16 July 2009

A Totally Impartial Review of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

And you know I’m not a professional, so you can count on completely unbiased reporting.

First off, the more time you’ve put between reading the sixth book and watching the sixth movie, the better. Then, when you watch the movie, you won’t remember if there was a scene in the book in which the Weasleys’ home is burned to the ground by a group of Death Eaters or not. Hopefully you won’t recall the gaggety gag way Harry and Ginny get together in the movie, as opposed to the carefully crafted, subtle way Rowling does it in the book.

But, anyway. On with the impartial portion of this review.

As you watch the movie, remember: the book and movie are separate. In fact, repeat this to yourself several times. Convincing oneself of this fact is about the only way bibliophiles like myself keep from ripping the armrests out in sheer disgust.

The movie does not start with the scene at Spinner’s End, with the Unbreakable Oath between Narcissa Malfoy and Snape, as it does in the book. Instead, after some cool footage of Death Eaters wreaking mayhem on the Muggle world, it cuts to Harry reading the Daily Prophet in a Muggle diner.


Doesn’t this violate one of the main precepts of the whole Potter series? That Muggles have no clue what’s happening in the Wizard world, and in fact, a Ministry of Magic is in place to prevent stupidly innocuous things like a wizard reading a moving-photograph paper in a Muggle restaurant? In plain view of several Muggles?

To continue in this vein, there is then an inane conversation between Harry and a young Muggle waitress, who obviously likes him. It appears they will hook up later (she gets off at eleven), when Harry spots Dumbledore. Rather quickly and cruelly, the poor Muggle waitress is abandoned...and now the book and movie can finally dovetail at this point with the visit to Horace Slughorn. But, I ask you, what was the point of the abandoned Muggle would-be girlfriend? To be honest, it cheapens Harry and Ginny’s relationship later on…to know that Harry was almost mackin’ on some inconsequential Muggle waitress who had no clue who that “tosser Harry Potter” was. I felt dirty.

Anyway, Jim Broadbent plays Slughorn, and rather well, I must say. Jim’s been a favorite of mine since “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, and while he doesn’t have the poundage I imagined Slughorn to have, he certainly fits the goofy, semi out-of-touch bill.

Frankly, the movie does a great job of dicing and splicing the sort-of-important scenes, while keeping the relative integrity of the important ones, the key one being Harry and Dumbledore’s adventure in the cave/potion/Inferi. However, as with nearly every book-to-film project, the director felt the need to insert several stupid items that had no purpose. He butchered one of my favorite parts of the sixth book and turned it into a Nicholas Sparks novel!

Let’s just make a list here of things everyone knows:

1. Fruits and vegetables are good for you.
2. Never get involved in a land war in Asia.
3. Ginny Weasley has been in love with Harry Potter forever, but she does not do ridiculous things like tie Harry’s shoelaces, offer him a plate of some dumb English finger food, attempt to get intimate with him while wearing a bathrobe, or chase him into a wheat field, or many of the other cheesy things she said or did throughout the movie. HE came to HER, OK? SHE did not chase HIM like an idiot.


Speaking of love relationships, the Ron Weasley-Lavender Brown portrayal was spot on. Both actors did an adequate job of being sickeningly sweet and disgusting when appropriate. The young lady that played Lavender had superb facial expressions, and I honestly looked forward to her entrances. How many other minor characters can you say that about? Another excellent piece of work was the downward spiral of Draco Malfoy. Blissfully, the director did not spend too much time on the development of Draco’s dilemma with superfluous dialogue or action, but his journey into "The Dark Lord's Servant Hell" was well-documented by subtle makeup, short pensive shots, even shorter conversations with Potter and Snape, and dead brilliant twitching by Tom Felton.

So, yeah, go see it. Or don’t. It’s got everything you’d expect: love, special effects, blood, Dumbledore’s beard, a freaky-looking young Tom Riddle, and a cool room-rearranging sequence courtesy of Slughorn and Dumbledore. Just be ready for some of the other crap too.

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