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15 July 2009 @ 12:25 pm
Film Comment: HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (aka HP6)  
I let my 15-year-old daughter talk me into taking her to a midnight showing of HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (aka HP6) Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. Admittedly, I didn't take a lot of convincing as I wanted to see it as well.

So about 10:45 pm we trucked over to the mall, where four theatres' worth of people were waiting to see HP6. We ended up in the back row but that turned out to be just fine as we got home pretty quick. I was one of the older people in the crowd, most appeared to be teens or young college-age. There were some families with children. After about an hour of waiting the lights went down, the crowd cheered, and away we went!

NO SPOILER Review

I enjoyed watching HP6, and thought it was a well-executed production. It was darker, a little more grim, a little more foreboding than previous movies. The actors all did a good job with the characters, but of course most of them have been those characters for almost 10 years so really the characters like Harry, Hermoine, Ron, the students, the teachers, etc, have been defined by the actors. There were good special effects around big magic sequences, especially the scene in the cave near the ocean (no more details necessary for those who know).

The movie was also much funnier than I would have expected. Much of the humor centered around the "relationship hexagon" of Harry, Hermoine, Ron, Ginny, Lavender, and Cormac, and it turned out much humor was to be had there. I (and the audience) spent more time laughing during the movie that I would have thought going into it.

Oh yes, and Quiddich is back! That was very appreciated, and worked well for both humor and character.

However, I found the movie a little slow and light in terms of dramatic plotline. Most of the movie is concerned with the "relationship hexagon". And since these are teenagers, the highs and lows of their relationships didn't resonate with a "been there, done that" old fart like me. It did resonate with the younger crowd much more, who cheered and "wooo"d and "awwww"d in all the appropriate places.

The "Tom Riddle history" scenes were cut down from the book and used to fill in important backstory points, and the "who is the Half-Blood Prince" mystery pretty much ignored. Draco Malfoy had some brooding action that is, at times, repetitive but plays out in the end moments.

Later, I realized that the flaws of the movie were really derived from the flaws of the book. The book is, to a large part, concerned with the "who's snogging who" aspect of Hogwarts. The "Half-Blood Prince" mystery aligns with the "Tom Riddle history" but both of those are really back story couched as flashback. I remember feeling the same way after reading the book - I got a lot of infodump, but not a lot really happened.

Speaking of the end, in a non-spoiler way, the big dramatic moment is there but it is very changed from the book in terms of surrounding circumstances and denouement. The final scene of the movie is very simple and serves to set what will happen in the the seventh (and eighth) films.


Dumbledore's death happened roughly as described in the book. Draco can't do it, Snape shows up, Dumbledore says "Severus, please", Snape kills him. Important difference were: Harry is not under an invisibility cloak and stupefied but hiding beneath the clock tower platform and sworn by Dumbledore to inaction. Also, Snape *sees* Harry and motions to Harry to keep quiet.

Very interesting change, one that I think adds more to that scene. Harry isn't completely worried even when Dumbledore is facing Draco, Snape and the Death Eaters. After all, it's Dumbledore! Snape seeing Harry was a nice addition, because it adds more complexity to Snape's actions just a moment later. Both changes help heighten the loss and confusion Harry feels.

The movie events post-Dumbledore's death made me call into question, even more, the overall plan. They sneak into Hogwarts through the cabinets, have Draco kill Dumbledore, then they just leave? Sure, Bellatrix busts some dishes, windows, and chandeliers in the dining room, but that's all the damage they do. In the book, they had to fight their way out of Hogwarts. That makes more sense to me, as it makes the presence of the Death Eaters important to getting Draco and Snape out of Hogwarts alive. Maybe they ran out of special effects budget? :-)

HALF-BLOOD PRINCE was a huge book, so I can understand cutting down the "Tom Riddle memory" scenes and the "Half-Blood Prince" investigation work. For the first, they kept the key scenes of Dumbledore's first Riddle encounter, and the Slughorn horcrux altered/real memory, and those were the key ones. The reveal that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince, at the end of the movie, doesn't carry as much weight because it's been more of a curiosity than an mystery.

Also, the extra time with the "relationship hexagon" means that many of the secondary characters, like Hagrid, McGonigle, the Weasleys, Lupin, Tonks, and even Voldemort, get very little screen time. Tom Riddle, aka Young Voldemort, gets screen time but it's in the couple of memories where he's presented as generically disturbed and menacing.


But beyond some of my misgivings, I still found HALF-BLOOD PRINCE a very enjoyable film especially for someone who has read all the books. I think that someone who had not read the books could follow along but might be lost at some of the plot issues that stretch back several books/films. Overall, I definitely recommend the film.
 
 
 
Terri-Lynne DeFinobogwitch64 on July 19th, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)
Now I FINALLY got to read your thoughts. I wanted to go into the movie without ANY prejudice whatsoever. I even refused to read the critics' reviews.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Like the others, it necessarily sacrifices so much of the richness of the story--but I'm over that by now. There's just no way to put all of the intrigue and action from the books into a movie less than 12 hours long--and still not long enough!

I think that it helped that it's been a few years since I've read the Half Blood Prince. Much of what was left out, I was able to set aside and not really THINK about as the movie was playing. Like seeing the movies I did before ever reading the books, I got to enjoy it as a MOVIE, and not as a movie as compared to the book. My failing memory IS good for something after all!

Of course, once you start thinking about things you say, "But what about all the flashback stuff with Lily and James and Snap? What about all the Half-Blood Prince intrigue? What about the other Weasleys? And Fenrir--he was terrifying in the book! And Ginny's long string of snog-buddies! And on and on and on. But it was after the fact, so I was happy. Now I want to read the books again!
jeffsoesbe: mountain k2 monumentsjeffsoesbe on July 25th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, the Lily/James/Snape flashback! I forgot all about that. I wish that had made it in, as it really cast a new light on Harry's beliefs about his parents and about Snape.

Also with the HBP intrigue, for much the same reason - more depth of complexity wrt Snape.

Snape seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in this movie. I wonder if they'll change his ultimate fate. I for one, would be very happy if they did. I felt that what happened to him in the book was poor treatment of what was always a very complex character...
Terri-Lynne DeFinobogwitch64 on July 25th, 2009 12:11 pm (UTC)
As one who abuses her characters heartlessly for the sake of a more powerful story, I understand and approve of Snape's fate. For me, it was the absolute most beautiful scene in the books. Making Harry look at him while he died, seeing the only love he ever had in his life, letting the memory of Lily carry him into death--just SO beautiful.

After a life so dismal, it would have been nice to see him get something good in the end. But he's Snape. I don't think it would have rung true. He got his ending the only way he could have, after all--dark and Snapish ending.
(Anonymous) on July 30th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
awful
I don't know where the positive critical claim for this movie stems from, aside from the look it was downright awful. It's as if the filmmakers slapped the 5th movie in the face and ignored all the good things it achieved. I want my money back. I found a good rant that gets to the bottom of it here: http://www.pandalous.com/topic/harry_potter_6