Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (review)

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Dark Magic

So, is this the fourth Harry Potter movie, or the fifth? It’s the sixth? Really, already? Ah, that’s the one where Harry goes to the magic school, which has yet another new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, right? And Harry fights the evil wizard?

But I kid the biggest moneymaking movie franchise of the 21st century. Though I have pretty much forgotten what happens in each individual book, because now that the grand story is finished, it’s all just one giant jumble of Harry Potter-ness in my head. Maybe that’s why, with this first movie since the book series wrapped up exactly two years ago, The Half-Blood Prince feels episodic in a way that the previous movies did not: I almost expected to hear Michael Gambon’s (Brideshead Revisited, Cranford) deep Dumbledore voice intoning, “Previously, on Harry Potter…” as HBP opened.
It’s probably best that one approaches this latest film, with its surprisingly complementary chirpy sense of humor and bleak sense of horror, with more a general Harry Potter-ness filling one’s brain than with the expectation that all your favorite bits from J.K. Rowling’s novel of the same name [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.] will be cinemized for your fannish enjoyment. Because with the sheer amount of content from the novel that’s been excised, the chances are excellent that your favorite bit is not here. And that’s fine, as moviemaking goes. Someday, decades from now, someone will produce the epic 185-part definitive Harry Potter filmed adaptation that omits not one single scene and not one single motif from the books, but this movie series was never intended to be that. And someday, someone will teach a class in Adapting Novels for Film that dedicates an entire section to Rowling’s books and the Warner Bros. movies.

David Yates’ Half-Blood Prince will, for some future student in that class, be the subject of a thesis called “How to Do It Absolutely Right (While Also Pissing Off Your Fan Base).” I can hear the howls already from devotees of Rowling complaining that yes, yes, they understand perfectly well that some stuff certainly had to be cut, that of course not everything could make it into the movie, but goddammit, that one scene was absolutely essential and it’s sheer blasphemy that it was left out, and now the film is ruined. (I heard some of this from my guest at my press screening of the film, who shall remain anonymous unless he wants to out himself in comments here.) And I’m not even saying that those fans are necessarily wrong: there are probably fifty different movie versions of HPB that could work very well, depending upon which 25 percent of the book you shuffled around to put up on the screen.

But the version that Yates (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Young Visiters, or, Mr. Salteena’s Plan) and screenwriter Steve Kloves (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Wonder Boys) have given us works very well, too, by narrowing down the hugeness of the novel into a diptych depicting the choices of adolescence. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe: December Boys) and his friends and rivals are, for the most part, sixth-year students at Hogwarts now, and though it’s not explicitly mentioned in the film, this means that many of their former classmates will not have returned to school: they’ll have finished their O.W.L.s (Ordinary Wizarding Levels, comprehensive exams) the year before and decided that higher education wasn’t for them. Those who have returned to Hogwarts have made a more mature commitment to the school and to their education than they could have possibly done when they entered at age 11, and because those who are left are fewer in number, they’re closer to one another as well.

And they’re all also 16 years old, and bursting with hormones.

A surprising bulk of HBP is given over to teenage romance: there’s flirting and heartbreak and moon eyes and sighing and snogging and love potions and more heartbreak as everyone tries to figure out the relationship thing. The tender sweetness and frequent outright goofiness of it all — particularly surrounding Harry’s friend Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), who can neither cope with his little sister Ginny’s (Bonnie Wright) burgeoning womanhood nor his own attractiveness to certain female students — is lovely and funny and beautifully done. The wonderful maturity of the young cast as performers, and presumably as youngsters who’ve grown up around one another over the course of making these films, is clearly a factor in making it all work: it’s not just how Yates sensitively frames this most awkward aspect of adolescence but how the actors depict it, with a wisdom seemingly beyond their years, that makes it all so very touching. (If I had to predict the one cast member who will go on to even bigger things, it’d be Emma Watson [The Tale of Despereaux, Ballet Shoes], who plays Harry’s best friend Hermione: she may have to endure a few years of roles as Disney princesses, but beyond that she could have a career as a charming comedic leading lady.)

On the flip side of all that adolescent angst is Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton: The Borrowers) who, while his peers are agonizing over getting a date or not getting kissed, is struggling with a truly momentous choice: Will he go to the dark side and embrace Voldemort? That’s no spoiler, even if you haven’t read the book and have no idea who Voldemort is (think: Darth Vader and Osama Bin Laden rolled together), because as the movie opens, we — and Harry — see that all the no-good Draco has ever been up to before is nothing compared to what he’s up to now, but he’s obviously having doubts about it. I don’t remember feeling sorry for Draco, ever, while reading the novels, but Yates and Felton make Draco tormented in a way that Rowling didn’t… and it gives the shuffling around of some of the stuff at the very end of the film version of the story an even greater impact, in some ways, than it did in the book.

Or perhaps it’s just that with so much of the other material pared away, the fundamental theme of Rowling’s novel gets more of a highlight here: Some of the choices you make even at the tender age of 16 will impact the rest of your life.

And to think I was worried that the PG rating of the film meant that some of Rowling’s darkness would be toned down. If that thought doesn’t scare the pants off kids, I don’t know what will.

