July 20, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This was the first of the Harry Potter movies that I didn’t see within 24 hours of opening. This might mean 2 things: #1: I’m growing up. #2: My lackluster reaction to the film is my own fault (for lack of participation).

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the movie. I particularly enjoyed seeing Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) doing some real acting for the first time – those kids have become so much better than they were in the first couple movies, especially Grint. The books showed us that Ron isn’t just comic relief – and now that the actor’s matured and infused some real subtlety into the role – we’re starting to see that.

It’s only been 3 days since I saw the movie, and I can’t really remember what else I liked about it (See? Lackluster reaction.), so let’s get into my issues. Essentially, I felt that the movie was just going through the motions. It was good enough to get us to the two-parter finale, and it’ll fit well in the eventual deluxe box set, but it just didn’t excite me.

Ron’s relationship with Lavender is necessary in order to continue building the Ron/Hermione tension, but the way it was carried out in the movie made it feel like a fluffy, unnecessary side plot that should have just been cut – this may or may not be because they miscast (or, as Jessica pointed out, mis-styled) Lavender so much. It’s frustrating to know that so many other side plots had to be cut to keep the movie under 2 ½ hours, and this one just didn’t satisfy.

It’s been a long time since I read the books, but something that struck me was the lack of attitude from Harry in this one. In my mind, I remember Harry getting more and more angsty in each book – as he goes through his teenage years, loses people he’s close to, and has the pressure of the entire wizarding world put upon him. If anything, Harry was a little boring in the movie – the entire crux of his character development was in his crush on Ginny. He wasn’t mad about Sirius, he didn’t lash out at Mr. Weasley, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, or even Snape (really) – he was much too even-keeled.

I was incredibly disappointed in the final 20 minutes of the movie. The scene where Harry and Dumbledore go to the cave to find Voldemort’s horcrux felt like it lasted 2 minutes, and I don’t think it explained what was happening clearly enough. That scene is the entire basis for the final book (which will become the final 2 movies) and wonder if people who haven’t read the book will know to pay attention. The showdown scene in the tower also fell flat – I don’t feel like the director took full advantage of what a major development was taking place. There was little build up, and a pretty half-hearted wrap up. I will leave it at that – it’s too hard to keep this spoiler free, and I know I’m being frustratingly cryptic!

So, yes, issues. 7 Twix bars! I was, however, endlessly amused by how much the teenage Tom Riddle (the eventual Voldemort) looked like Mad Men’s Pete Campbell:

As a final sidenote, this installment really made me think about is Chris Columbus and his bad rap. It’s pretty widely accepted that the first two movies in the Harry Potter series, those helmed by Chris Columbus of “Home Alone’ fame, are the worst of the bunch. That’s because they were followed up with the more artsy installments from Alfonso Cuaron ('Y Tu Mama Tambien' & 'Children of Men') and Mike Newell ('Four Weddings & a Funeral'). But ‘Half Blood Prince’ reminded me how much of the Harry Potter universe we take for granted. Of course the first two movies (especially the first) were a bit shallow – not only were those the least sophisticated of the books (back when they were truly being written about kids, for kids), it was up to Chris Columbus to translate that universe onto film for the first time, and that required quite a bit of hand-holding for the audience.


readerbean said...

I feel like my expectations are very low for this movie. The overall sense I'm getting is that while people liked it HP6 will not go down as anyone's favorite movie of the series. I'm still excited to see it...look for my review soon:)

EmDonegan said...

Great review! I completely agree!

Anonymous said...

Harry is "a little boring"? He's completely boring. Since the beginning, my favorite HP characters have been Snape and Draco Malfoy. The best part of HP6 for me was seeing new depths of Draco - his angst and burden weigh far heavier than his feeble foil's. I can't wait till He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named(And-Apparently-Never-Seen) steps out from behind the suggestive black clouds and injects some deatheating LIFE into this film franchise. Sorry faithful HP readers, but I'm an uninformed movie viewer crying: you got to show me something more.


Jezka said...

wow, i've read so many hatin' reviews of th-bp. let's just say, i liked it. no, loved it. biggest complaint? where were parvati and padma patil, close friends of lavender? they fight in book 7, so what up?

let's just say i missed them, along with many other secondary character friends, like Fleur, who should be gettin' hitched to Bill soon, right?

i agree with you ashley about the first movies needing more to build the wizarding world for us, and in that i think C.C. did a great job!