Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1.

I saw the film on November 18th, 2010 at the first screening on the first day of its release here in Denmark. Although the cinema seated 900, only about 100 showed up, mostly people in their late teens or early twenties. They were not impressed and neither was I.

In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 1, the evil lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has taken control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and he has outlawed Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). In order to kill Voldemort, Harry and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) set out to find and destroy horcruxes, the objects in which Voldemort has hidden parts of his black soul.
    The plot is as simple as that, but if you don’t know the book, it is very, very hard to understand what is going on on the big screen. The story is just too hectic and badly explained and as such the film comes across superficial and unsatisfying. All scenes are boiled down to the essentials and that is both too little and too much. We get all the highlights, but in a very comprised way, leaving the audience no time to dwell on the characters and their situation and at the same time the trio’s travels between events seem unnecessarily long-winded.

On the positive side “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 1 is true to J. K. Rowling’s book which is nice as its predecessor, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, had very little to do with the written saga of Harry Potter. The few changes that are made in HP7 part 1 are very becoming, like Hedwig’s death or Harry and Hermione entering Godric’s Hollow.
    The film also skips all the tedious parts of the book and reduces its likeness to The Lord of the Rings. Where the book is almost identical to The Lord of the Rings with Harry as Frodo, Hermione as Sam, Ron as a twisted Gollum and the Slytherin Locket as the Ruling Ring, it isn’t in the film and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, without the likeness it is difficult to understand why Ron gets so mad that he leaves the quest.
    In general the film could do with some explanations. For instance it was surprising to see that the Weasley home – The Burrow – was still standing. It burned down in HP6, but apparently the scriptwriters forgot as in HP7 part 1 it is still there. No explanation at all. I find that very unsatisfying.

To me the Harry Potter films have lost the magic that was so clearly there in the beginning and I guess things started to go wrong when David Yates took over as director in HP5. Up until then the Harry Potter films kept getting better and better, but the three latest ones that Yates has directed are average at best.
    With HP7 part 1 Yates has tried to make a dark, gloomy coming of age/road movie, but it doesn’t work. There are no depths to the characters or the plot and you feel that you’re just being transported from one scene to another without time for reflections or feelings.
    I know the actors say, that with Yates they were allowed to explore their characters more than with other directors, but unfortunately it doesn’t show. The characters come across one-dimensional or even worse: as actors delivering lines. We all know how brilliant the Harry Potter cast is, but in HP7 part 1 they never get to show it. It is rather disappointing, especially with Rupert Grint who doesn’t get to unfold his gifted talent as Ron Weasley at all.

To me there are only three reasons to watch HP7 part 1:
1: Daniel Radcliffe as the seven Potters. He is wonderful slipping into the characters of the other actors.
2: Oliver Phelps as George Weasley. He is hilarious, especially in the kitchen scene.
3: David O’Hara as Runcorn. He is brilliant in the Ministry.
    As for the scenes, there’s a tender scene between the Weasley twins and one between Harry and Hermione that work quite well. And I liked the scene with Ron and Harry in the tent with Hermione’s fire. That’s all and far too little for a film that runs 146 minutes.

When “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 1 was over, the guy sitting next to me said, “What that it?” and it was. “I hope part two is better,” he said and so do I. Three out of five stars: ***

P. S. I haven’t mentioned the animation of the tale of the three brothers, because although I get the idea and appreciate how it is done, I found it distracting and not very Harry Potter-like.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Danish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1 premiere

Friday the 12th of November 2010 the Danish gala premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 took place at the Imperial cinema in Copenhagen and in that connection the Phelps twins (Weasley twins) came to town. Not that anyone knew, because for some odd reason the Danish press had decided not to write about it in advance! Only a few film clubs and fan clubs had mentioned the visit in connections with competitions about winning premiere tickets.

