards for on-screen charisma, together or separately. Mr Radcliffe seems a delightful fella, decent and true, but his acting is stiff, self-conscious, prissy and weedy. Ms Watson, who, luckily for the franchise, has grown up to be hot, overarticulates like the lead in a bad school play. My goldfish, Bubbles, can emote better than her. (‘Thanks,’ says Bubbles, ‘I have been working on it.’) As for Mr Grint, he is either required to do little more than bumble around like a gormless, ginger bumpkin, or that is all he can do.
3. Now the kids are 16, it’s right that it should be a bit sexy, but it is horrible. In one scene, Harry and Hermione share a semi-nude embrace which is as embarrassing as it is baffling. Ron has the hots for hot Hermione, gawping droolingly at her, like a hopeful dog when you open the fridge. Harry kisses Ron’s sister (I think). It is ghastly.
4. As directed by David Yates, it moves too fast. It never lingers, or stops to smell the roses. At one point everyone trucks up at the Weasleys’ house and you think, oh good, Mrs Weasley (Julie Waters) is going to make supper and they’re all going to sit round and chew the fat and we can bed in a bit here. But within minutes, they’re all off again. Either they are being chased or they are chasing something. Can’t remember which, now. The film suffers from a lack of non-action scenes.
5. As Harry and co. have now left Hogwarts to fend for themselves, the roles of the adult characters have diminished. Alan Rickman, John Hurt, Timothy Spall, Bill Nighy, Frances de la Tour, Miranda Richardson, Fiona Shaw…blink and you’ll miss them. Helena Bonham Carter and Imelda Staunton do a bit better, but not much. They are a loss. I love seeing big stars camping it up.
So there you have it. This will be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows if you’re a fan, and Deathly Dull if you are not, but you knew that already. My job is done; pointlessly, but done.