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Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince: A Movie Review, with Spoilers

In an article in the NY Times,

Warner Brothers (the studio that released the Harry Potter movies) is quoted as saying "One of our main objectives in bringing the Harry Potter films to the screen has been to remain as faithful to their original source material as created by J. K Rowling." The article itself is about all the drinking that happens in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is a different topic for another post, but when I read it I had to stifle a chuckle.

Or maybe it was a gasp of annoyance.

Whatever. After seeing the movie last week, I'm not sure that anyone at Warner Brothers, especially the writers, has actually read any of the books. Maybe none of them are aware that the seventh and final book has been written and published and that they could, you know, read it too? I'm not sure. What I do know is that I had severely mixed feelings about the movie when I left the theater.

In a way, I loved it. I loved seeing Howarts again: the magic, the castle, the characters. I liked the development of Harry and Ginny's relationship, as well as Hermione's and Ron's. I liked that it had a more romantic sort of feel, since that is authentic with the age of the characters. I loved the scene in the underground lake, when Harry and Dumbledore try to get one of Voldemort's horcruxes. I enjoyed watching Malfoy's character and seeing him change from a stock adolescent-bully character to someone more three-dimensional. In fact, I could nearly agree with this excellent reviewthat Janssen told me about.


Except for one thing: they left too many important things out. I was thoroughly annoyed, for example, that Snape just throws out his "I am the half-blood prince" explanation before sprinting off into the darkness; how does he even know that Harry had his old potions book? The other review I read was exactly right; there wasn't enough development of the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore. This matters because at the end of the movie, when Dumbledore dies, it doesn't feel like the tremendous loss to Harry that it did in the books. But it also matters because there are enormous, gaping, huge holes left in the plot that I can't imagine how they'll fill when the Deathly Hallows movies are released. Ginny hides Harry's potion book, for example, in the room of requirement, not Harry, so he doesn't ever see the abandoned tiara that is actually one of the horcruxes. You don't ever see the ring with the broken stone that also has a huge importance in the next part of the story. The memory that Harry sees in the pensieve, explaining Voldemort's origins? Not in the movie, although his genealogy matters in The Deathly Hallows.

I keep going back to my original theory: the Harry Potter people are afraid of the Twilight people. That fear made the movie into something more teen-angsty than it really needed to be, and forced it to lose focus on the important parts of the story. Plus, while the writers don't seem to have read the books, but it's as if they're counting on the fact that you have read them. The plot holes can be filled in by you, the movie-goer, if you've read the books. That, to me, is the biggest failure of any movie that started out as a book. Of course the movie is an adaption of the book, and it is never going to exactly match the story each person read, because we all have so many different associations with words that affect how we imagine things. (The inside of Hagrid's cabin, for example, is, in my head, laid out exactly like my grandparents' apartment was, although with far more rustic accouterments.) I have come to understand that the movie interpretation is always something nearly entirely different than the book was, because it is a different medium with different rules and boundaries. But to leave such glaring gaps in the story is an entirely different thing. The setting, the casting, the character development: all of that was great. But the plot itself? If you hadn't read the books I don't know how it would have made any sense.

A few minutes after the movie ended, Kendell called to ask me if the movie had been good or not. I was initially enthusiastic. "I loved it!" I told him. But even in the post-coital-ish "I loved it!" reaction, I had a hesitation. I think I loved it not so much for the way the movie succeeded at telling a story, but because I loved being back in Harry Potter's world. That sense of being transported somewhere else is pleasant, to say the least. But that speaks more to the power of world-building than it does to how "good" the movie was. The more I think about it, the more disappointed I get.

But that's just my opinion. What's yours?

Comments

chris jenkins

i am much like you. i loved being caught up in the visual magic of the movie. i think the director and set designers and graphics people are amazing. i was surprised how many little details were left out and i know several people who have never read the books were wondering why Snape was the Half-Blood Prince and why that was so significant. I didn't sense the emotional loss of Dumbledore really. I hate that details were left out. With HP, the books build on the little details. I guess they are wanting people to enjoy the movies even if they hadn't seen them or never read the book.

i haven't reread HP6 just yet but I am sure once I do, I will being feeling more at a loss much like you.

Janssen

I think you were SPOT on. The feel of the movie was just right, I thought. The plot? Not as well done. Some major oversights.

Now I need to go read the book again.

Taci

I totally agree with you. I was so excited to see this and while it was good, it was not as good as I expected. There were too many gaps and it seemed unfocused at times. It just didn't seem like it came together. If you hadn't read the books or remembered this one very well you would be very confused. The movie definately didn't give me the emotions that the book brought out, especially the sadness when Dumbledore died. This movie left me pretty unsatisfied. I think I'll just read the book again!

Dorkwad

LOL you typed 'post-coital-ish'. Nevertheless, even though I hadn't read a single book, I've read the 'Cliff's Notes' plotlines on Wikipedia and in other places. There were many missing points in my fractured idea of what the events should have been. *sigh* It was still good, though. A five-hour movie may have been better suited to tell the story? According to my daughter, the 'Ron' character is the ugliest lackluster in any movie she's ever seen. My vote is *yawn*.

Margot/NZ

I think it's on the dedication page of one of either Philip Pullman's or William Nicholson's books: Never mistake the movie for the book.

I'm always very cautious before going to see a movie of a book I loved (but did all of the LOTR movies because of the NZ connection - I knew several people involved in these productions). Although "the magic of the movies" is usually present, I don't like having my own mental images changed by what I see on the screen. I can't remember what Harry Potter looked like (in my head) to me before the movies - because all I "see" now is Daniel Redcliffe.

So I don't think I will go and see #6 - but I will re-read it!

Kim

You were totally right. I think the movie was a yawn. There were brilliant scenes, but the whole movie didn't seem "tied" together, if that makes sense. It was just a jumble of scenes. While the last one, Order of the Phoenix, didn't have the cohesiveness of the first two, directed by Chris Columbus, it was still much better than this last one. My husband, who has seen all the movies but hasn't read any of the books, said this one was horrible. When the movie was over, he asked me what just happened - he was lost for most of it. All he got was the romatic stuff and Dumbledore's death.

 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Frankly speaking , I am big fan of whole Harry Potter series. This part really good adaptation of the book. This is the first part of this series i liked it very much! all other parts are ok types.

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