The Harry Potter saga reviewed:
‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’
‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’
‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’
‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’

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Alli
Alli
Tue, Jul 14, 2009 2:15pm

I just get more and more excited by the hour. Only 10 more to go. I’m surprised that you think Emma Watson would be the one with the brightest career. I thought her portrayal of Hermione has been a bit over-the-top since Goblet of Fire. It’ll be interesting to see how she does in this one. I find her incredibly charming in all the interviews she’s done recently though. As for Dan and Rupert, Rupert’s been able to branch out more than the others, so I think he may have a strong career. Dan seems to have a strong work ethic, and he did well on Broadway. I hope he absolutely knocks Deathly Hallows out of the park.

PaulW
PaulW
Tue, Jul 14, 2009 2:36pm

I almost expected to hear Michael Gambon’s deep Dumbledore voice intoning, “Previously, on Harry Potter…” as HBP opened.

Yeah, well, the ST:Next Generation two-parter “Best of Both Worlds” really got to us geeks back in the day (one of the few funny stunts Seth McFarlane did on Family Guy was rip off that “Previously…And Now the Conclusion” opener for the Stewie Dies episode).

And as for stuff getting edited out of HBP to fit the movie… that’s kinda unsettling given that HBP is half the size of either OotP or Hallows. No wonder Hallows is getting the two-parter offering.

And as for which actor/actress will do well post-HP? Radcliffe *is* the next Bond once Craig retires from the role, cmon. ;-)

Gotta wait til Friday: my filmgoing krewe has what is known as a ‘work schedule’ AKA ‘paying job’. Unlike the rest of us worrying about the bleeping unemployment benefits running out… :{

Dr Rocketscience
Dr Rocketscience
Tue, Jul 14, 2009 4:53pm

the sheer amount of content from the novel that’s been excised

Considering HBP is a 600+ page novel consisting almost entirely of exposition, that’s a very good thing.

From the standpoint of Rowling’s 7 book arc, the structure of HBP makes a lot of sense. She’d spent a great deal of effort making Voldemort into this ethereal, phantom menace. (In OotP Umbridge makes such a memorable villain in no small part because she’s actually present in the whole story.) But, in doing so, Voldemort’s backstory was still hanging. By dealing with it all in the penultimate book, she put herself in a position of having only two major plot points to resolve in the final volume. (The first, of course, being the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort; the second shouldn’t be spoilerific, but I’ll err on the side of caution.)

I’m rather impressed with the number and nature of the positive reviews this movie is receiving. I’ve been saying for years that HBP was going to be the hardest of the books to film, due to it being so exposition heavy and action poor.

MaSch
MaSch
Tue, Jul 14, 2009 5:16pm

So … Sounds like they finally put Movie-Draco in those leather pants . (They’re having problems with the database, hope the link works later on …)

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Jul 14, 2009 9:41pm

I don’t remember Draco wearing any leather pants. Sorry.

Radcliffe *is* the next Bond once Craig retires from the role, cmon. ;-)

Oh, that might be nice, but I can’t see Bond being that short. Craig’s not tall, but he’s still — reports vary — a good four or five inches taller.

As for Dan and Rupert, Rupert’s been able to branch out more than the others, so I think he may have a strong career. Dan seems to have a strong work ethic, and he did well on Broadway. I hope he absolutely knocks Deathly Hallows out of the park.

They’re all great in the film. They’re all very talented. I should have qualified my “bigger things” comment to say, “bigger mainstream things.” Radcliffe *is* very good — I saw him in *Equus,* and in some other non-Hollywood stuff — but I think he’s probably destined for roles other than “Hollywood leading man” (Harry Potter aside). Grint too. They’re just not blandly handsome in that boring Hollywood way. I hope they stay in England and do TV and film there: they’ll be much better off creatively if they do, and certainly none of these three should ever have to worry about money again, so it’s not like they *have* to go Hollywood just to make a living. My worry with Watson is that, if she does go Hollywood, they’ll water down her personality, which would be a shame.

Considering HBP is a 600+ page novel consisting almost entirely of exposition, that’s a very good thing.

I’m not saying it’s not. Many serious fans of the books would say that it is, though.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Jul 14, 2009 9:43pm

Ooo, and I meant to say, re Bond: I remember seeing an ad for this film in the subway — a huge honking thing with Draco featured very prominent — and thinking, Tom Felton’s gonna be playing James Bond in 20 years…

Ken
Ken
Tue, Jul 14, 2009 10:03pm

that one scene was absolutely essential and it’s sheer blasphemy that it was left out, and now the film is ruined. (I heard some of this from my guest at my press screening of the film, who shall remain anonymous unless he wants to out himself in comments here.)

I certainly don’t think the film was ruined, but I think with that one scene that was left out of the denouement, they could have wrapped up the movie a bit better.

Maybe Radcliffe won’t work as Bond, but they do seem to keep going younger with new Doctors, don’t they? Even better…Radcliffe as the Master, Felton as the Doctor.

Sara
Sara
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 6:34am

I don’t remember feeling sorry for Draco, ever, while reading the novels, but Yates and Felton make Draco tormented in a way that Rowling didn’t…

Hmm, I disagree. I thought Rowling at least attempted to make readers sympathetic towards Draco in HBP in much the same way the movie did. When he cries in the bathroom, for example, or his hesitations, plus the constant reminder that he’s “just a boy” from several people (Hermione, Narcissa, Dumbledore) — all of this is in the book. I felt a bit sorry for him while reading, anyway.

Being a HP reader with expectations, I always feel a little disoriented watching the movies for the first time. I think that’s the problem — people feel as if they don’t have solid footing in a story they practically know by heart. This is why I always make sure to watch it again, knowing what to expect, and can enjoy the movie for the movie’s sake.

