Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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I wrote this on the Brave Writer forums for the Brave Writer at the Movies class I'm facilitating this month. This week we're discussing My Boy Jack with Daniel Radcliffe, so we obviously have a great comparison to make between his performances.

Anyway, here's my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince plus a few other comments I didn't write in the Brave Writer discussion.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT! I am giving away major plot elements, so if you haven't read the book and desire to be surprised when you see the movie, read no further!

Overall, I thought that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was brilliant. It was an excellent adaptation of the book which I've read at least eight times.

I didn't care for a few elements (or the lack thereof): the attack on the Burrow was really stupid -- it seemed just an opportunity to blow stuff up. It really made no sense whatsoever except to underscore the unspoken feelings between Harry and Ginny. And to introduce Fenrir Greyback.

I missed the battle within Hogwarts between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters after Dumbledore's death. I understand why they omitted it: the additional action takes attention away from Dumbledore's death and also introduces characters and scenes (Bill and his mauling by Greyback, Neville's injuries, the Carrows, etc., plus the hospital wing scene with the Weasleys and Fleur). So I understand why the screenwriters decided to simplify Dumbledore's death. But I still missed it -- it was a major battle with repercussions reaching well into the final book.

I also missed the opening scene between Dumbledore and the Dursleys when Dumbledore really takes them to task for their abusive treatment of Harry over the years. It's a scene with both humor and pathos and would have been a great improvement over the train scene which made little sense. But the Unbreakable Vow scene with Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Snape was brilliant. And the havoc played on the Muggle world was very well done -- a violent opening to the 6th film. Convincing and dramatic.

The Horcrux cave scene was great, but it was never explained that the creatures in the lake were Inferi. The fire conjured by Dumbledore was incredible when Harry was drowning in the lake, being dragged under by the Inferi which were naked, Gollum-like creatures.

Dumbledore's death and the aftermath were touching -- I was actually sobbing. And I was glad that they kept in Dumbledore's argument with Snape, something Harry overheard rather than Hagrid. Harry wasn't immobilized during Draco's confrontation with Dumbledore; Dumbledore told him to go underneath, and Harry could see what was happening from underneath the telescope workings in the Astronomy tower. Harry was taking aim at Draco with his wand when Snape approached him and signaled to be silent and do nothing, and Harry acquiesced. Then Snape killed Dumbledore. The Death Eaters, especially Bellatrix, stomped through the Great Hall on the House tables, breaking the large stained glass windows in triumph. Draco looked so upset after Dumbledore's death -- afraid of Voldemort perhaps because Draco had not done it himself but also shocked that Dumbledore really was dead.

But the best part of the film was the love triangle among Ron, Hermione, and Lavender -- so funny. And touching. Lavender was kooky and perfect, and the scene over Ron's bed after his poisoning was priceless, especially when witnessed by Snape, McGonagall, and Dumbledore which made it all the more funny. And the love potion scene was really well done: Rupert Grint's uplifted face was simply perfect -- very well-acted and so funny.

I wish more time had been spent on developing the Ginny/Harry relationship; they really never seemed to nail down the boyfriend/girlfriend level at the end of the movie, thus he never broke up with her at Dumbledore's funeral, another omitted scene that they should have included -- at least Harry sees Dumbledore's portrait in his office.

Jim Broadbent was a perfect Slughorn. The rest of the main cast was brilliant, as always except that I've never cared for the portrayal of Tonks. Somehow in this installment she's Lupin's girlfriend with no explanation whatsoever which bugged me, along with her unattractive brown mullet. I wish Tonks was portrayed much more like Alice in Twilight -- it would have worked MUCH better.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price was one of the best adaptations of the HP books, now my second-favorite behind my perennial favorite, Sorcerer's Stone; I love how the magical world is introduced so perfectly. So despite my perfectionist, book-loving critique here, I still consider Half-Blood Prince to be simply brilliant.

Go see it if you haven't already. It's well-worth it.

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