So, since this is a Harry Potter themed week (thanks to the release of the three Pottermore Presents e-books) and Wednesday’s are where I would traditionally review a short, I’ve raided youtube looking for Harry Potter short film. As there are no official shorts, as of yet, this meant bouncing through a lot of fan-made videos. There’s a lot of interesting content out there but The Greater Good, written and directed by Justin Zagri, caught my eye.
The Greater Good comes from the same group that created another fan short that attracted a lot of attention, Severus Snape and the Marauders. The set-up for The Greater Good is similar in that it is an adaptation of an implied story from the books and everything revolves around a battle. In this case, that story is that of a young Albus Dumbledore and the three-way battle between himself, his younger brother Aberforth, and future Hitler-esque dark wizard, Gellert Grindlewald. Ideological conflicts and differing responsibilities, relating to Albus’s unwell younger sister, Ariana, leads to a wizard duel on a beach. A panicked Ariana wants them to stop and loses control of her powers, drawing the killing spells of both Albus and Gellert to herself. Well, she did want to see her mother…
Though the bulk of the film revolves around a battle, the script is still pulled off reasonably well. Much of it is action-based, forcing you to interpret what is going on rather than explaining, but I appreciate that they don’t baby their audience. At times I did feel the writer trying to shove in some context, like when Ariana asks where her mother is, but it isn’t what I would consider bad exposition. There are a lot of moments in the script where things are said but left unfinished, telling you very little but implying everything. It’s carefully done and, when focused only on the dialogue, it works well.
An unfortunate problem with the film is the delivery by the actors. I don’t know if the sound hadn’t been synced properly or what was going on but the delivery of some lines felt alarmingly artificial. The acting itself tended to be overly theatrical, which would have been great if The Greater Good was a stage play but it wasn’t. Josh Brodis as Gellert Grindlewald is the shining star, managing to pull off the darkness in the character and he didn’t over-act. The other actors were okay but just didn’t sparkle the way Brodis did and weren’t able to do the script justice. There were some moments, clearly intended to be rather emotive, that flop because one of the characters looks like their half-arsing it (when they aren’t over-acting). Better effort from some of the actors or a slightly different cast and it would have been awesome.
Like their other fan film, The Greater Good seems to be largely about the special effects. The spells look beautiful and the actual duelling aspects are nicely reminiscent of the spells in the official Potter films. Unfortunately they do have a tendency to focus on showing off and it all becomes a bit too noticeable – there were points where I was brought out of the film. It’s an especially big problem when the characters are flying through the air as it just doesn’t come off as smoothly as some of their other effects. It’s still pretty enough but I just felt that they got caught up in what they could do, rather than the aesthetic feel their effects produced.
Though there are some stumbling blocks that stop The Greater Good from being a perfect Potter short, it is a pretty good interpretation of an implied storyline from the Harry Potter books. It’s visually stunning and has a great script, it just needs reigning in at parts and a bit of polish in others.