Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (SPOILERS)

I don't like seeing movies by myself, so I did not see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when it was in theaters.

However, I also don't like to iron without something to distract me, and the trailer for Deathly Hallows reminded me I needed to see the film, so I rented it from the video store last Friday to watch.

Now it's time for my review...

Overall, I felt that a lot of important stuff got left out.  For example, Snape's confrontation with Harry after Harry unintentionally nearly killed Draco with Sectumsempra would have been good foreshadowing of the revelation that the "Half-Blood Prince" whose Potions book gave Harry such useful advice (and a very spiffy combat spell to boot) was the teenage Snape, who'd devised so many interesting Potions techniques.

Instead, the only foreshadowing we get is Snape healing Draco, which does help a little bit (he knows how to undo Sectumsempra) but the book's sequence--in which Snape uses Legilimency to interrogate Harry to find out how he knew the spell and makes a serious attempt retrieve the book once he realizes what it is--would have been so much better.

In the books, the Death Eater flight from Hogwarts was accompanied by a major battle instead of the Death Eaters, after Snape kills Dumbledore, quietly processing out of the building and blasting one person aside, with the only real mayhem being some deranged cackling and scenery-destruction from Bellatrix.

The fact that Slughorn is a Slytherin is left out, although his speech about how he was surprised that Lily Evans (Harry's future mother) was a Muggleborn does hint that.

Also, the fact it was Snape who told Voldemort of the prophecy predicting that Potter would be the one to kill him--the prophecy that led to the death of Harry's parents and Voldemort's first defeat--got left out.  Given how big a role that plays in Snape's own back-story and the Snape/Lily/James high-school drama, that definitely should have stayed there.

Keeping the material about the Gaunts (Voldemort's maternal family) and how Merope Gaunt ensnared the Muggle Tom Riddle Sr. would further flesh out Voldemort.  In the movies, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets includes the teen Voldemort's rant about "my filthy Muggle father" who he believes abandoned his witch mother, but that's it.

Some of the stuff could have been put in if they'd cut the random Death Eater attack at the Burrow that did not happen in the books, although it does help develop Harry/Ginny some more.  See below..

On the other hand, the movie's version of Harry/Ginny is superior to that of the book's.  Harry makes some comments about Ginny's personality that indicate interest on his part beyond simple physical attraction and Ginny effectively backs him up when he's trying to organize the Gryffindor Quidditch team.  When the Burrow battle comes, it shows the two of them fighting together well enough to fend off not only Fenrir Greyback but possibly even Bellatrix Lestrange herself!

(The last part is pushing it--Bellatrix defeated Aurors Nymphadora Tonks, Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, and Kingsley Shacklebolt in succession in Book Five, so she'd wipe the floor with the two kids.  Perhaps she was waiting out in the reeds for bigger targets like Remus Lupin and Tonks to show up and then engage them.)

Plus there's no idiotic "break up with Ginny to protect her" like at the end of the book.  After all, as a Weasley, Ginny is a target anyway.  Although the film ends the morning after Dumbledore's death--which, IIRC, is before the breakup in the book--it seems that Harry and Ginny are still an item and will be for the foreseeable future.

The only part of it that seemed a bit odd was Ginny tying Harry's shoes for him in one scene.  I didn't get that.

Luna is the one who finds Harry after Draco paralyzes him and leaves him under the invisibility cloak instead of Tonks this time. Given how they dumped the "emo Tonks" plotline of the books, which the train scene is the first hint of, this isn't so bad. Luna seems to be the sort to wander around aimlessly for reasons known only to her, plus the exchange between the two of them when she heals Harry's broken nose was pretty funny.

Slughorn's recollection of Lily's gift to him was a nice touch.


The depiction of Narcissa Malfoy as being an overweight middle-aged Cruella DeVille (complete with the multicolored hair) instead of the attractive blonde she was in the books wasn't as terrible as I expected, probably due to the actress's performance.  However, a glimpse of the wizard paper describing her and Draco leaving Lucius Malfoy's trial didn't ring true--however odious the three of them are, they love and are loyal to each other in the books.

Lupin and Tonks apparently are already a couple, although Tonks' hair is brown, which is problematic (it was only brown for most of the sixth book because she was depressed over Lupin pushing her away, which apparently did not happen in the film series).  This eliminates the scene in the books in which Tonks publically argues with Lupin about their relationship, which some think made Tonks come off an obsessive pest trying to badger the spineless Lupin into dating her.

(My impression was that he liked her too and was trying to push her away for her own safety--he's a werewolf--but not everyone agreed with me.)

I'd score it around 6 out of 10.

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