Anyway, I was the only one there to cover the twins’ visit for foreign press (America/UK). Although I’m Danish I was quite pleased with not working for a Danish magazine because…well, I don’t know why, but Danish press is not that interested in foreign visits in connection with premieres. What interest them are the Danish VIPs (mostly actors, strippers and reality TV-stars) who turn up for the prem. It was no wonder, then, that when the twins arrived in Denmark, neither press nor fans were in the airport to great them. The twins spent less than a minute in arrivals, which was probably just as well. Their flight was an hour late, so when they left the airport it was 4.30 p.m. and the red carpet event in connection with the premiere was to start at 6!
When I arrived at the cinema in order to cover the red carpet, only about thirty fans had gathered outside to see the twins. Inside a handful of journalists and press photographers were lined up and as the Danish VIPs started to arrive, a true battle broke out. I’ve worked all over the world, but I’ve never experienced anything as brutal as the Copenhagen press! They were almost fighting for the best spots, and I still have bruises all over from being pushed around!

It was close to six thirty, before we heard the loud cheers and screams from outside, indicating that the twins had arrived. It took another ten or fifteen minutes before they had worked their way through the fans, signing autographs and having their pics taken, and reached the spot where I was standing with the rest of the Danish press. Again fights broke out, but not as bad as when the Danish VIPs had walked the red carpet and I did manage to take some pics, although I bruised my wrist when the photographer standing next to me shoved me into a table.

When the pics were done, I gave Oliver Phelps a wave like I’d promised him on Twitter and his face lit up. “It’s you!” he said and came over to say hi and give me a hug and a kiss. We had a short chat, then Oliver Phelps gave the press co-ordinator his mobile phone and asked him to take a pic of us. Need I say that after that the other photographers stopped bullying me?

Because the twins had been so delayed, the planned interviews had been cancelled. Instead the Danish press agency Ritzau was to do a short interview before the twins went on stage to introduce the film. I was allowed to listen in on the interview and here I learned that the only ones to surpass the Copenhagen press in brutality are the Copenhagen security guards. I was brutally pushed away by one and the press co-ordinator had to tell him to back off and let me do my thing, but I missed the first part of the interview because of that.
Anyway, according to my notes, Oliver Phelps said that this was their first time in Denmark, but they had heard about Copenhagen from friends who were here last year. James Phelps added that they’d had a fantastic and very loud welcome and said, “I can’t thank you enough.”
The twins said that it was a bit sad that the Harry Potter saga is coming to an end.
“It’s difficult to say how things will be now that we don’t have to do Harry Potter anymore,” Oliver Phelps said. “It’s been wicked being in the movies.”
“When we agreed to do the movies we had no idea that it would be that big.” James Phelps said. “If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be here in Copenhagen today I wouldn’t have believed you. It has changed our lives, but we love it. It’s fantastic.”
”Growing up on a film set is very different to what other people experience, I think,” James Phelps continued, “but all of us who are in Harry Potter grew up together so we’ve been friends since childhood and we’re still friends today.”

The twins agreed that they would never tire of playing Fred and George.
“It’s fun being Fred and George and if we’re a bit naughty we can always say that we are in character,” James Phelps laughed and continued, “but I won’t miss having my dyed ginger every second week!”
Oliver Phelps told the press, that next year he starts filming without his brother.
”It’ll be different not being together,” he said and James Phelps agreed. Asked if they were going to see some of Copenhagen after the premier, Oliver Phelps said that they hoped for a good night out in town, but when asked if the twins were single or had girlfriends, they both just smiled and refused to answer.

After the short interview, the press co-ordinator took another pic of Oliver Phelps and me with my camera (a very crappy pic, ha-ha!) and then the audience was over.
According to Twitter, the twins did indeed have a good night out in Copenhagen (at the Hilfiger Denim LOUD event in Vega, actually) as well as a visit to Tivoli, the world’s oldest theme park, so a great time was had by all, I suppose. I hope to see the twins in Denmark again some day, but without the press and security brutality and I do wish that by then the Danish press has stopped calling Oliver James and James Oliver, ha-ha!


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