Friday 27 January 2012

Film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and TV: Eternal Law

The last of the eight films covering the seven Harry Potter books by J.K.Rowling, not so much a fantasy series as a global phenomenon. Just to recap, I only read the first of the books (I thought I would have loved it as a ten-year old, but it didn't do much for my ancient self) but have watched all of the films. I find I am rather more tolerant of films than of books, partly because visual spectacle can provide entertainment which may be lacking in print, and partly because films take far less time to watch than books do to read.

The first few films made for rather engaging light entertainment, but as time progressed and the children grew up, the mood (and the lighting effects) grew progressively darker. The first part of The Deathly Hallows was indeed rather deathly, so gloomy and dark in every sense that I found it barely watchable. Fortunately, the final film came to the rescue. While the mood is still grim until close to the end, there is more variety and interest in the plot than in the previous film, plus a satisfactory conclusion which wrapped up all of the loose ends and finished on a feel-good high. However, there were few stand-out moments; the one which sticks in my mind not being one of the more dramatic action scenes (all too common in modern films) but the surreal banking hall with the ranks of gnomes scribing away on either side.

At the end of it all, my main feeling was one of relief that it was all over. That is perhaps rather unkind, as history is almost certain to record that this series is one of the most outstanding achievements in fantasy film-making, along with The Lord of the Rings (I only hope that the forthcoming The Hobbit maintains that standard). Perhaps one day I'll feel like seeing all of the Harry Potter films again, only in relatively quick succession so that I literally don't keep losing the plot in the long gaps between releases. That isn't likely to happen for quite a long while, though.
Eternal Law is a six-part ITV series by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, the creators of the marvellous Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. It features Samuel West and Ukweli Roach as angels who have been sent down to Earth (to be specific, the city of York) in human form to help people - as lawyers! They are assisted by the always-impressive Orla Brady, whose character had given up her angelic status to live as a human, and opposed by a fallen angel in the form of another lawyer, played by Tobias Menzies. To complicate matters, the fallen angel's human assistant (Hattie Morahan) had been the love of the Samuel West character's life in (literally) his former incarnation, but she doesn't recognise him.

The result is a strange mixture of fantasy, comedy, and sometimes emotional courtroom drama. Although I've now seen four of them I still can't decide how well this all gels, but it's intriguing enough to keep me watching. Compared with LoM and AtA, it suffers from the lack of a charismatic lead equivalent to Philip Glenister's Gene Hunt. Best summed up as rather whimsical light entertainment.

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