Friday, July 17, 2009

The Half-Blood Prince-a movie review

Warning: May contain spoilers.

I love the Harry Potter books. I've read each one at least a half-dozen times, and listened to them read by Jim Dale (oh so fabulous).

I've seen all of the films as soon as they were released, and then numerous times after. I've never liked any of the films on a first viewing, until now.

Usually, I am so distracted with the obvious glitches, I get pulled out of the film world and can't get back in. Like the first flying lesson in THE SORCERCER'S STONE where Madame Hootch counts all the way to 3, blows her whistle, and only then Neville takes off while all of the other students stay on the ground. Neville is supposed to be so anxious he leaves before she gets to the full count; and why would the other students NOT take off after Mdme. Hootch blows her whistle?! Another example is the obvious double who plays Harry when he gets thrown about in the duel in CHAMBER OF SECRETS. And Harry practicing "lumos maxima" under the covers, at homein PRISONER OF AZKABAN--despite the ban on underage wizards using magic out of school. And the change to ordinary muggle clothes while at Hogwarts, instead of wizards' robes in PRISONER OF AZKABAN. And Professor Dumbledore yelling at Harry, asking him if he had an older student put his name into THE GOBLET OF FIRE. Dumbledore is too wise and too much in control of himself to ever behave so badly or stupidly. And there was Harry pulling out his wand in the opening scene of ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, in front of Dudley's muggle friends, and then hiding it when Mrs. Figg arrives.

Well, you get the idea.

This film has many of the same issues, but on the whole, it's the first time I liked an HP film on first viewing!

In this one, there's a glitch in the early scenes--when the bridge is blown up. All of the people who were on the bridge are seen making it to the ends and climbing off safely before its final twist and destruction. But the newspapers report a mounting death toll...Uh, if you can do the special effects to completely destroy the bridge, why can't there be people on it, falling to their deaths?

Another issue with this film (major imho) is Harry, not under a spell, at the scene of Dumbledore's death. That Harry Potter would obey the last instructions of Dumbledore while able to act, would allow Dumbledore to face his enemies alone and have them kill Dumbledore while Harry waited for the action to play out--this is so out of character for Harry Potter as to be incomprehensible. Harry, the one who went to rescue Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets, who walked into the Ministry of Magic's secret corridors because he believed Sirius Black in danger...this Harry would be unable to act in such a way. Despite his promise to obey Dumbledore. Even JK Rowling had Harry under a spell, which also explained how Draco, a mere student, could disarm the greatest wizard who ever lived.

And if Harry would "obey" Dumbledore at this point, why in the name of all that is wizarding, would he then disobey him and chase after Snape? Yeah, this was so wrong.

Also sadly missing:
The opening scene with the other minister. I'm not surprised this was deleted, but it would have been fun.

The house-elves. They've been abandoned, so no tailing of Draco.
Moaning Myrtle. No touching scene with Draco, no screaming at Draco's bloody downfall.

Most obviously missing was the big fight between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters at Hogwarts. No Bill savaged by Fenrir Greyback. No Carrows tormenting Dumbledore. No anger at Dumbledore for putting them at risk. No breakdown of the members of the Order upon learning of Dumbledore's death. And no funeral. No phoenix song (although we do get to see the phoenix soaring...) and no joy and then break-up with Ginny.

Some of the things that seemed inadequate:
Harry's loss of Sirius's love and presence. Not mentioned in his opening meeting with Dumbledore; only hinted at with Bellatrix's taunting of him.

Dumbledore's black hand. Not black enough, not dead enough, and not progressively worse.

Harry's building infatuation with Ginny. No chemistry there--Harry swallowing hard just didn't do the trick, and Ginny didn't seem flirty enough, or taken with other guys enough. She was too busy throwing herself at Harry-tying his shoelace? made me want to gag.

The worry about the growing power of Voldemort and the Death Eaters. We don't see or feel the fear inside the walls of Hogwarts.

Harry's obsession with what Draco is up to--we get a tiny bit of this, but not enough to make it an obsession, not enough to irritate his friends.

Harry and Hermione's disagreement about the half-blood prince's copy of potions. There was a bit of this, but not enough to show Harry's growing fondness for the Prince, as a friend.

Professor Slughorn's love of the easy life. There's no obvious growth in his girth from his time with Riddle and the present. There's no unicorn hair in Hagrid's hut, not other treats.

Voldemort's past. We get only two glimpses--nothing of the story of the ring and his Gaunt relatives, nothing of his time at Borgin and Burkes and the locket and cup. Understanding Voldemort and grasping the possibility of these items as horcruxes are incredibly important underpinnings for the next book/film.

Well, lots more.

But on the whole, I enjoyed this HP film. I loved Ron and Lavendar; Hermione and McLaggen. I liked Luna Lovegood and the presence of wrackspurts! I thought Draco was almost intense enough, especially in his scene at the top of North Tower. I didn't lose focus during the movie (except once or twice).

I didn't even mind the extra scenes too much, although I didn't much like the arson of the Burrow or Harry's stupidity just before it--and why didn't Voldemort just come out there and do Harry in at that point?

I want to see this again, of course. And figure out whether it holds up with more viewing.

And now some links to much better discussions and reviews than mine:
Gina Carbone for Comcast, analyzes the Hermione way and the Harry way.

Jason Dudek discusses the placeholder problem.

Kurt Loder confronts the issue of balance--hormones or horror.

Rex Reed wants relevance and more screen time for the greats.

What do you think?


Rick Jones said...

This is probably my least favorite of the Potter films, mainly because it wanders furthest away from the intent of the book. The director apparently wanted to put so much emphasis on who was falling in love with whoever else that the whole point of the book - Dumbledore's relaying of information about Voldemort and Horcruxes - was basically lost.

Other things that bugged me about the movie:

Dumbledore comes off looking sort of pathetic, afraid to go after a horcrux without Harry's help.

The completely unnecessary burning down of the Weasley's house. Time for this scene could have been better used explaining about horcruxes, or by leaving in the climactic scene in the book, where the battle between Death Eaters, students, and Aurors finishes with Dumbledore's death at Snape's hand.

Slughorn looking like a doddering fool, I suppose to be a comic device in the film, instead of the pompous, extremely capable wizard portrayed in the book.

I could go on and on, but I'll just leave it by saying I definitely won't bother seeing this one again, if I want to see a movie about young love I'll watch the Disney channel.

Saipan Writer said...

It is very different in effect from the book.

One of my favorite scenes from the book--where Mrs. Weasley and Fleur face off over Bill's hospital bed--is of course not in the film, as this entire subplot was gutted out (probably by necessity).

I understand your objections. If you're looking for a film of the book, this is not it.

Still, I don't much mind this one so far. It's the only one I came out of on a first viewing not hating it... I think that's because, unlike you, Rick, I think it captures some of the good stuff of the book.

I agree--there needed to be more emphasis on horcruxes; and Slughorn's prowess was completely lost. As was Harry's continuing hatred of Snape...

Oh so many problems...

Saipan Writer said...

Oh yeah, and there's none of Harry learning that Snape was the one who betrayed his parents... which in the book he learns from Sybil Trelawney on his way to Dumbledore's office...

Yeah, there's a lot of essential information and plotting from the book that's missing....

Saipan Writer said...

And my favorite book scene is missing too. The confrontation between Fleur and Mrs. Weasley over Bill's savaged body in the hospital wing. That was great reading.