Harry Potter and the Deadly Cash Grab?

As I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I I became upset by two increasingly clear aspects…

  • The film was obviously stretched out.  Each scene played much slower than it needed to, and in my estimation was cut slower than the previous films have been paced.
  • The film was obviously shot with 3d in mind, and perhaps even with 3D cameras, although the studio denies this, as there were so many frickin’ things flying at the screen! Even the blocking of actors in the static shots and the resolution of the images, in general, looked composed for 3D.

Add these two things up and you have a huge commercial cash grab that, in my opinion, cheapens one of the great fantasy sagas of our time.

The first is obvious: the final book in the series was split into two parts…to make more money. We know this. The series has been a huge franchise for Warner Brothers for almost ten years, so why kill the goose?

I just didn’t think it would be so blatant.

As I haven’t read the book, I hoped this was somewhat justified, i.e., it was a long book with so much content and so many pivotal plot points that brought the entire saga to a conclusion that it demanded two parts. Right? I now doubt this is the case, but you J.K. Rowling fans can tell me what you think.

If I were reading the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows screenplay, I would have scrawled a lot of red squiggly lines down the right margins with the note TRIM! Actually, as opposed to the other Harry Potter screenplays, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows script may read much faster than the film plays out — it seems to me that many of the scenes were stretched out by editing, not by writing. If the script contained all the reaction shots and character blocking as the film, it would move interminably slow.

The film is not without its merits. It does certain things better than any other fantasy film out there. The visual effects are smashing, as always. It utilizes an ensemble of British actors that is unparalleled in a recent Hollywood movie. It takes chances with a dark and contemplative tone.

There’s even a beautiful animated sequence in the middle of the film…which goes on about three times longer than it needs to.

This is set into an already longgggg second act.  Talk about Act Two slowdown. Yikes.

Speaking of screenplay structure, the final scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (which I won’t spoil) is the perfect MIDPOINT for an epic fantasy film! A certain evil someone finds a certain powerful something, which will no doubt push to a big fight with a certain adorable flopsy-haired, bespectacled someone. Instead, they moved it to the CLIMAX so it acts as a cliffhanger and the Midpoint in a 2-part series. (for a related video, see Trilogy Mapping: Star Wars and Lord of the Rings) It doesn’t have the intended dramatic impact, IMHO.

The second aspect, however —  to 3D or not to 3D — may be more insidious. I fear it may be a case of a studio flat-out lying to the public. I don’t have any evidence, but I’ve seen some rumblings around the web and I’ve seen Part I and let’s just say that my spidey sense is tingling.

Back in October, Slashfilm posted an article about Warner Brothers’ decision to cancel 3D conversion of Part I for its late November release date, with plans to go ahead and convert Part II for Summer 2011.  It was rumored that they might also convert Part I to be re-released before the final film came out; to my knowledge, that has not been confirmed.

The article states a plausible explanation; they underestimated the amount of time and money it would take to do a quality 3D conversion — think more Alice in Wonderland, less Clash of the Titans — but I suspect it’s more like “Lucasfilm meets Avatar.”

In other words, they shot it with high-res 3D cameras but released it the first time in 2D to add value to next summer’s 3D re-release.

You know what I mean. After the diehard fans have seen it three times over Thanksgiving and Christmas, they will be more likely to shell out more bucks to see the same film again…if it’s in 3D this time.

And what about the DVD/digital video release? 3D television is still in its infancy, but once it hits, you’ve got the 3D video version, priced conveniently a few bucks higher than the 2D version (Which may drop before the announcement of Part I in 3D? This would be the shrewdest marketing plan. No release date is scheduled as of yet.).

Yes, I’m being cynical, but this is Hollywood, people. And although I know that this is a business — the Harry Potter movie series alone generates billions of dollars — I think this kind of thing cheapens the artistic and cultural merit of this saga. If my suspicions are correct, I’d just like to see Warner Brothers own up to their release plan.  It makes it that much worse if the fans find out they were lied to, and I believe this will translate to money lost for the studio. Sure, the final release/s will still make boatloads of cash, but if the studio pisses off fans, they may lose a nice skiff-load which can come in handy in these tough economic times (You know, enough to cover a fun round of bonuses and private jets following a fresh wave of layoffs.).

Until we know the truth, I will be here.  Vigilant, steadfast and paranoid. Just how you peoples like me.

Now I’m off to investigate the theory that Ralph Fiennes actually had his nose surgically removed to portray Voldemort in the final film. If that doesn’t earn him his long-deserved Oscar, I really don’t know what will.


5 replies
  1. Megan
    Megan says:

    @ Christine
    I have to disagree with you (about the audience losing part) I am glad they are doing this with the deathly hallows.. there is no way in hell they could have made it into 1 movie.. there is waay to much information in the book that would be missed if it were one movie… like they did with the 4th -- 6th book.. a lot of stuff was taken out.. (if you read the books would notice)

    • Amber
      Amber says:

      It doesn’t matter that they made two movies, they still left loads of important stuff out, and they changed the final battle scene drastically.

  2. Christine
    Christine says:

    They have stretched Harry Potter for two films and they are doing the same for Twilight. I hate it when Hollywood does this. Surely it is part of the craft of film making to make a big book into a 90 -- 100min film.

    All this goes back to Harvey Weinstein when he cut Kill Bill in half and all other studios sat up and took notice -- 1 product, 2 sales. The actors are happy as they get 2 paychecks for one film.

    Everyone wins BUT the audience.

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        @Alice — I don’t know if that’s true, as I remember the news reports about the Weinsteins announcing Kill Bill would be split into two parts, saying it was a new decision made after the shooting was done and while they were in post. That could have been their plan all along, to make it sound like a surprise, but it didn’t seem like it at the time. I don’t know for sure but I could find out since I used to work for those folks at Miramax.


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