Verdict: 3 / 5
Fans have been eagerly awaiting Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir ever since it was first announced. Unfortunately, it falls far short of the hype, but not for the reasons you’d expect. The incredibly low budget barely shows, and the effects on display put many big-budget Hollywood blockbusters to shame. Likewise, the directing is of an astonishingly high standard and there are some great ideas which deserve credit.
Where it all falls down is the story, the casting, the acting, the poor dubbing, the scattershot editing and the production design. But really, it’s the story that is the first real hurdle here because a lot of the other problems stem from that.
During the Cold War in Soviet Russia, a witch battles against government Aurors as she makes her way through a secret facility. Her goal? To retrieve the diary of Tom Marvolo Riddle – the man destined to become evil sorcerer Lord Voldemort. The witch, Grisha McLaggan, is captured by the Soviet forces and interrogated, where she tells her story… and that of Tom Riddle.
Beginning with their friendship back at Hogwarts as children, they – along with two others – were the heirs of the four great wizarding Houses: Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Yet the tension between them is already rife, and it’s clear that Riddle has villainous plans in motion. Now, Grisha has learned of Riddle’s quest for power and is desperately tracking down the items which will become his infamous Horcruxes. But with time running out, can she succeed?
While the opening sequence in Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir is creative and well executed, showing Russian Aurors and a governing body akin to the BPRD in Hellboy, the second the story hits interrogation mode this stops becoming a Harry Potter tale and instead borrows from another source: Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects. That shift in tone robs it of the natural sense of wonder that should exist in any Harry Potter-related film, instantly making it less appealing to the intended target audience. They can name-drop and include as many references to JK Rowling’s universe as they want, but if it doesn’t have the right feel then it simply isn’t Harry Potter. Which, for a Potter-inspired film, is just wrong.
Like The Usual Suspects, the narrative consists of a series of flashback scenes that are rushed, strangely boring, and ultimately predictable. Those flashbacks wear thin pretty quickly, and there’s no chemistry between the actors or the characters they’re playing. Because of their lack of personality, there’s no reason to feel anything towards them (except for it being automatically expected of the viewers). Yes, there’s an amazing duelling sequence, but we don’t care about the combatants. The only actual flashback that’s worthwhile is one where Riddle acquires two of his Horcruxes, which is overflowing with genuine menace.
It’s this generally weak writing that filters down to the wooden performances, and when you add the woeful and mistimed English dubbing on to the actor’s lips – as well as the overaged actors in the Hogwarts scenes – it becomes hard to watch. Another issue is the design, which manages to faithfully recreate the look of Hogwarts and various magical artifacts… only too well. The world they inhabit doesn’t look lived-in, and while the costumes are accurate they also look like they’ve just come fresh out of the box in mint condition. It’s a small point, yet it’s little details like that which make it less believable.
There are some truly good moments in Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir, there really are. It’s clear that the filmmakers know their stuff and can deliver a classy product. But those good moments are almost instantly wiped out by the many flaws and the boredom of it all. It’s an intriguing idea that’s let down by a desire to appear smarter than it is. Rather than presenting a simple origin story that sweeps the audience up into a dark magical adventure, instead it offers up spoonful after spoonful of clumsy and pretentious exposition that misses the point.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan then you may be lured in by this and it’s possible that you may enjoy it… but you probably won’t. As fan films go it’s visually impressive throughout. However, Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir is massively underwhelming and has problems far deeper than just a low budget. It simply doesn’t have the right magic.