Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

I was fairly impressed with this one. I think the problem with the Narnia films has been this sort of reverence for CS Lewis' books. I never liked the Narnia books as a kid because, really, nothing much besides heavy-handed symbolism happens. They're very slight, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the slightest. But this film is the best of the three, simply because the reverence is toned down and we just get a fun adventure with a ship, a dragon, and a talking lion. As far as this recent wave of fantasy epics--kicked off by The Phantom Menace and carrying us through to now, where it's kind of dwindling--this is one of the most enjoyable. It's not a deep or profound film, but it's very likable. This film is especially worth it for Will Poulter (from the wonderful, seemingly-forgotten Son of Rambow), who is delightfully uptight as Eustace Scrubb, Lucy and Edmund's sour cousin. As this series continues to grow, I like the actors and their characterizations more and more. ***1/2 stars.

Where do we go with this one? As I've said before, I'm constitutionally incapable of liking a Harry Potter movie. And I did like this one a lot, don't get me wrong. Over the past decade, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have grown so comfortably into their roles and have been matched with such a convincing, fully-realized fictional universe, that it's hard not to like these movies. And as we go through the sort of roll call of the various characters and thrill to Harry's race against time to destroy the Horcruxes holding pieces of Voldemort's soul and stop him from collecting the Deathly Hallows, the only real problem here is that, well, structurally it's not really a movie. It's half of a movie, and even worse, a movie that stops just as it's starting to get really exciting. As in the book, there's just too much time brooding in the woods and being miserable and full of doubts and in-fighting (around 40 minutes of the running time here). I understand why it makes sense dramatically, but it's not especially interesting to watch. This is the first Harry Potter movie where I've ever found myself checking the time. And, like I said, just when all of the brooding stops and we finally, finally (almost two hours into the film) find out what the Deathly Hallows are and why they're important, and the film starts to get very dramatic and exciting again, the action is just stopped and the credits roll. I'm still not a fan of cutting the book in two and releasing it as two separate films--it's solely a commercial decision and, as Part 1 proves, not dictated by the needs of the story. So I'm not even going to give this a rating. Because it's half of a movie, and until I see the other half, it's impossible to tell how everything being set up here is going to pay off.

Bottom line: I liked the movie, but I liked it because I'm a huge fan of this series and the characters and the fictional universe. But I was also unsatisfied because, well, where's the third act?


Tallulah Morehead said...

The brooding about in the wood was the only section in the entire 7-book saga that I thought dragged, which, given the enormity of the entire Harry Potter story, is saying something. At least in the movie, it's only 45 minutes. In the book, it takes a lot longer to get through that draggy section.

But, since that movie was two-thirds of the book, it does mean that the last movie, with only one-third of the book to deal with, will really be able to do all of it. Advance word is, part two is the most-action packed movie since Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Of course part one is dramatically unstatisfying. The book isn't structured to slice nicely in two, but I'm still glad they did it this way. My principle dissatisfaction with the movies up to this one is that too much is left out. Not here.

So where's act three? It's coming July 15.

SamuraiFrog said...

I know it's unrealistic to ask that they just go for broke and make a four hour movie; it's not like people wouldn't go, it's Harry Potter. But at the same time, I feel like having an intermission that's long enough to gestate and give birth to a child is unrealistic, too. Especially since the only real reason they're doing it is to milk extra revenue by having two movies in two different years.

Now we'll have second movie with no first and second acts? I think seeing these together, one after the other, on DVD is going to be the only way it really satisfies.