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The beginning of the end, and what a beginning. Harry, Hermione and Ron are off in search of the Horcruxes, which, upon their destruction, would weaken Voldemort and allow our heroes (well, Harry) to finally defeat the evil wizard.

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to go. The movie is one extended road trip, as our heroes constantly move around, staying ahead of Voldemort’s snatchers while trying to figure out how to destroy the Horcruxes (no easy task, mind you, even with three more needing to be found).

The movie ends with the death of a somewhat major character (I don’t think he’s had an appearance since early in the movie series, in the books he’s played something of a more prominent role), and with Voldemort seemingly victorious. It’s a perfect spot to end the first part, with our heroes at their lowest and the villain at his highest point.

This also makes the decision to split the final novel into two films, as controversial as it was, quite brilliant. Each of the main characters grow as they should, and each minor character get enough of a throwaway moment to help us remember what significance they had in the overall Harry Potter lore. It encompasses as much of the book as possible in its 150-minute length, both in actual events occurring and references to events that happen while the heroes are on the run (which also makes this the most faithful to the books since the Chamber of Secrets). David Yates, the director of Order of the Phoenix and the Half-Blood Prince, does a great job with the material this time around (HP5 was too plot driven, HP6 was essentially an extended prologue where nothing happened except for the final scene). His character moments are spot on, and his action pieces are fierce and breathtaking. The only way to top this is with the final part, and that’s promising to be the best of them all.

As always, Emma Watson is the best of the trio, though both Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint manage their roles well.  They’ve grown up quite well, and it’ll be sad to see them go in July.

Quite good, reaching the ranks of Prisoner of Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire.  Must see (if you haven’t done so already).

B+

Note: I honestly don’t know who to tag for this beyond Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, given that almost every major British thespian makes an appearance in this film.  I suppose I’ll stick with the majors ones, but there are a whole bunch of people scattered throughout (if you can spot them that is).

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WARNING: this review may contain spoilers.

Disney UK, huh?  Ah well.

I had started reading this book a month or so ago, after getting it from my sister (who had found it online for her eReader).  The text was highly butchered to such an extent that it was very difficult to read.  At some point, I will have to find a new file to download.

I mention this mainly to see how the book compares to Tim Burton’s movie (well, according to Wikipedia, it’s an “extension” of the stories (“Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass”), whatever that means), and to get an idea of what the story is about.

Which I think Burton got, at least in this extension (the movie explains along the way that Alice has been in Underland (her Wonderland) once before, in much the same role as she was now).  Visually, the movie looks great, at least when it’s not in 3-D.  The animated backdrops are all decidedly Burton-esque: the corkscrew tree limbs, the scorched earth, and the chess-inspired battlefield are all examples.  The characters in Wonderland too are Burton: Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is probably the best example (more on him later), but every character has that touch, between the real life actors (Helena Bonham Carter’s overly large head, Anne Hathaway’s bleached white White Queen, Crispin Glover’s over-sized and stilt-like Knave of Hearts) and the animated ones (the Cheshire Cat, the Bandersnatch, the various small animals that inhabit Wonderland).

Unfortunately, the 3-D doesn’t work.  Checking Wikipedia, the movie was originally filmed in 2-D before converting to 3-D, and it shows.  Much of the 3-D is the gimmicky kind, though there are also some 3-D background overlays, but all in all, it’s wasted.  At some point I will have to watch the movie again in 2-D to get a better idea of how it really looks.  I imagine in looks great in 2-D.

As for the movie itself… it’s fine in the narrative sense, though it seems a little empty, almost like a going-through-the-motions kind of feel to it.  Alice shows up, slowly learns (well, relearns) about Wonderland, fights against but eventually accepts destiny, everyone goes home happy.  The filming, while competent, is largely uninspired.  The concluding battle, while short and sweet, was also largely unnecessary (it also has the criminal act of having an impossibly large creature – it made a point of stomping around upon arrival onto the battlefield – move so stealthily that it was able to sneak up on Alice).  Some of the better parts in the film come when she’s fighting against her destined call (fighting and defeating the Jabberwocky), and there are some good individual scenes as well (Carter yelling “Off with his/her head” is fun, Alice’s first meeting with the Hatter at his house is quite hilarious at times, and the Cheshire cat, whenever he shows up, is often a treat).

Actually, anything with the Mad Hatter was quite good in the film, mostly because of Johnny Depp.  The trailer only shows him with that lisp-y voice (the gap in the tooth adds to that effect), but the Hatter under Depp is also a man with an uncontrollable rage, an insecurity with regards to loneliness, and at times, often quite courageous.  The costume and makeup work on the Hatter is excellent: only once or twice I thought it was Depp beneath the makeup, and even then I thought it wasn’t.  Depp is a great actor, and this role only adds to it.

Some of the other performances are decent as well, though I wasn’t a big fan of Hathaway’s White Queen.  Maybe it was the way she was written, but she comes off far too prim and proper instead of mere elegance (the way her arms and hands are raised constantly suggests more of the former than the latter).  Carter was quite good as the Red Queen, and Mia Wasikowska, while far from perfect, does a decent job of portraying Alice as a rebel wanting to break free from the restrictions of 19th century Victorian society.

In the end though, while the visuals outside of the 3-D were nice, the story just didn’t draw me in like I hoped it too.  Like I said, I would like to visit this again in 2-D, and maybe then I might get a better appreciation for it.  For now though…

B-