Friday, July 17, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter & the Half-blood Prince


Harry Potter and the Half-blood Price is a very quietly atmospheric movie. It seems like there is less dialogue through stretches of this film, making it feel different than the five that came before it. I think this is because: 1. The tone of this book/movie is set up toward the end. Everything in this movie points toward the final chapter. As I said in my initial book review a few years ago, this is a placeholder story. 2. Director David Yates is now on his second film and is comfortable with the universe within which he is operating. He knows the audience is also comfortably on their 6th film. Less needs explaining. 3. The actors know their roles. They performed their parts in a mature, assured way.

All of this added up to a very atmospheric movie in which the characters are moving toward their final destinations, even though those moves were not completed at this film's end. As such, there is an unfinished quality to how the movie ends, similar to the way I felt at the end of The Two Towers. You know there is more to come so there is slightly less investment in the completion of this story.

This was also the case because they left out things in this movie that I really liked from the books. As usual, they did this for time reasons (unlike Deathly Hallows pts. 1 and 2 this film was not broken into two halves). But I question some of what they omitted, wondering why they saw fit to edit Rowling's story path in ways that make it so much harder going into the final film.

For instance--

What I disliked:

1.) While Dumbledore explained to Harry what a Horcrux was (vital to the final film and the completion of the seven-year story), and he hinted that there were seven horcruxes to be found, he did NOT give any research information about what the remaining horcruxes were. So, going into the horcrux hunt of year seven, movie Harry has no idea that he must look for a Hufflepuff cup, something of Ravenclaw's, or something of Gryffindor's. He doesn't know to think about Nagini. He is woefully unprepared. Book Harry knew these things because Dumbledore shared his research with him, through a series of Riddle memories that outlined the way Tom Riddle thought and why he did as he did. This was not covered in the movie.

I suspect that the movie gave an "out" to this problem. When movie Harry touched the horcrux ring in Dumbledore's office, it reacted to Harry's presence, standing up on its side and spinning. Harry got memory flashes. At the time, I thought this was the hint to Dumbledore that Harry's scar was also a horcrux, but they might choose to provide movie Harry with this "horcrux Sixth Sense" which allows him to feel when one is nearby. I'm sure Hermione's library research will be asked to fill in the remaining holes in the movie-created plot.

But WHY did they have to alter it?

2.) For the most part, I was ok with the burgeoning relationship between Harry and Ginny, which was one of the most important subplots of this book/movie. Still, they made changes, which led to other changes. Rather than keep his feelings completely hidden, he and Hermione confide their relationship problems to each other. And rather than expose his feelings in a post-Quidditch celebration, he and Ginny kiss in the Room of Requirement while they share the task of hiding the Half-blood Prince's potions book.

Why was Ginny required to be with Harry to hide the book? Why is Harry (apparently) unable to get any snogging action unless he is hanging out in the Room of Requirement? And then why does Ginny get all coy with Harry hiding among the stacks of hidden stuff? [Doesn't she KNOW how hard this scene is going to be for me to explain to my lunchtime friends? Doesn't she KNOW that her actions weaken my arguments about book Ginny's future actions in Deathly Hallows?]

3.) Why didn't they have the battle at the aftermath of the events in the Astronomy Tower? Why didn't they show Harry convincing his D.A. friends that Malfoy was invading tonight? Why didn't you get to feel the tension of Harry's fear for Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and the others? Why was there that payoff for all of the secret work in the previous year, arming the students with the skills and desire to fight Voldemort's forces of evil?

4.) Why instead, did they choose to show the attacking Death Eaters stroll unmolested out of the castle and across the grounds with only Harry following? Why wasn't there a series of tense confrontations between Harry and Snape as everyone tried to escape? Why didn't you get the ambiguity of Snape fending off Harry's spells while simultaneously teaching him to guard his mind? Why was it so simple and less effective?

5.) Why didn't they show Dumbledore's funeral? Why miss that opportunity for Harry to resolve his future plans? Why miss the chance for his to forsake his love for Ginny in favor of his quest for revenge on Voldemort and Snape? Why not show Hermione and Ron begin their public relationship while viewing the memorial? Why, instead, show the Trio at the top of a castle turret speaking nonsense dialogue that isn't even from the books?

What I liked:

1. The opening moment of the movie, recalling the aftermath of Sirius' death in the Ministry of Magic. It was a small, but oh so crucial moment when Dumbledore reached out and held Harry's shoulder. That gesture went a LONG way towards convincing me that he and Dumbledore were friends, confidants, and more like the book relationship than the Gambon movies had ever done before.

2. Even though it was an invented scene, I did like the Death Eater attack on the Burrow. I believe the scene was created to solidify the Harry/Ginny relationship (he runs after Bellatrix and Ginny w/o hesitation runs after Harry; he protects her from the attack). It was suspenseful and dramatic.

3. Tom Felton's portrayal of Draco's struggle was very nicely done. He (and most of the complementary actors) has had precious little to do over the years and given the chance, he handled things nicely.

4. Jessie Cave's "Lavendar Brown" was very funny and, in general, all of the lovelorn relationship humor was done excellently. In fact, the relationship plot was written more strongly and translated more truthfully from book to movie than any other component in this book. The only minor quibble I have here is that I think Emma Watson should have shouted her upugno curse at Ron, rather that the matter-of-fact pronunciation she went with in the film.


I'll think of more likes and dislikes, especially if I end up going to see the movie again. But while I had a stronger reaction for what I disliked, my overall feeling throughout watching the movie was satisfaction. I was caught up in it and only found things to dislike once I began mulling it over at a later time.

What did you think? Leave you opinions in the comments section.

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