The Deathly Hallows, Part I

Too much navel gazing and not enough action makes Harry a dull boy

Let’s get one thing straight from the start, I’ve never been a fan of the Harry Potter franchise. The jolly hockey sticks sense of public schoolboy japery and the tendency to people the cast with a seemingly endless supply of over-acting British character actors dressed up like bass players from The Cure has always left me cold, frankly.

The earliest cinematic instalments of JK Rowling’s phenomenally popular series of books had at least an element of good old fashioned fun and adventure about them. But when things turned darker than an ageing goth's hair dye with the last couple of adaptations, I really clocked out.

Sadly Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part I is the darkest, most meandering and utterly joyless big screen visit to the land of teenage sorcery to date. Like the sullen-faced teenagers it’s presumably aimed at, this is seriously slow moving, desperately moody and so self obsessed you feel like giving it a good shake and telling it to clean up its bedroom and come downstairs for dinner with the rest of the family.

Things start promisingly enough with the great Bill Nighy rolling up as the Minister of Magic and rattling off a speech about how everything’s gone a bit wrong in Potter land. With all kinds of bloodletting and strange disappearances commonplace, no one is safe.

At this point our bespectacled hero and his loyal pals are whisked away from suburbia in a high speed chase sequence through the air and, more improbably, the Dartford tunnel that suggests an action packed thrill ride awaits us over the next two hours.

Sadly that never really arrives as, bar a few shakey CGI horror moments and the odd genuinely scary jolt, very little of note happens as we follow Harry and his mates on their Lord Of The Rings style quest to track down the four remaining shards of the Dark Lord Voldemort’s soul.

Daniel Radcliffe and the young cast at the centre of Deathly Hallows (Emma Watson as Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley) are fine as always, but the material is just too unrelentingly bleak and needlessly complex to really move you to anything close to empathy for them or their cause.

As Part I of the much talked about big finale for the Potter saga there is, understandably, much to explain and set up here, but that doesn’t justify the dragged out sequences where characters sit mournfully on moorlands twiddling their wands and plotting out the next move of their seemingly endless quest.

Part of the problem lies in the revolving RADA door that supplies more scenery crunching British thesps per square inch of film than even the most dedicated movie buff could spot. Look over there, isn’t that John Hurt? Wow, a fleeting appearance from Imelda Staunton. Here’s Rhys Ifans with the worst Irish screen accent this side of Brad Pitt, and wasn’t that Jason Isaacs, Timothy Spall and the dreaded Helena Bonham Carter all trying to outdo each other in the 'serious actor hams it up mercilessly' corner of that creaky old castle?

Honestly, throw a dart at the cast list here and you’ll hit a po-faced old luvvie without fail. Way too long and sorely lacking in humour, The Deathly Hallows Part I is, as the name suggests, a truly grim cinematic experience. No doubt the kids will love it.