If anything, HP 6 was visually stunning and parts of it were perfectly imagined representations of book scenes. I still think I would have made a slightly different movie (mainly omitted some of the love triangle stuff to make room for more pensieve watching and discussion of the war to come, etc.). I still liked it, though.

Alli
Alli
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 7:28am

So I saw it last night, and I absolutely loved it. I really didn’t miss the cuts they made. Sure I can nitpick if I want to, but I really enjoyed it so who cares. Maryann, you were spot on about Watson. She was great in this film. After two straight films of so-so performances, she absolutely nailed this one. I think she feels more comfortable with the lighter material compared to the more dramatic, darker scenes. So we’ll see how she does in Deathly Hallows.

When it comes down to it, this film is about the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione. If you don’t like those characters, or you could care less about what happens to them, then you’ll find the film boring. If you want dragons and battles and shit blowing up, then wait for Deathly Hallows to come out in a year and a half.

Dr Rocketscience
Dr Rocketscience
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 4:35pm

Wow.

Y’know, I really thought this book was unfilmable. But instead, this is be best Harry Potter movie since Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite of the movies; Order of the Phoenix is my favorite book).

Sara
Sara
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 4:38pm

I also want to add that I loved one of the changes they made on the astronomy tower — that one exchange between Snape and Harry wasn’t in the book and now I wish it was. Brilliant choice.

Newbs
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 6:13pm

Spoilers in my post below the quote…

I can hear the howls already from devotees of Rowling complaining that yes, yes, they understand perfectly well that some stuff certainly had to be cut, that of course not everything could make it into the movie, but goddammit, that one scene was absolutely essential and it’s sheer blasphemy that it was left out, and now the film is ruined.

Oh my god, you cannot be serious. They altered the emotional climax of not only this book, but the entire series. And by ‘altered’ I mean utterly emasculated it, pulled its teeth, made it (of all things) banal and uninteresting!

And the breathless flight from Hogwarts, as Snape and his cohorts engage the entire cast of characters in a violent, horrible battle… it’s just gone. Cut out entirely; not even hinted at. And not only is Dumbledore’s death completely lacking in the appropriate gravitas, but it’s almost a fucking afterthought.

Not to mention Alan Fucking Rickman… I get that he’s read the final book so he knows Snape is really a good guy, but did he have to project it so blatantly? All the mystery is gone — do any of you remember how you felt at that moment when you were reading The Half-Blood Prince for the first time? Convinced Snape was still good, he just had to be… but presented with overwhelming, solid, unequivocating evidence that he was evil all along? I remember. And that feeling is absent in this film.

You recall when Gandalf died in the films? Was there any winking, any hint on display from any of the characters that he would be back in just another few hours of screen time? That’s how you render a faithful adaptation. Gandalf was dead in that book, forever. And Snape is evil in this one. FOREVER. Giving Rickman the freedom to project his character’s true intentions and doubt is unforgivable. It not only ruins a major theme of this book, but one from the next as well.

Then again, it’s probably not even Rickman’s fault. He’s been superb in the other films, so I think it’s probably appropriate to point the finger at David Yates. At the very least, this poor decision tips us off to the absolute certainty that films 7 & 8 will be a bloated mess. Like this guy needs more screen time for puppy love and heavy-handed transitions.

MEANWHILE, IN A NEARBY HALLWAY: DRACO MALFOY IS WORRIED ABOUT SOMETHING…

There’s only one way to describe this film in comparison to any of the other 5: weak. And in comparison to the books? Jesus Christ.

It’s not an horrible movie; there’s plenty to like about it as a film. It’s just a thoughtless, lazy, misguided adaptation lacking all the urgency of its source material. This one will be in class on Adaptations, all right… How to Fuck Up a Good Thing 101.

Joanne
Joanne
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 6:32pm

I re-read last week in preparation for the movie and I was surprised how closely they stuck to the book, for the most part – compressed, yes, but still pretty close. I did miss the final battle and I was sorry that Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville and Luna didn’t get to defend the castle as they do in the book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it; and I laughed a lot too. Particularly at the Ron and Lavender bits, which were hilarious.

Newbs
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 7:00pm

More spoilers…

Yeah, some parts were very good, I don’t deny that — it’s got some great humor and there is plenty of character stuff that I always enjoy… I just can’t see why they’d exchange that thrilling climactic battle for the pointless “let’s burn down the Weasley’s house” scene in the middle of the film.

Chris
Chris
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 8:26pm

honestly, the weasley house thing was the only part that made me think, “WTF?”

It just seemed pointless. I’m perfectly fine with dicking around with the story, if it makes the film more coherent and enjoyable. But that scene was wierd.

For the rest of it, I think they did a fantastic job condensing a ridiculously long and complex book into 2.5 hours. And the acting has improved by leaps and bounds. I enjoyed Watson’s acting in this one far more than in the other movies.

Ken
Ken
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 9:41pm

As long as we’re talking about specific bits of the movie, I’ll expand on my earlier post and say that I felt it did a disservice to the overall plot of the series to leave out the scene where Harry breaks up with Ginny. Harry letting go of one big bit of happiness in his life set the stage that for the final book. Even moreso that his decision to leave Hogwarts, this was Harry accepting that he had to take a proactive role in his own fate.

