Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Movie Series: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I don't think anyone can argue against this being the scene-stealer of the movie.

I still remember how disappointed I was when I heard this movie was going to be delayed another half year, but I am happy to say it was well worth the wait. Throughout most of this film, I felt like I was watching too different movies. The first was about the highs and lows of teen romance, and the second was a mystery thriller about discovering your greatest enemy being basically immortal.

In the Half Blood Prince, Harry is recruited by Dumbledore to help him with several different tasks. The first of which is to convince an old teacher, Horace Slughorn, to return to Hogwarts. He takes Harry without filling him in on this motive, and after a short meeting, Slughorn realizes there may be advantages to returning to his old position as potions master. He enjoys collecting students with exceptional talents so that he is always well-connected, and Harry is just too good to pass up. Dumbledore than insists that Harry retrieve a crucial memory Slughorn has by joining his "Slug Club" and getting on his good side. Harry does as he is told and after some brown nosing and a lot of luck, he succeeds. Unfortunately, this only means an even harder task for Harry as he accompanies Dumbledore to a dangerous cave that possesses something Voldemort holds dear.

The cave sequence gets really intense, and I am surprised the movie was able to stay at a PG rating. Having a bunch of Gollums come out of the dark lake was pretty terrifying to me, but the MPAA thinks little kids can handle it. The end of the movie felt anticlimactic to me after the cave scene. As the The Kidd Versus! pointed out, the Death Eaters are able to do what they came to quite easily at Hogwarts. There is no fight scene as illustrated in the book, just Bellatrix deciding to crash windows and set things on fire...again. Helena Bonham Carter (by the way, I think she is fantastic in this role) even admitted she felt her character was a bit of a pyromaniac.

The movie gets the main emotions out of the audience, but I think the end could have been stretched out longer to properly deal with what happens. I know some would argue with this and say that the movie is already too long, but I would have to point out why this scene was included at all:

In the middle of the movie there is a random attack on the Weasley house. For those two people who haven't read the book...this doesn't happen. There is no point to this scene at all. I tried thinking of a point for awhile. I considered maybe to further the Ginny/Harry romance, but it is never really addressed that Ginny ran after Harry. I also considered it could be to introduce Fenrir Greyback, but you've already seen him and he doesn't say anything in this scene. Maybe they were just trying to throw in an action sequence in a slower part of the movie, but in the end it came off rather pointless, and just made me feel bad for the Weasleys.

Anyway, let me get to more of the light-hearted parts of the movie. Half-Blood Prince is really Ron's time to shine. His character quickly becomes a Quidditch hero (with a little help from his friends, of course) and also starts dating this crazy kid:

If Lavender Brown existed in the real world, I have a feeling she would be a rabid Twilight fan., Ron... and Lavender hook up kind of randomly in the movie, much to the dismay of Hermione. I loved that they included the little scene where Hermione is upset over Ron and conjures little birds around her head. That stood out to me in the book for some reason, and it was nice to see it brought to life. That scene is also very poignant because it shows how Harry and Hermione bond. Most of the books and movies show the Harry/Hermione/Ron friendship, so it's refreshing to see their individual friendships, too. The brief dialogue between Harry and Hermione in that moment is bound to mean something to anyone who has been through a little heartache as a teen, or even now I suppose.

Ron and Hermione get their own moment eventually, as do Ginny and Harry. I loved the little scenes throughout the movie that revealed Harry's new interest in Ron's sister. They were silly, but very cute. I did NOT like, however, when the two had their first kiss. It was another altered scene, but it was at such a bad time in the movie. A pretty scary event happens for Harry, and five minutes later, he's sharing an intimate moment with Ginny. Not the time kids! Hopefully they'll get the timing right in The Deathly Hallows films (last book will be divided into two films coming out November 2010 and July 2011).

And one shouldn't forget how the movie earned it's title, though it is very easy to miss in the movie. Harry becomes the owner of a hand me down potions book that was previously owned by someone calling themselves "The Half-Blood Prince." The potions book has numerous notes in it that help Harry excel in potions class, but also leads him to some dark magic. Harry and his friends try to figure out if the previous owner is good or evil, and when you find out the real owner, this conundrum becomes even more meaningful. Although I wish they spent a little more time on the mysteries of the potions book, they did enough to get the point across. There really are more important things going on by the end to really care too much.

I know I've said a lot of negative things about the movie, but it is hard to focus on the movie alone without comparing it to the book. I honestly enjoyed the movie a lot, and look forward to going to see it again soon. I was smiling and laughing through a lot of it. The dialogue is full of humor through the scenes with the kids, and Slughorn also adds his own comedy here and there, too, as he begins collecting students. I am always impressed by the acting of the adults, especially Alan Rickman as Snape and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix. Jim Broadbent nails Slughorn in this film, and I hope to see a little bit more of him in the movies to come.

With Ron getting a lot of attention in this movie, Rupert Grint had to step up his game. He does this quite effortlessly since I believe comedy is his true calling. Evanna Lynch as Luna and Jessie Cave as Lavender also are key players in the comedy of this film, and I felt they really captured their characters as well (though I think everyone felt that was about Lynch in Order of the Phoenix). Not to be outdone, Tom Felton balances out all the comedy as the brooding Draco. I only was annoyed by seeing the vanishing cabinet revealed in the same way three times, but otherwise, I liked Draco's scenes. I thought it was especially well done that they had him refer to himself as the chosen one since he is basically a dark version of Harry.

The great acting, stunning visual effects, and amazing score (I love the music in the Harry Potter films!) make this film a must see for the summer. I would definitely consider it the best blockbuster I've seen this season. The only reason I would give it four stars instead of five is my love for the books. The movies never get it completely right, but they keep getting closer and closer as they capture the heart of the story.

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