Half a movie at full price, the latest installment of J.K. Rowling’s beloved boy-wizard saga lands with a dull thud of unresolved conflicts and logistical scaffolding. Much like last summer’s underwhelming Half Blood Prince, Part 1 of Deathly Hallows doesn’t even pretend to be a standalone film, existing solely to supply more laborious setup for next summer’s final chapter.
It’s become nearly impossible to review these last few Potter pictures, as they’ve clearly lost all interest in anybody who hasn’t read the books. Jumping right into mid-sentence media res without the slightest bit of recap for us Muggles in the audience, Deathly Hallows assumes an intricate knowledge of Rowling’s world.
Which I suppose is all well and good, since these books sold approximately a zillion copies. But if the books are truly as wonderful as y’all keep telling me they are, then it’s tough not to see these films as a massive missed opportunity and almost complete artistic failure. Director David Yates conjures a pleasantly chilly atmosphere, playing up the smallness of our teen protagonists on the dank, oversized sets. Ralph Fiennes has malevolent, noseless presence as the dark Lord Voldemort, and just about every great actor in Britain gets to shuffle onscreen for a line or two.
And yet I still don’t know what the hell they’re talking about most of the time. Deathly Hallows is chock full of callbacks and plot points dating back to the earliest of the pictures, which some of us haven’t seen in nearly a decade and, honestly, have no desire to revisit. A massive chunk of screen time here is devoted to Harry, Hermoine and Ron wandering through the woods feeling sorry for themselves, the teen-angst quotient cranked so high that at times I felt like I was watching a Twilight movie.
Sure, the fans love it. I spotted a few openly shedding tears over the demise of a character I can’t recall even appearing in the last four movies. But these films have become illustrations instead of stories. Muggles need not apply.