Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The new Harry Potter movie is out, and by the timing of this post you may infer that I saw it fairly early on. As a matter of fact, yes, I did go see a midnight showing on opening night/morning. And yes, I did wear a costume. If you feel the need to mock me, go ahead, I’ll wait.

All done? So, given the above information, you probably already know what I’m going to say below. Here, I’ll sum up for you: some good parts especially a few scenes done well and Slughorn/Snape/Draco were awesome, they changed things I didn’t want changed, the kids still can’t act, but I’ll probably buy the Blu-Ray and wait anxiously for the next movie. There we go. Everything below can now be considered a nit-picky rant from a serious fan of the book.

Ok then. Let’s talk about the Half-Blood Prince. (no spoilers, but I am going to talk about it in general terms, so if you don’t want to know *anything*, you’ve been warned)

I’ll start by saying that I loved Book 6, and it had some pretty shocking stuff in it compared to the rest of the series…and it also attracted the most jerks who delighted in spoiling some crucial scenes. Therefore, chances are good that even if you’ve never read the book or watched the movie, you know the one main thing that happens. If so, I’m sorry someone ruined that part, but don’t let it deter you from seeing the movie (or better yet, reading the book), because chances are good that you didn’t get the whole story, and it’s worth understanding what happened and trying to determine why it did.

Now, I understand that the goal with any book adaptation movie is to make a *movie*, not just put pictures to the book. As such, things that work well in the book will need to be changed for the movie. I accept that fact, and even believe that it can be done very well in a way which offends the least amount of fans and makes a movie people like to watch (ref the Lord of the Rings). Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was not, unfortunately, an example of this. It’s not the fact that changes were made that bothers me here, please note – it’s the fact that meaningless changes which actually hurt the story were made.

I’m not going to get terribly specific here as again, I’m trying to avoid spoilers for the one person in the world who doesn’t know what happens. But I will say that the makers of this movie seemed to think several things which I disagree with: 1) HP6 should be a teen movie 2) “the kids” and especially Daniel can act and that’s what people came to see and 3) everyone who watches the movie will have already read the books.

Let me start with that second point first. Emma is a bad actress. Daniel is slightly better, but still not great. Rupert is probably the best of the bunch. So why is it that the movies take away lines from Ron and give them to Hermione and Harry? For that matter, why is so much emphasis always placed on the relationship between Harry and Hermione (which is not even close to the way the books handle it) rather than Harry and Ron? I’ve never understood this – it makes me want to fast forward through multiple talking scenes.

Ok, so that’s irritating to me, but I knew they would do that going into the movie. The reason I’m ranting on this right now is that the director’s odd conclusion that we need to see these kids – and especially Daniel – on the screen as much as possible actually seems to have led them to rewrite the most crucial scene in the movie around this idea. There is a point where it is very important in the book that none of the trio be visible, and yet in the movie…well apparently reaction shots are just too good to pass up. Even if the reaction sucks. Here’s a hint guys: if you find yourself writing a scene based on the actors rather than the plot of the movie, chances are good that you’ve lost the plot somewhere. So what we get is load of bad acting where we should have had a dramatic, important scene. Sad.

Back to the first point. HP6 was actually delayed coming out – not because it wasn’t done, but because WB wanted to time it so that it didn’t compete with Twilight. It seemed like a strange decision at the time – Harry Potter is the powerhouse, right? Why wasn’t Twilight moved instead? The answer was clear on seeing the movie. For some reason, WB has decided that Harry Potter has now reached “teen movie” status, and should be treated accordingly. The witty dialogue of the book was chopped and slaughtered by the writers into corny groaners and sappy attempted poetry. Now, before you start screaming at me, yes, I do agree that there is a fair amount of teenage angst in the book. Which is exactly my point – it didn’t need any more added. Why, oh why did you do this WB? You’re freaking Harry Potter – you already have the audience, the teens already like it, and you don’t compete with Twilight! Twilight, in its fondest dreams, competes with you.

And now for the last, and really worst problem with the movie. I heard a guy coming out of the movie say “Man, good thing I read the book, or else I’m not sure I would have had any idea of what happened.” I’ve heard the same comment repeated in several places since. That’s a problem. I know a lot of people who only watch the movies. (none of whom, btw, understand what the big deal is about Harry Potter – I don’t think it’s a coincidence.)

But an even bigger problem is this: the Harry Potter books are, at their core, mysteries. There are small mysteries in every book, and there are large, overarching mysteries that span the series. The movie assumes that you read the books – so it crushes the mysteries. The small mystery in this movie was handled awkwardly, as if they really wanted to cut it out but were prevented. That’s somewhat understandable, as it’s one that’s not easily shown on the screen. However, this is book 6 – there’s a lot of very crucial things in there that have to do with the overarching mysteries. There are hints, there are subtleties, there are clues. In the book, that is. The movie makes it so clear what is going on that no one will make the mistake of thinking. It’s like watching Monk. You know, a murder mystery where they start off by showing you who the murderer is, and the only enjoyment you can get is from watching Monk bumble around until he figures out what you already know. That might work for a formula comedy with an interesting actor and a show that only lasts half an hour. Not so for a somewhat dark fantasy full length movie with bad kid (ok, “teen”) actors.

As I said in the beginning, there are some shining moments. Slughorn is wonderful, Snape is always great, and the twins are brilliant every short second they get on screen. There’s some great fun involving Ron and a couple dramatic points they didn’t mess up too badly. Oh, and Draco is better in this movie than in any other so far, excellent job. I’ll go ahead and give it 3 stars. But if you’re looking to see why people love Harry Potter, this isn’t it. Go read the book. (actually books, in order – they’re a mystery, remember?) I’m due for a re-read as soon as I unpack.

And, admittedly, I’ll be thinking as I read, “They’d better not mess up the next movie. Like the last six.” Hope springs eternal.

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