I miss Hogwarts. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) has moved on with director, David Yates', latest vision. The three friends (Harry, Ron and Hermione) now spend most of their time running around the hills, forests and lakes of Britain (shot with breathtaking beauty by cinematographer Eduardo Serra) with a purpose (to destroy the Horcruxes – containers of the disparate pieces of Voldemort’s soul) but not much of a clue.
The school for wizards added a structure and timetable which is largely missing from this rambling marathon. There are no cosy divination lessons or starring roles from the new professor of dark arts. Instead we are given rampant hormones and rampaging death. The opening sequences employ both, with a chilling sequence at the Death Eaters’ camp followed by a fatal broomstick chase and some extreme snogging.
We do get to visit the Ministry of Magic, taken over by the Death Eaters in their black leather coats and Hitler moustaches (okay, so the facial hair reference is false but the Third Reich implications are solid) and the streets of London. The wand shoot/spell-out in a West End café is particularly dramatic as the supernatural and super-normal worlds collide over cappuccinos (surely this should have been mugs of tea?).
For the most part, however, we are in a tent (albeit with tardis-like dimensions) with the trio and there’s not a lot to do: Hermione (Emma Watson) reads; Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) broods and Ron (Rupert Grint) escapes. They may be glamping, but canvas claustrophobia soon sets in, both for them and the viewers as they indulge in desultory dialogue and hunt the Horcruxes.
And this is where the problems emerge. From an exciting magical romp, the story turns into a pedestrian quest with serious JRR Tolkein/ CS Lewis/ Thomas Malory overtones – right down to the sword in the lake. Not even the majesty of Malham Cove can lift the tale from the slough of despond.
The supporting characters are fabulous but underwhelming with the possible exceptions of the new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, played by Bill Nighy (the only actor on the planet who could take on Alan Rickman in a lip curling competition with any credibility) and Helen Bonham Carter who gets more disturbingly insane with each installment. As the first instalment of the seventh part of the story, this was inevitably going to suffer from over-exposition.
There are hints and flashbacks aplenty (with extra cameos for departed characters) but the story itself is stilted and reined in; waiting for the final episode to unleash the great battle between the force and the dark side. You’ll probably need to watch it again just before you watch the finale, but that’s probably something dedicated Gryffindorains do anyway.