Jul 20, 2009

[Movies] Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)The Harry Potter franchise has become one of those massive media juggernauts that will forever live in our social memory as a species. Given the wild success of the books and the popularity of the movie adaptations, Harry Potter and his world of magic beyond our mundane muggle one will live on forever.

I always feel that writers must have a remarkably difficult time keeping their original vision independent of the whims of the movie studios or the demands of the fan base at large. Given how J.K Rowling changed from a struggling mother living out of her car to the multi-million dollar success story that she is now, I bet it must have been insane trying to finish all seven books the series given one part or another pushing their own ideas, agendas and whims upon her. Some characters were definitely influenced to one degree or another by how they were depicted in the films and that may or may not have affected the series as a whole in a significant manner.

Whenever I think about the books beyond the 4th one, which was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, that's pretty much how I feel about a lot of the development and growth.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the adaptation of the 6th book in the Harry Potter series and is the second-to-the-last book. Given this, it really was meant as a transition story that had to prepare all the characters for the dangers of the final book beyond and such storylines tend to feel underdeveloped in one way or another since you don't get full resolution at the end. This was sort of the case with another major movie franchise in terms of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, although that was a transition tale that was given a lot of meat and thus it was a rather successful attempt. I'm still trying to fully understand how I feel about this movie serving the same purpose.

This movie follows our usual triumvirate of Harry, Ron and Hermione as they return to a very different Hogwarts. With Voldemort and his Death Eaters on the loose in both the muggle and magical parts of the world, there's definitely a sense of fear and dread abound. People are being killed, others have gone missing and tales of Death Eater attacks and sightings are everywhere. Despite all this, Hogwarts remains open and the students return, but of course they too have grown in many ways (and hormones are going nuts to boot!) Dumbledore is frequently missing from the school, undertaking some secret quests that are causing him significant harm in the process. Draco Malfoy has been tasked with some dark deed by Voldemort himself and Harry and his friends are trying to deal with their own teenage relationship issues amidst the larger mysteries around them.

JK Rowling, after receiving an honorary degree...Image via Wikipedia

HP6 is a drastic change in tone from the previous 5 books. Before, there was always that sense of magical whimsy that you could get in the earlier parts of the story before the eventual confrontation with whatever dark and dangerous foe waited for them. That balancing of diverse elements has always been one of the reasons the books have been so widely accepted by readers of all ages and to some extent kept them as children's stories more or less. While the increasingly mature tone had been building over the recent books / films, it's really in this movie that things take a sharp turn into a darker world - one of Death Eaters and teenage romances. In many ways, one could critique Rowling for how this was handled - it was as if she realized that a lot of the development should have happened earlier but not it was too late to turn back. Instead we end up with this amazing evolutionary leap forward in terms of many of the storylines that left more than a few fans wondering what the heck happened.

The actors have definitely grown in their lives portraying the roles of Rowling's characters although there's still room for improvement here and there. Daniel Radcliffe was a lot funnier at times as Harry while Rupert Grint has become a very...stocky Ron Weasley (did you see those arms?). Emma Watson was darling as ever as the love sick Hermione although she still hasn't learned to consistently portray genuine emotions, hehe. Bonnie Wright did rather well in terms of capturing the suddenly-developed role of Ginny Weasley in this film while Tom Felton appears to be growing up really ugly in a bad way. Kudos to Evanna Lynch for a great performance as Luna Lovegood and now showing us that she'd play a pretty believable Delirium should ever Neil Gaiman's Sandman be made into a film or something.

The other older actors were as consistent as ever, especially given their years of acting experience. I'm talking about the likes of Michael Gambon, who has really grown into the role of Albus Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, Alan Rickman as a not so effeminate Severus Snape and Jim Broadbent as a humorous Horace Slughorn.

Helena Bonham Carter seemed poised to steal any scene with Belatrix Lestrange in it but I can't help but feel that David Yates made sure to severely limit her screen time in order to prevent just that, which is a shame. You have to admit, she's just amazing as Belatrix well beyond belief!

Oh, and I ♥ Freddie Stroma, even though he was quickly set aside in terms of the overall story. It's weird that this hormone-enhanced edition of Harry Potter had no toplessness like in previous films - this would have been a GREAT time to see the likes of Stroma without a shirt, haha. Sorry, pardon my raging homosexuality at this moment.

The overall movie was pretty tight and Yates definitely did a great job at trying to edit what was kept for the film and what was left to the book save for a few points here and there. Most folks complain about the truncated ending, and to a large part I have to agree that this was ended on an odd note. The whole Half-Blood Prince angle ended with a very insignificant squeak, but then I can't remember it being all that amazing in the original book either. I still sort of wish for more fight scenes but I guess they're saving the bulk of that kind of storytelling for the last two films that will cover the seventh book.

Did I like the movie? I suppose you could say that, but it did drag here and there. I won't go as far as saying I loved it but one can't fault it all that much - this was an accelerated transition device that needed to mature many characters at once in order to catch up with lack of development in the prior books. One could blame the original material for why Harry was suddenly so infatuated with Ginny or how much Ron and Hermione still can't get it on and what not and Yates only did the best he could with that.

Things will all pay off more when the last two movies get underway. For now I can only post an initial rating that may need to be revised once we view this piece in the context of the completion of the whole series.

Thus, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince gets 3.5 Horcruxes out of 5.

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  1. Oh My Lord Voldemort. You are right about Evanna Lynch as Delirium! :o

  2. NO! How dare you say that about my baby Dwaco!!


    oh, check out feltbeats at youtube - he *does* have redeeming qualities.