Monday, December 06, 2010

Film review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Part 1

A 500 word (monthly) film review by Steve Taylor (for Touchstone magazine)

It is a marketer’s dream. Buy the film rights to a seven part blockbuster book series. Divide the final book in two. Release them six months apart, the first just before the Christmas holidays.

Despite the hype, there is much to admire. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Part 1” offers moments that make you jump, smile and laugh out loud (What else might be in Hermoine’s handbag?). There are puzzles to solve. There is sexual tension, as teenage relationships mature. There are strange characters, some cute, some full of serpentine slither. The animation which tells the tale of the deathly hallows is beautiful, yet hauntingly disturbing. Which sums up much of the movie; special effects mixed with dark graphics and including scenes of torture and pre-meditated violence.

It remains a movie for groupies. Without some knowledge of the series, a first time viewer might wonder if they have stumbled into an imaginative reenactment of World War 2 Britain, complete with dive bombing black figures and war news on the wireless.

For those new to the world of Potter, the hero, Harry, (the one with glasses) has lost his mentor and teacher, Dumbledore. Without this protection, the evil Lord Voldemort is able to entrench his power, turning the Ministry of Magic (literally) into a witch hunt. All that Harry and his friends, Hermione and Ron, can do is tramp around in the wilds, dodging Ministry of Magic thugs, while looking for hidden treasures (horcruxes). This middle (and main) section of the movie meanders, the escalating tension between three hormonal teenagers adding little sizzle to the plodding pace.

A recent panel, gathering to discuss the topic of Youth, Arts and Spirituality was asked if the world of Harry Potter was a religion. After a lively discussion, the answer was yes. Not because it has wizards, although it does. Nor because it has evil, although it does.

Yes because the world of Potter is an invitation to an exercise in imagination. Physically, with cars that fly and wands that work. Imaginatively, to conceive of life and identity in new ways. For theologian of culture, Tom Beaudoin (Consuming Faith: Integrating Who We Are with What We Buy, 50) this type of imaginative work is precisely what can be achieved by Christianity. “To reorient persons spiritually … one had to reshape them imaginatively.”

In the imaginative world of Potter, Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson) might be a swot. But her hard work and persistence carry many a day. Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) might lack some social skills. But his loyalty is a gift worth celebrating. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) might look slightly geeky. But time and again his courage and care – as he farewells a dead friend: “I want to bury him properly. Without magic” – will save the day.

A world that rewards courage, persistence and loyalty. Surely a world worth encouraging for any growing and gangly teenager, learning to conceive of life and identity in maturing ways.

500 words

Posted by steve at 08:18 AM | Comments (4)

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