Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: A Rambling Review

I would be remiss if I failed to review the biggest movie of the summer. Especially considering I saw it this last weekend. You know..... my drunken all nighter weekend. ;)

Let it be said that I was ready for this movie. As ready as almost any Potter dork could be. I rewatched all 5 of the previous movies. I went out and purchased the 6th book and reread it. Then when that was done I reread the 7th book. Just for good measure. When the movie came out I was totally ready to see it and it was excruciating not to see it on opening day. It was excruciating even knowing that I only had 40 dollars to my name. I had long ago decided to wait until I could see it with my dad and nephew Ricky. So I made myself wait..... Was the movie worth it?

Yes, the movie was worth it. It was not completelty like the book though. Before you pull out your soap box and lecture me about the difficultes of literally translating a 652 page book into a 2 and a half hour movie just hear me out. The begining of the book has the real world British Prime Minister getting a visit from the Minister of Magic. This did not happen in the movie and although I can see easily why this was cut (the British Prime Minister does not help the plot nor does he reappear later) I was still bummed that it didn't happen. I like the book beginning with how the return of an evil wizard has affected the non-magic world. You do see that the magical war is affecting the muggles (what magicals call non-magicals) in the movie but that part of the book was rather amusing. Of course it would probably have been too difficult to pull off because she writes it through the mind of the muggle Prime Minister. So they probably made a good cut to keep the movie flowing. They deviated from the story a little bit in other ways as well and I have decided to discuss a few of them.

Warning! Between the two bolded small paragraphs is an italicized section where I discuss points of the movie. I certainly will be discussing the ending in this area. If you have managed to go this long and are (somehow) unaware of the ending of the book/movie 6 please avoid this section. If you are in the other camp and have read the book and want to watch the movie with out my take on the ending then do not read this section either. After the next bold paragraph will be the review minus the overly revealing plot points.

Harry is distraught at the end of book/movie 5. His godfather is dead and Harry had a small role in bringing Sirius to the ministry where he would eventually be killed. His dreams of a family life and someone who could be like a father to him are over and so we join him at the beginning of book 6 hiding out in his room at the Dursleys. The room is a mess and you get the feeling he has not been out of it often that summer. Dumbledore has warned Harry he would be by to pick him up and escort him to the Burrow (the Weasley's domicile). For whatever reason Harry has taken no precaution to be in any state of readiness for this visit. He has not let his Uncle know and he hasn't packed. It seems we are supposed to realize that the broken promise of a life with Sirius has kind of made him doubt the adults around him. In the movie we find Harry sitting in a coffee shop in the London underground. He is reading the Daily Prophet (with the usually moving pictures) and ends up setting a meeting with a pretty cute waitress. Instead of going on a date that evening Dumbledore arrives and whisks him away to get Slughorn. If you ask me this was a better take on Harry Potter's personality. As far as I am concerned he must feel he has nothing left to lose. A prophecy saying it is he or Voldemort dying as an end to this feud and he death of Sirius would definitey prompt him to start taking risks. So here he is wandering the world that he can't do magic in and reading a magical newspaper. He is acting like someone who has faced and lived through Voldemort's attacks 5 times (at the age of 1, 11, 12, 14, and 15). He went from hero to villain to the chosen one. His life in the magical world has been difficult, challenging, fun and heartbreaking. Even then when he gets back to muggleville he waits feverishly for summer to end and school to resume. It only seems natural that he would be taking a few risks and finding ways to make it a passable summer; one in which he can tempoarily forget the loss of another person.

The next change is that the Hagrid storyline is barely there. In the book, Hagrid is bummed that Hermione, Ron and Harry did not sign up for his care of magical creatures class. Of course most of the last few movies have kind of cut a lot of Hagrid's role. I was perfectly fine with them doing this to tell you the truth as I found the note about Aragog's funeral to be ridiculous. I just couldn't see Hagrid wanting his favorite people risking expulsion to bury a dead spider, no matter how deluded he was about Aragog's personality. Once again the movie gets a silly storyline elimination right. Harry does get the confession from Slughorn after Aragog's funeral but it all comes down to a whim caused by the luck potion he drinks.

Then there is Christmas. In the movie there is a fight outside of the Weasleys' home and the destruction of the burrow. This did not happen in the book. I liked it because I needed a little action at this point and this provided it. Plus I love Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange and I figure more of her taunting is definitely ok. Of course their is no answered questions about how this destruction will affect the 7th movie. It is a safe place in all the books (including the 6th book) and it does not fall under attack until the beginning of the 7th book. So one must wonder what happened directly after the fire and how this loss was resolved. It certainly shatters any delusions of a safe haven for Harry.

They cut out the new minister of magic's appearance and his attempt to woo Harry to his side. I liked this part of the story but I can see cutting it. JK Rowling lays the groundwork here and has this battle of wills a few times in the book only to get rid of him early in the 7th book. He was a character that was not necessary to the plot besides drilling the fact in about how loyal Harry is to Dumbledore. Of course her treatment of how Harry handles the task given to him by Dumbledore (getting Slughorn's secret) sends an opposite message. It says he is all talk and little action. Luckily they treated him digging for the secret differently in this movie. He is watching Malfoy but not as obsessively as in the book and no one is yelling at him to stop neglecting his duty to Dumbledore. That part of the book irritated me and I was glad it was eliminated. Instead, Dumbledore reveals the task much later and after the failed attempt Harry can't get a minute with Slughorn until the trip to Hagrid's. You never get the feeling he isn't trying.

