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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the sev­enth film in the series but only the third that I’ve had to review in these pages. Sadly, my con­clu­sions are almost always the same – and almost always irrel­ev­ant. These films are increas­ingly made for Potter fans only and there are so many of them that box office suc­cess is guar­an­teed regard­less of churls like me.

And, of course, the Potter films are as import­ant to the British film industry as The Hobbit is to ours – hence why the final book in the saga has been, in a breath­tak­ing act of com­mer­cial cyn­icism, been split in to two block­buster films. If you were expect­ing any kind of con­clu­sion (sat­is­fact­ory or not) then you’ll have to wait until June. Maybe.

Dumbledore is dead and Harry is on the run from Voldemort and his Ministry of Magic stooges. (One of the dis­ap­point­ments for me as the series has gone on is to find that Voldemort isn’t so much a malevol­ent force of nature as anoth­er whiny super-villain with a sar­casm prob­lem.) Harry is also look­ing for some­thing called a hor­crux which needs to be des­troyed before Voldemort gets hold of it and uses it to rule the world. Why he doesn’t just throw it into the fires of Mount Doom, I don’t know. Oh, sorry, wrong saga.

For the unini­ti­ated (or the non-brainwashed), the same prob­lems remain: the lead act­ors simply don’t have the tal­ent to carry a film of this mag­nitude and Rowling’s storytelling is so banal that I’m saddened she’s become the intro­duc­tion to read­ing for so many young people. New char­ac­ters are intro­duced just in time for them to be plot points, new spells revealed just in time to defeat an adversary; she and the film­makers are just mak­ing it up as they go along.

Interesting side note: I won­der how many of the Embassy audi­ences for Potter this week real­ised that they weren’t watch­ing an actu­al film. I mean they weren’t watch­ing much of a film, obvi­ously, but lit­er­ally there was no film flick­er­ing through a pro­ject­or. The Embassy has gone digit­al and the future is here. Bright, per­fectly in focus, superb col­our and the com­plete absence of dirt, scratches, flick­er or jud­der. I was captivated.

Best film of the week is the poten­tially under-appreciated Monsters. A bit like District 9 last year, writer-director Gareth Edwards has used the ali­en arrival genre to make a thought­ful state­ment about ourselves.

A space probe con­tain­ing ali­en spores gathered for a research pro­ject has crashed in Mexico and the spores have grown into ter­ri­fy­ing 100 metre high squid like creatures and the author­it­ies have bar­ri­caded them in to a quar­ant­ine zone just south of the Rio Grande. Photo-journalist Scoot McNairy (In Search of a Midnight Kiss) is try­ing to escort his boss’s daugh­ter (Whitney Able) to safety when they miss the last ferry and have to cross the infec­ted area to get back to the States.

While there’s plenty of ‘what’s around that corner’ ten­sion, Edwards keeps the creatures out of sight, for the most part con­tent to focus on the dam­age they have done. But, were all those build­ings wrecked by the ali­ens or by the mil­it­ary try­ing to des­troy them?

Gently paced, lyr­ic­al and humane, Monsters is ter­rif­ic and Edwards (best known as visu­al effects design­er) has announced him­self as a tal­ent to watch for the future.

Earlier this year we had one guy trapped in a coffin – now, in Lebanon, we have four guys trapped in a tank. It’s the first day of the 1982 Israeli inva­sion of Lebanon and these raw recruits are on their way to help mop up after an air attack. The out­side world is seen through the view­find­er and gun sight of the tank and the claus­tro­pho­bia and para­noia of the situ­ation is bril­liantly achieved by dir­ect­or Samuel Maoz, a vet­er­an of the same war.

The hor­rors of war are on full dis­play in Lebanon and, frankly, it’s twice the film that The Hurt Locker man­aged to be. One cliché that it doesn’t avoid – if there’s a young sol­dier cry­ing for his moth­er in the first act, chances are he ain’t com­ing home.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 24 November, 2010.