Alli
Alli
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 10:25pm

Ken, what makes you think they won’t include that in the 7th film? After reading that part of the book, most said it felt like a Spiderman moment. Of all the potential plot problems created by this film (which really are minor), I don’t think breaking up with Ginny is a major one. By the way, he does accept a proactive role in his own fate at the end of this film. He tries to tell his two best friends that he may never see them again.

As for the missing “battle,” stop calling it a battle. It was a skirmish if anything in the book. Half of Deathly Hallows part 2 will be a battle. You think the film makers really wanted that kind of redundancy? As for the Burrow attack, I liked the added scene. My only 2 problems with the Weasley house scene was A) we didn’t see the repercussions of it and B) this will mess with the wedding scene in Deathly Hallows (which we know will be in it because Clemence Poesy has been recast as Fleur, and the scene directly after their escape from the wedding has already been filmed in London).

Dr Rocketscience
Dr Rocketscience
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 10:31pm

Chris, seems that the attack on the Burrows was added because Knowles and Yates felt an action sequence was needed at that point. In the novel, the drama at that point is gained from Harry’s argument with Scrimgeour – a plot thread that, really, goes nowhere. That being said, the attack is a poorly written sequence that alos goes nowhere, so… *shrug*

Ken, yes, but I kind of think Rowling made a mistake of having Harry break up with Ginny at Hogwarts, only to have him live at the Burrow for much of the summer. I’m sure Ginny will get “The Speech” at the start of Deathly Hallows, Part 1. :-)

Newbs, Harry Potter movies will always be a debate between Adaptation Distillation and Adaptation Decay. But your first post is really pushing into They Changed It Now It Sucks territory. Also, I diagree. ;-)

p.s. Can you tell I recently discovered tvtropes.org?

Newbs
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 11:53pm

Man, tvtropes? Whatever. First of all this is a movie. And second, I never said anything about it sucking. I said it was a good film with many things to like, but as an adaptation it was boorish and lazy, and it neutered the part of the book I found most compelling. I don’t care if it was a skirmish or a battle; that’s semantics. What I do care about is why would they pull the guts out of one of the best scenes in modern literature? The moth scene in FOTR had more emotion in it than Dumbledore’s death in this film. George Kirk got a better sendoff, and he was only captain for 12 minutes.

I get that the HP series is about Harry, Ron, and Hermione… but you’d think they could have cut out 15 minutes of the Ron/Lavender “romance” (did we really need 3 separate scenes to reinforce the rejection Hermione was feeling?) and put a little heart into the ending. Something other than CUT TO OUTSIDE HAGRID’S CABIN.

Half-Blood Prince is getting great reviews, which is fine. There’s a lot to like about it, especially the humor and the characterizations. But in a few years we’re all going to look back at this as the unfortunate misstep that led to the ruination of an otherwise perfect book-to-film-series adaptation.

And no, I don’t want to be right about that. It’s nice that other people like it, and I’m sure it’ll make tons of money… but we’re on a downward spiral here. Each film after the stellar Prizoner of Azkaban has been slightly less good than its predecessor. I wish that weren’t the case, and maybe it isn’t for everyone. And I wish I could expect more in the coming years. But for now all I can say for sure is this is the one that took the wind out of my sails, and that’s too bad.

I feel like I felt after Dead Man’s Chest and Matrix Reloaded: deflated.

Sean Riley
Sean Riley
Thu, Jul 16, 2009 3:14am

Just as an aside on the Potter trio’s future prospects: Based on his interviews, in which he displays a surprising comic nervousness, I could see Daniel Radcliffe doing early Woody-Allenish roles. But with more Britishness, obviously. I’m unsure how to describe it. But he has a lively sense of comic energy in interviews which doesn’t seem to come out much in his work, sadly.

Dr Rocketscience
Dr Rocketscience
Thu, Jul 16, 2009 4:22am

Man, tvtropes? Whatever. First of all this is a movie.

Wow, lighten up, Francis. tvtropes is a fun site that lists good (and not-so-good) examples of tropes from anime, comics, literature, film, and, yes, television. And they have good descriptors for the issues of moving a property from one medium to another, and the fan wank that inevitably accompanies such moves.

And second, I never said anything about it sucking. I said it was a good film with many things to like, but as an adaptation it was boorish and lazy, and it neutered the part of the book I found most compelling.

Yeah, I can’t imagine why anyone would think you didn’t like it.

What I do care about is why would they pull the guts out of one of the best scenes in modern literature?

Ok, the actually explains a lot. But why?

And the breathless flight from Hogwarts, as Snape and his cohorts engage the entire cast of characters in a violent, horrible battle… it’s just gone.

that thrilling climactic battle

Something other than CUT TO OUTSIDE HAGRID’S CABIN.

Wait, so it’s the fight scene after the fact that makes it compelling? Is that what you’re angry about? Look, it’s been a couple years since I last read HBP, but was anyone so much as seriously injured in that battle? And didn’t Harry have to tell everyone what had happened after Snape et al had gone?

Debt Reduction
Thu, Jul 16, 2009 7:02am

I think that they are doing a great job with this movie! The actors are brilliant! They never fail its unbelievable. I think this is the best blockbuster movie in years.

Alli
Alli
Thu, Jul 16, 2009 7:50am

Question. For those who liked the film, did you know in advance what scenes had been cut and which had been added? I’ve known for over a year, so maybe that’s why I enjoyed it.