Let's skip to the ending. They played this one completely different. During the book's ending Harry arrives with a weakened Dumbledore to find a dark mark above the school. They get to the tower and Harry is under the invisibility cloak and gets a petrification curse to keep him from interfering at all. Everything happens in front of his eyes but there is no way for him to change anything. The curse is lifted only when Dumbledore dies and then he is running after the Death Eaters through a battlefield of the Order, the DA and more Death Eaters. People know they are under attack and he is running past them screaming at Snape. It was an intense scene and I was amazed that they would completely change it. This time I think the movie makes a mistake. First off in the movie Harry is unfettered by a petrification curse and is not under an invisibility cloak. He is hiding below watching when Snape comes up and shows him the universal "be quiet" gesture (the finger to the lips). Harry puts his trust into Snape; something he has never done in any of the previous movies or books and watches him kill Dumbledore. Then there is no battle raging on, the death mark is only cast after Dumbledore is killed, no one is roaming the halls and the handful of Death Eaters are cackling and breaking goblets in the feast room. Harry does not catch up to them until the field outside of Hagrid's hut. If he wasn't frozen in place what was he doing all that time? He was up and watching it happen not stuck watching something happen without being able to move. It seems to me they changed the dynamic here. Harry should have gotten at least one of the Death Eaters in this altered ending. Plus with the lack of a battle going on how did anyone know to come out to see the body? The battle happened outside and it wasn't much of one. I felt like the final betrayal of Snape in the 6th book was poignant but in the 6th movie it seemed lacking. In the book, Dumbledore is not even able to stand when Snape comes in and kills him. It seems much more like Dumbledore is pleading for help. In the movie it seems like Dumbledore is finishing the argument he and Snape had before the night began. Which in fact is what it was but we have no inkling of that until the end of book 7. Dumbledore looked too confident and in control; evena s he recieves te killing curse. It was way more of an Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrificial ending then an old man defeated. I also missed the chaos of battle that Harry runs through to catch up while attempting to kill Snape. That allowed us to know why it took him so long to catch up. He was ducking killing curses and it had taken a moment to realize he was no longer paralyzed. I also felt that this movie needed a battle at the end as the action was lacking a bit. The various supporting characters really needed to be ready for a fight and then have the blow of losing Dumbledore to properly set the stage for the 7th movie's opening feel. It is always best to end at as low of a point as possible. Instead they seem to been caught unaware and that seems silly. I think having most of the order of the Phoenix, the aurors and a few of the DA roaming the halls trying to protect the school and failing is a better way to set up the impossibility of the task set forth in the 7th book. Instead a small group of people sneak in and kill the main dude in charge and then walk brazenly out the front door unmolested. It was insulting!

They also left a lot of the silliness of the Gryffindor quidditch team tryouts out and just left in Cormac and Ron's face off. I was sad to not see the inanity of kids from other houses coming out to try out with the whole school looking on. Of course, once again, I can see why they did that; it wasn't really necessary for the plot.

They cut out the crazy making out of Harry and Ginny and kept it as just a little kiss here and there. They also left out Harry telling her at the end he is too busy to be in a relationship with her and the whole "it's too dangerous" crap. I liked them leaving it out a little better because I saw it as silly.

And finally.... Harry only uses the invisibility cloak once in this movie which was a little weird. Instead he seems to have inherited a great streak of luck to avoid being caught and the ability to go undetected whenever he decides to.

The review will now go back to being ending obscure.....

The movie begins amidst a troubled time for the world; for magic and non-magic citizens alike. The Death Eaters are active and running amuck and people are afraid regardless if they know what is going on. Of course being a kid you still have to go to school and Harry finds himself back at Hogwarts. Probably one of the few kids who has ever continually looked forward to the start of school. We are introduced to a goofy new character almost immediately, a Professor Slughorn. Slughorn has a key role to play in the movie, the unlocking of secrets, and it falls on Harry's shoulders to make it happen. Except that there is more going on then Slughorn. Snape gets promoted to the Defense Against the Dark Arts post much to the displeasure of most of the students and he seems to be up to something. He makes an unbreakable vow to help Draco Malfoy out in completing a dangerous task he has been given by Voldemort. Harry sees Draco up to no good in Knockturn Alley and decides he must be a Death Eater even though no one believes him. Harry is spending time with Dumbledore learning the secrets of Voldemort's past in adition to his classes. There is a lot going on for Harry this year and yet we haven't even touched on the mystery of who the Half Blood Prince is. The only clue is an inscription in Harry's used Potions book that says "Property of the Half Blood Prince". Is this mysterious person good or bad. Is his help really something Harry should follow so blindly?

The movie is an interestingly dark story and holds true to the spirit of the book if not to the exact letter. Harry is dealing with more and more pressures as his world has once again changed. No longer the outcast he became in the 5th movie after the Daily Prophet's lies about him fabricating the return of Voldemort. He is now being touted as the 'chosen one' and the world is eager to have a piece of him. At the same time he is being asked, by Dumbledore, to be more active in his duties and is meeting with him regularly. He is trying to butter up Professor Slughorn while keeping an eye on Draco, questioning Snape's loyalty, not being believed when he shares his fears about Draco and Snape, captaining the quidditch team, handling his course load, playing intermediary between friends and pining for Ginny (Ron's sister). There is a lot on his plate and the movie does a good job of showing that but not beating us over the head with it. There are some differences between the movie and the book and some are good and only one is completely bad but over all I recommend this movie. Go out and see it today.

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