Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A reviewish post by John. No spoilers about book 7, ever.

Non-spoilery part: It was a good movie. Unfortunately we are huge or devout or rabid fans of Harry Potter and expect greatness. The movie was shot well and acted well. The fault is with the screenwriter. He just didn't get it. I was horrified to see that he is writing 7a and 7b. I was stunned to find out he wrote all of the previous, except for Order of the Phoenix. (By which I was quite impressed.) Well, not stunned for all, because of course the other movies were bitterly disappointing. Maybe sourly disappointing. But he wrote Prisoner of Azkabhan, which I love. The credit for which I will now give even more to Alfonso Cuaron.

Jim Broadbent improved Professor Slughorn from the book by really fleshing him out as a person. Really made him more sympathetic. Tom Felton made good use of his increased screen-time as Draco. And, surprisingly, Emma Watson made big strides in her acting, without even a single seriously wince-worthy moment. There were odd changes of sets, like a completely revamped Burrow, which you would only expect with a director change, but David Yates continues on from Order of the Phoenix. (And on into 7a and 7b.)

Bottom line: go see the movie. It is still Harry Potter, and worthwhile. But it could have been so much more. To know how much more, read the book.

Spoilery-Part below the book image:

But the writing! The book is so rich in characterization and connections, and the movie just falls flat. It is largely ignorant of what has come before, what happens during and what is to follow.

The DA, the focus of the previous movie, is ignored. Their role in the book is just cut. The Order of the Phoenix is largely invisible, despite the many opportunities for subtle screen time. Grimauld Place isn't even mentioned. Once again the House-elves were omitted. Shockingly, Privet Drive is cut, despite the really charming scene with Dumbledore there. But the most glaring point is how little anyone cares about Voldemort in this movie. As a part of the series, it really makes it fall flat. As a stand-alone movie, it is just confusing. The movie opens with dramatic revelation of what a threat he is, and then... nothing. For a school year.

Even connections within the movie are lacking, as everything is about the eponymous book for the first third of the movie, and then it's completely forgotten except as an excuse for messing with how Harry and Ginny get together and a throw away line at the end. The entire focus of Dumbledore's and Harry's relationship in the book, the focus of understanding Voldemort, is cut. Crucial information about the horcruxes is cut. The big funeral in the book is cut, even though it serves large emotional and plotting purposes. The big battle in the book is cut, even though it is the WHOLE CULMINATION of the Malfoy plot which was made front and center in the movie.

And the worry is, after cutting so much, how will they tell the end of the story? So much of what came before is necessary and a part of the finish. Both emotionally and logistically. I have real fears about how they are going to muddle what is one of the most satisfying and deep culminations to a story that I have ever read. I understand that things need to be cut to make a movie. But then why add in new scenes of your own? Is it because Mr. Kloves doesn't understand the story? Because he's too focused on a chapter rather than the whole story? Because his ego demands writing himself (figuratively) into the story? It just doesn't make sense. When they disapparate from the castle, Harry asks how it is possible. Dumbledore answers with a joke, but it felt like it was the writer telling us he is messing with the story just because he can. Booo. I mean Boooo!


Anonymous said...

I think that the movie should have revolved around the theme of integrity.

What does it mean for Harry to embrace who he really is? In the book, there are some very difficult conversations between Dumbledore and Harry regarding this subject that don't make the movie.

What does it mean to be in an honest relationship? The relationships of Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny are eluded to in the movie. But in the book they have a much larger role as these adolescents struggle with being true to their feelings and with one another.

What happens when we live without integrity? This is the story of Voldemort and how the horcruxes tear him apart. As John said, this is sorely lacking in the movie.

I'd agree with John - see it but be prepared to say, "huh?"

Anonymous said...

Correct! I was soo disapionted with the movie that I actually emailed the director. They cut out the war at the end. Plus, the wand raising thing was like when they wave glo-sticks at concerts.
But the one thing I give them props on is Weasley Wizard Wheezes.

Biddy T