Newbs
Thu, Jul 16, 2009 6:52pm

Dr Rocketscience (Thu Jul 16 09, 4:22AM):

Wow, lighten up, Francis. tvtropes is a fun site that lists good (and not-so-good) examples of tropes from anime, comics, literature, film, and, yes, television. And they have good descriptors for the issues of moving a property from one medium to another, and the fan wank that inevitably accompanies such moves.

Sure, and it’s such fun to casually label someone’s opinions with a couple Nonsense Words with Capital Letters that link to a time-sink website you found while reading a shitty webcomic. Weee!

People don’t have to die for something to be exciting or good, Doc. My reasoning is pretty well explained above over several posts… attempting to reiterate it would just give me a headache. But it’s cool: you don’t have to agree. Just don’t be dismissive. It’s kinda douchey, like asking your wife if she’s PMSing.

Shadowen
Shadowen
Thu, Jul 16, 2009 11:04pm

Newbs, perhaps you need to read Tropes Are Not Bad before taking offense that we so “labeled” your opinion with “Nonsense Words with Capital Letters”.

Or maybe actually read the pages. Distillation and Decay are clearly labeled as subjective tropes, and Now It Sucks is not mocking such opinions, just documenting fans’ reactions that would fit in that category.

In short, don’t be dismissive of a site someone else is fond of. It’s kinda douchey, like insinuating that the only reason they know about it is because they read a webcomic that you also think is shitty (which, again, opinion).

(Incidentally, I agree that the scene with Snape and Harry at the end was rather gutted of its entire point. I don’t know if it’s the emotional heart of this whole chapter of the story, but it felt like something very important was missing.)

Jim Mann
Jim Mann
Fri, Jul 17, 2009 9:06am

Not to mention Alan Fucking Rickman… I get that he’s read the final book so he knows Snape is really a good guy, but did he have to project it so blatantly? All the mystery is gone — do any of you remember how you felt at that moment when you were reading The Half-Blood Prince for the first time? Convinced Snape was still good, he just had to be… but presented with overwhelming, solid, unequivocating evidence that he was evil all along? I remember. And that feeling is absent in this film.

I disagree. When I read Half-Blood Prince, I came away feeling that clearly Harry was so blinded by his dislike of Snape that he didn’t see what clearly happened in front of him. It was all there in the book. There was no overwhelming evidence that he was evil.

Yes, it’s clearer in the film becauase you can see the facial expressions. But I think those are the expressions I would have expected on the faces of Snape and Malfoy.

I agree with the earlier response that said this was the best Potter film since Prisoner of Azkaban.

Newbs
Fri, Jul 17, 2009 12:11pm

Speaking of facial expressions:

Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched on the harsh lines of his face.

…he could see Snape’s face clearly at last: He was no longer sneering or jeering; the blazing flames showed a face full of rage.

Snape’s pale face, illuminated by the flaming cabin, was suffused with hatred just as it had been before he had cursed Dumbledore.

“DON’T –” screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them — “CALL ME COWARD!”
And he slashed at the air: Harry felt a white-hot, whiplike something hit him across the face and was slammed backward into the ground…

Yes, these are colored by Harry’s misconceptions, but in the book they are unequivocal, as you see — interpreted by a frightened, angry boy. In other words, it’s not “all there” until you have the full story from the final book. In fact, there’s the impression that Snape would have killed Harry right there if not for the interference of the Hippogriff Buckbeak.

Reasonable folk can disagree, and I gotta say, my arguments are not so easily dismissed as you all seem to think. But I guess in the end it’s just a movie, and just a book.

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
Fri, Jul 17, 2009 1:17pm

Boy, MaryAnn, I love your writing and trust your opinion in most things, but on this film I think you are totally, utterly wrong.

The book was about Harry getting slowly seduced by the old textbook and branching out slowly towards black magic because of it.

Yeah, all the other stuff happened, the teen angst and hormones, the curiosity about what Draco was up to, the Death Eaters attacking London and the Weasley’s house, Dumbledore falling, alla that. BUT–at the center of it was Harry getting darker himself. Meaner. More willing to use questionable magic.

And as you read the bits and pieces of the annotated textbook there was a growing sense of dread, a growing certainty that this was Tom Riddle’s own annotations, and that Tom Riddle/Voldemort, half-muggle wizard, was Harry gone bad, and that they were as much alike as different.

And you saw Harry, monomaniacal about fighting Voldemort, giving in to those darker tendencies.

SPOILER WARNING–ABANDON NOW IF IT MATTERS TO YOU

And then there is the surprise at the end. The book wasn’t Voldermort’s, it was Snape’s. And Snape, also half-muggle, was also a lot more like Harry than we’d have thought. Or that Harry wants to know.

And they turned that startling moment in the novel into a total “so what?” moment in the film.

Half-Blood Prince is my favorite of all the Harry Potter books. Some day I hope we’ll see it in a movie.

e
e
Fri, Jul 17, 2009 6:57pm

I scanned most comments, so I hope I’m not being redundant.

I have to agree it was a little too much HS romance, but at the same time, it was handled really well.

I think to me this is the first of the films that felt like a middle. By the end it seemed like the lack of more action, in exchange for a focus on relationships romantic/friends/mentors, is really being used to set up the final films. The choices made will have more impact.

And I really enjoyed the great realistic humor throughout, it just clicked.

