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Bums authenticate – on seats that is

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Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Bums authenticate. On seats that is. This 7th, of 8 film in the Potter franchise replicates at the box office the Potter phenomenon in the book business. Bums, large and small, male and female, child and adult are excitedly plonking onto the nation’s cinema seats and then perching anxiously on their edges as this latest, darkest of the Potter saga unwinds.

I must confess I don’t really get it, book or film. It’s not that HPATDH (DH) is a bad film, it is good fun, full of incident and if the convoluted plot is arcane and impenetrable to a mere muggle such as me, most of the kids and some of the grown ups can answer every esoteric, bemused question one asks with a confident authority that would leave University Challengers looking like ignorant dullards.

Any story that can motivate millions of children to avidly gobble up the books and then watch the films with such passion must have something really special. I wish for the life of me I could see what it is. Though as one who failed The Hobbit without ever graduating to the Lord Of The Rings, perhaps I have a blind spot for magical, fantasy, fairy tales. I never found Tolkien remotely Hobbit forming.

For me there is something irreducibly Enid Blytonish about our famous Three – Chums Harry, Hermione and Ron: and measured against the genuine talent in support, the acting of Radcliffe Watson and Grint is never more than adequate, displaying an innocent amateurish charm rather than conviction or technique. Mercifully, our chums having now reached puberty, we are spared in DH the Public school “I say you chaps” house system structures of Hogworts school of magic. However having lost this wonderfully Gothic setting for the now trepid teenage trios adventures, DH loses any clear sense of place and setting for the events that unfold. Here with slightly irritating convenience our heroes escape most dangers literally with a wave their magic wand. This device lies at the heart of Rowling’s vision and as the meticulous detail with which she builds up the credibility of the wands and spells and potions in the books is completely missing from the films, this can all seem a bit of a dramatic fiddle.

DH is very plotty, for blind devotees and cognoscenti alike. Apparently the Ministry of Magic is turning a dark, desolate world into a quasi Nazi state where the magically challenged muggles are herded up threateningly and evocatively in droves. Visually recalling the grey concrete aesthetic of a cold war Eastern Euoprean state, muggles and dissenting wizards are subjected to Kafkaesque arbitrary tests of legality and ethnicity.

Meanwhile in the shadows the evil Lord Voldemort is seeking the absolute power of the ultimate elder wand with which as far as I can gather he wants to destroy the world rather than just run it.

Harry and Co apparently have to track down and destroy 3 evil and indestructible artifacts, Horcruxes, the first of which is a kitschy glass pendant that even Gerald Ratner wouldn’t give shelf space to. They are aided in their quest by hints left behind by Harry’s now dead spiritual mentor, Professor Dumbledore. With some pretty nifty gismos bequeathed by the Prof, Hermione’s spellbinding powers and Ron’s doggedly determined perseverance there is much running about, last minute escapes and impassive staring into space before the plot is dripped out to us drop by painstaking drop.

The downside of making Hermione so bright and brilliant at spelling is that this does tend to make not so happy Harry seem a bit thick; though his IQ stock zooms back up as soon as Ron returns from his huff at thinking H&H are having a thing. As dear reader this is the liaison I have been awaiting with bated breath until the two protagonists became old enough for the connection to become seemly, I must confess it was in the end disappointing: more shuffle-footed embarrassment than burning teenage passion. More Tracy and Wayne than Romeo and Juliet. In terms of the disturbing challenges of burgeoning womanhood it is hard not to empathise with poor Hermione’s desperate dilemma: hapless Harry or Rustic Ron.

Rhys Ifans pops up from nowhere to regale us with more plot, notably a fairytale parable of three brothers, 2 of whom first cheat then succumb to Death leaving the third wise brother as guardian of the uber wand made mysteriously, to me, of elder. From what I can recall of my childhood, the elder tree grows very fast aided by pith running through the centre of its wood thus making it very weak and easily broken. Quite unlike the super wand here which looks like a cross between ebony and hickory. Sorry about this tedious detail but J. K. Rowling is nothing if not detailed. Forensically.

So after one off screen and one on screen poignant passing, the scene is set for the eagerly awaited denouement in May 2011 when I assume Voldemort will get his just desserts and Harry, Hermione and Ron will toddle off into the sunset towards marriages, mortgages and motherhood. Or maybe after a few years they’ll get the band back together and track down the Wizard of Oz.

A potboiler must for Pottertons. A pleasant enough meander for muddled muggles like me.

Mark my words though: it will all hang on Hermione in the end.

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