Alli
Alli
Fri, Jul 17, 2009 10:16pm

Hank, I really think you’re confusing the point of Order of the Phoenix with Half-Blood Prince. Harry was struggling with his own inner demons in that book. At one point he thinks he’s a danger to everyone, or that he’s being possessed (before he actually is possessed at the end of the book). Similar to Chamber of Secrets, OotP was Harry’s internal struggle with who he is and what makes him so different from Voldemort. I don’t Half-Blood Prince suggested he was more willing to use darker magic. It was just a potion’s book, and he had no idea what sectumsempra would do. He even says after the effect that he would never have used that spell if he knew what it would do, even against Malfoy.

For me Half-Blood Prince was really Harry’s last attempt at innocence. It was about him leaving his childhood behind and finally accepting his fate. It was also a set up for the final book. The potion’s book sub-plot was more about idolizing someone he hated. Ultimately, it makes their relationship more complicated. And I really don’t think it was a surprise that the potion’s book wasn’t Voldemort’s. Considering he hates the fact that his father was a muggle, he would never call himself a half-blood. That, and the book was owned years after Voldemort left Hogwarts.

Hypocee
Hypocee
Fri, Jul 17, 2009 11:04pm

I’m sorry you don’t like xkcd or Tropes, Newbs.

I did not take your rattle.

PaulW
PaulW
Sat, Jul 18, 2009 12:25am

Felton as Bond? Too thin in the face now (how did that happen??? His younger self from PS and CoS was so cherubic). Maybe we could get Neville as Bond…

Just came back from seeing the movie.

SPOILERS as needed.

1) What I liked best was some of the additions they made that weren’t in the book: especially the attack on the Burrow. FINALLY someone noticed “Hey, Harry Potter hangs out with the Weasleys a lot, let’s go attack him while he’s at their humble abode.”

2) Lavender Brown = Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. It’s a good thing for Scabbers he’s not around to get boiled in a pot or something… Oh, and if you’re reading the Mightygodking website you’d know MGK is ranting about Betty Cooper being insane, and I’m sitting there thinking, Lavender, Betty, Lavender, Betty… RUN RON RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

2a) That annoyed look on Snape’s face when Lavender pushes past him to go make chipmunk noises at Ron: pure awesome.

3) I’m sorry. I still think Harry should’ve snogged Luna…

4) The friends I went with were disappointed they didn’t go into the other Memories on Riddle – the visit to the Gaunts, his theft of the locket and Hufflepuff’s Cup, Voldemort’s last visit to Dumbledore – especially since the movie failed to explain in more detail what Harry is going to have to hunt down. I reminded them that’s what the 8-hr DVD set this Christmas is for…

5) Radcliffe is gonna be a great actor (as long as he avoids the Robert Downey Jr. path): the bit after he drink Felix Felicis and tricks Slughorn into going with him to Hagrid’s, he’s mimicking Broadbent’s acting to a tee.

6) Best of all, the movie was genuinely funny where it needed to be without resorting to the gross-out stupidity of *other* CGI-loaded blockbuster movies that shall not be named here… ;-)

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Sat, Jul 18, 2009 5:53pm

A surprising bulk of HBP is given over to teenage romance: there’s flirting and heartbreak and moon eyes and sighing and snogging and love potions and more heartbreak as everyone tries to figure out the relationship thing.

Anyone else think it’s funny that the land of Shakespeare and Byron can’t think of a better synonym for “kissing” than “snogging”?

Yeah, I know. Different strokes for different folks…

I did not take your rattle.

Let’s give Newbs some slack here, people. He has a right to express his opinion.

After all, no one had a problem criticizing the last Harry Potter book on MaryAnn’s other site.

So now we’re supposed to have a more reverent attitude towards the movies themselves?

misterb
misterb
Sun, Jul 19, 2009 4:38am

I felt that the movie missed the sense of foreboding and fear that the book contained. Hogwarts seemed too safe. While the sense of dread would have interfered with the comedy, it would have been more true to the tenor of the book. Perhaps the filmmakers felt that 2.5 hours of cinematic paranoia wouldn’t have been as commercial.

mel
mel
Sun, Jul 19, 2009 7:41am

I liekd it, it was the funniest of the films. But i do agree with Newbs about the lack of gravitas and climax at the end.
I also missed the emotional intensity of the finale. I sobbed, sobbed when Dumbledore passed, from the moment he fell to the heartbreak of Fawkes song. There wasn’t that intensity! I missed that

The simple fact that the non-HP-reading friend that i saw it with came away saying “it feels like they left alot of stuff out” says something. He felt like there was plot missing. And i feel the snogging (which i will admit was great and funny) could have been sacrificed for that

dg
dg
Sun, Jul 19, 2009 10:22am

Overall, I have to say that Half Blood Prince would be tough to translate onto the silver screen. The book was thick, had many plots and subplots.

It occurred to me that the director tried to get as much of the book as he could into the movie, and made a great number of sacrifices in the process.

Parts of the movie worked, and others didn’t. For me the movie fell flat. It wasn’t bad. It was watchable, but it was missing something.

I recently re-watched the older movies and looked at what was missing. It was missing a sense of mystery. The movie did more explaining than revealing. So, questions about horcruxes and who the Half-Blood Prince were way underplayed.

The bits with Malfoy were very Hitchcock-esque. He was up to something dark, and it fleshed his character out more.

However, the movie did play up the teenage romances and angst, which for me, made the movie more fun to watch. I really got back into what it was like to be a teen. Those were the parts I hated reading the most in the books.

Finally, I think the director should have focused on the conspiracies of Voldemort, built up suspense and mystery around those elements more.

Proper mixing of mystery and suspense and teen comedy would have made the movie a hit.

Citruslounge
Citruslounge
Sun, Jul 19, 2009 2:56pm

“I recently re-watched the older movies and looked at what was missing. It was missing a sense of mystery. The movie did more explaining than revealing.”

Ahh, yes, dg, but remember that this is a blockbuster. The majority of the movies that spurt into our theaters are crafted in a way that both the intelligent and idiotic can understand.

“Finally, I think the director should have focused on the conspiracies of Voldemort, built up suspense and mystery around those elements more.”

I agree- I was weirdly excited about seeing The Other Minister bit where Fudge goes into detail about Voldy’s evil plottings/recent bad behavior to the Prime Minister, but it was absent and I was sad.

Change of subject- I absolutely adore Alan Rickman and I strongly disagree with our friend Newbs. In all the movies Alan Rickman played Snape cool, with very few facial expressions and an excessive amount of sarcasm, and I’m glad that didn’t change in Half-Blood. I was expecting the director to tell Rickman to tweak the personality and smiled happily when I discovered that he hadn’t.

“All the mystery is gone” Newbs said- I disagree; Snape didn’t change at all. In fact, I don’t remember him having any expressions whatsoever in this movie except for (as PaulW so eloquently put it) “that annoyed look on Snape’s face when Lavender pushes past him to go make chipmunk noises at Ron.”
Which was, as PaulW stated, “pure awesome.”

“But in a few years we’re all going to look back at this as the unfortunate misstep that led to the ruination of an otherwise perfect book-to-film-series adaptation.”

Oh dear. Are you seriously bashing Half-Blood and not Goblet? Dear dear dear…
Perfect? No, perfect would be that “epic 185-part definitive Harry Potter filmed adaptation that omits not one single scene and not one single motif from the books” that MaryAnn was typing about.
The movie series is VERY far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I like them all, but they are not perfect. Not in the least.

Newbs, I like your fieriness, but you are one angry, stubborn individual.

On an altogether different and somewhat random note, I would like to add that Felton was positively genius. He was perfectly tortured and had Malfoy’s emotions down pat. I applaud him.

Sean Riley
Sean Riley
Sun, Jul 19, 2009 7:22pm

BTW, now having seen it?

I’m utterly with Newbs. And the fault lays totally with Yates and Kloves. The expression on Rickman’s face utterly gives away his loyalties, yes, and that may leave fault with Rickman.

But the finger to the lips moment beforehand? That screams, “Don’t worry kid, we’ve got it all under control”?

Screw that.

Kloves and Yates messed it up.

And yes, scrap the attack on the Burrow. Add back in the Battle of Hogwarts.

markyd
markyd
Sun, Jul 19, 2009 10:23pm

I liked the movie, but both my wife and I agree that it was not anywhere near as good as we were hoping.
I was upset about how the ending was handled. There was just so much more to it in the book. The movie took out all the emotion and, ironically enough, theatrics. It really could have been a much cooler scene.
I was sad to not see a single Snape memory(was there only one in the book? I don’t remember)
I don’t mind the romance and humor, but I think they could have cut some of it out for some of the more important scenes that were omitted.
Oh well…now to wait a year and half for the big camp out.

Newbs
Mon, Jul 20, 2009 1:01am

Citruslounge (Sun Jul 19 09, 2:56PM):

I disagree; Snape didn’t change at all. In fact, I don’t remember him having any expressions whatsoever in this movie except for (as PaulW so eloquently put it) “that annoyed look on Snape’s face when Lavender pushes past him to go make chipmunk noises at Ron.”

You’ll pick it up on second viewing, if you ever watch it again (I know I probably won’t).

Hank Graham (Fri Jul 17 09, 1:17PM):

The book was about Harry getting slowly seduced by the old textbook and branching out slowly towards black magic because of it.

You know, I’d forgotten all about the various threads involving Harry and the Half-Blood Prince’s book… that extra dimension wasn’t even really hinted at except that he found a special spell and used it before knowing what it was…. and then when he discovered how awful it was he proceeded to use it again a few times anyway.

I may have to read the book again just to erase the memory of the film’s missteps. I’ll have to eventually, come to think of it, since I plan on reading the books through from the beginning again instead of seeing the final two movies.

Some good can come of this… hopefully Guillermo del Toro watches it before they finalize the Hobbit script, so he can be reminded that it’s very easy to fuck up a good thing if you aren’t extra careful.

Helen
Helen
Mon, Jul 20, 2009 10:26am

Watched the movie and liked it in general. But I was also disappointed in their handling of the ending. I know book is huge in the amount of plots and amount of emotions, and I am not complaining about them cutting so much from it, but it’s the execution of what’s left is not satisfying enough for me. I would willing to seat through additional 15-20 minutes of the movie, but just show me some emotions of enormous lost that Dumbledore’s death was for Harry and for the rest. And make me feel what kind of burden Dumbledore left for him. What huge responsibility Harry has on his shoulders now. I remember “Lord of the Ring” and the way it was handled in there. You feel it as much as Frodo himself. But I guess Elijah Wood is better actor than Daniel. And I truly truly admire Daniel and I think with time he will be fine actor, but after this last installment I started to worry about how he will do the “walking through the woods” scene in the last movie, which is so emotionally complicated. Of course, if the scene will be in the movie…

And I also what to give it to Felon. He was great as tormented Malfoy ( I wish we could see as much from Radcliffe). But, omg, how skinny this guy is…

Ken
Ken
Mon, Jul 20, 2009 12:11pm

@Alli: They may indeed include the breakup scene in the 7th movie, but I think that the gap between movies (or books) for the viewer/reader is an important factor to consider here. Shedding Harry of all concerns outside of his task of dealing with Voldemort at the end of HBP helps to build the anticipation for what’s to come in the last book (or last two movies).

Regarding my earlier comment about Felton as the Doctor: scratch that. After seeing HBP a second time, I want one of the Weasley twins as the Doctor, and the other as the Master.

sandra
sandra
Mon, Jul 20, 2009 8:00pm

When I read HBP, I felt that something was Off about Dumbledore’s death scene. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that “It was as though he was begging Snape to kill him”. So I disagree that the movie changed the book substantially. The information was there, for those who had the eyes to see.

Citruslounge
Citruslounge
Tue, Jul 21, 2009 5:47pm

Newbs, I have actually seen the movie twice and both times I didn’t see any change of expression.
Maybe I’m just a dolt and didn’t squint properly at the screen; I do have bad eyesight for my age.

sandra- yes. I concur, vehemently.
Reading the book I felt that there was definitely something not quite right about Dumblydore begging Snape to kill him.
Also, I felt it to be a bit fishy when Snape positively roared at Harry for calling him a coward. That never set right with me until I read Deathly Hallows.
Ahh, that’s one of my favorite parts looking back… wish Rickman had completely lost it like in the novel.

Citruslounge
Citruslounge
Tue, Jul 21, 2009 5:59pm

Oh, and Newbs, just wanted to let you know that Guillermo del Toro could never, as you say, “fuck up a good thing” because Half Blood Prince is about twice as long as The Hobbit.
Not to mention that Guillermo del Toro is an effing genius.
If I were to worry about anything, it would not be this.

Newbs
Tue, Jul 21, 2009 8:26pm

Well, I will agree that Guillermo del Toro is capable of genius feats, but he has also squeezed out a mediocre film or two.

It sure feels like the Hobbit films are a no-brainer, especially with Jackson and del Toro teaming up… but King Kong wasn’t anywhere near as good as the LOTR films, so it’s not outside the realm of imagination for a couple missteps to give way to complete fucking disaster. I’ll be sure and set out some rum and cigars for Jobu, just in case.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Wed, Jul 22, 2009 1:11pm

I don’t remember feeling sorry for Draco, ever, while reading the novels, but Yates and Felton make Draco tormented in a way that Rowling didn’t… and it gives the shuffling around of some of the stuff at the very end of the film version of the story an even greater impact, in some ways, than it did in the book.

Oddly enough, I felt the exact opposite.

I thought the book did a better job of depicting Draco’s dilemma. Plus it helped that at first reading, one didn’t actually know how things were to come out while in the movie, of course, any experienced fan already knows the ending long before it arrives.

And while I recognize that any movie version from here on out is likely to have more in common with the Cliff’s Notes version of Harry Potter than the actual source material, I was still a bit disappointed with this one. It had its moments–the young Tom Riddle, Luna, Hermoine, etc.–and wasn’t quite as irritating as the last two movies.

But it was hard to avoid a sense of ennui that I don’t remember experiencing in the book.

Perhaps it will grow on me when it hits DVD but I doubt it.

I must admit I couldn’t help but crack a smile when young Tom Riddle asked Dumbledore if he was the Doctor.

Five guesses as to what I suspected MaryAnn was thinking of at that point…

Paul
Wed, Jul 22, 2009 8:08pm

Reading the sometimes overheated comments on this film, I’m glad I didn’t reread the book before going to the see the movie. It’s been four years since I read the series, and if I’d just read the book I might have been annoyed by the balance between angst and action; I would have cut about 15 minutes of romantic angst for the sake of more plot. As it is, coming in fresh, I enjoyed the movie on it’s own terms, and very much indeed.

nolunchmoney
nolunchmoney
Fri, Jul 24, 2009 6:34am

I am in complete agreement with all who are disappointed with the end of this film. I feel that viewers forgive enormous gaps in logic when there is an almost universally read book that fills them in for you. Movies should not get a pass based on their source material.
I didn’t read it, there I said it. What I am left with therefore is the following: The Deatheaters have been trying to penetrate Hogwarts for the entire series. A transportation device is smuggled in and utilized at the climax of the movie. With this fortress finally penetrated they…cackle like harpies/stand by menacingly, while Snape does the deed that apparantly now could have happened at any point thoughout the movie or series. Then they smash a few chandeliers and march out the front door. Without using the book’s exposition as reference please explain how any of this makes sense.
I’ve also seen never seen Harry look less powerful than at the end of this film. Based on his performance against Snape and co. after the murder, how on earth are we supposed to imagine that he would have any chance against Voldemort.
I get that many of you find the film a little wanting compared with the book. I found it even more lacking without it.

Newbs
Fri, Jul 24, 2009 10:41am

nolunchmoney (Fri Jul 24 09, 6:34AM):

Without using the book’s exposition as reference please explain how any of this makes sense.

I talked to my father on the phone last night. He took my mom to see this over the weekend, and now he needs to have me stop by and explain what happened because none of it made any sense to them (having not read the books). He’s a pretty astute movie-goer and he’s seen all the previous films (and enjoyed them), which really adds another layer of disappointment to this movie for me… it’s just as successful as the previous attempts, and by far the most obtuse (and, inconceivably, also the most watered-down).