Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review
Tonight, Lindsey and I were treated to an advance screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Details of our good fortune can be found here. We sat to watch the film with many of our Twitter friends, such as @leftybrown and @mrsleftybrown, @ChrisHangsleben and @KarmaKaze7, @DanielDanger, and more! Before the film began, however, came a series of trivia questions from @mikeoz of the Fresno Beehive. I managed to answer the question directed at my group, “Who played Dumbledore?” I quickly raised my hand and answered, “Michael Gambon.” I was rewarded with a Dark Mark LED pointer, and a pair of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince posters. Very cool swag!
Before I continue with my review, allow me to present this warning to our readers: If you have not read the book, and do not wish to have certain key elements of the story spoiled, then I suggest you read no further. Instead, why not read Moral Kombat, Twilight vs. Harry Potter, or about Tweetdeck on the iPhone!
Still here? Good! Onwards and upwards, then!
We were finally nearing the end of our wait. First, however, the previews! The previews seemed very promising at first, starting with the Robert Downey, Jr. / Jude Law version of Sherlock Holmes. The film seemed like fun, although I took issue with Sherlock Holmes being more of an action hero than I remember from my reading. From here, the previews went to pot, for the most part. Following Sherlock Holmes was the upcoming G.I. Joe movie which, from what I have seen, has very little to do with the G.I. Joe series I remember as a child. After that came a rather terrible trailer for an upcoming Disney animation, The Princess and the Frog. To be perfectly honest, the only thing I remember about the preview following the Disney garbage is the title, Shorts, and only because we had written it down. At the very end, however, we were redeemed with a wonderful preview for Where the Wild Things Are, the film adaptation of one of the most memorable children’s books in generations. Lindsey and I are looking forward to this movie with great anticipation.
But I’m sure you’re not here to read about the previews, now are you? On to business, then. Another warning for our readers: Here, there be spoilers.
Keep in mind that this review is written from the perspective of one who has read the book multiple times. Also, apologies for the images. We were unable to take photos during the advance screening, so all we have to offer is the best Google search could produce.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, while setting up the main story elements necessary for the events of the seventh book, The Deathly Hallows, to unfold, does so in a way that is nearly unrecognizable. The main events, such as Dumbledore’s death by the hand of Severus Snape, the finding of the Horcrux and the discovery that it is false, the recruitment of Horace Slughorn, and the acquisition of his most imporant memory, and the developing romances are all present, but not all in the way that they should be. Dumbledore’s return to the castle with Harry after finding the Horcrux is radically different from the book, as are the subsequent events. There is no Dark Mark, there is no battle between the invading Death Eaters and the staff and students, and there is no funeral service.
Dumbledore is slain by Severus Snape, but the setting and situation were very different. Horace Slughorn’s recruitment was fairly accurate, but only the final, successful attempt at the recovery of the memory is remotely accurate. The romances seem to take center stage in this film when they should be secondary. Excessive focus is placed on the development of the romances of the three main characters, while other developments are introduced fully formed, with no explanation. The timeline in which some of the romances occur is very different as well.
A great deal is left out of this movie that should have been included. I will grant that, at two and a half hours, they were already at their time limit. However, I can not accept this as a valid excuse for the exclusion of many important plot and character development points. Why, do you ask? There were many scenes of excessive length created for the movie that had no basis whatsoever in the book: the opening sequence with the Death Eater attack on the bridge, the attack and destruction of the Burrow, and other, smaller scenes. I believe that, rather than creating new content for the film, the existing story should have been portrayed as fully as possible. I think this would have made for a better film, and by far a better plot. There was so much plot development left out of this film that it felt, in the words of @leftybrown, “paper thin.”
The film, however, was well directed. The camera angles were well done. The cinematography was very good. The sound was excellent, and the special effects were, most of the time, stunning. Dumbledore’s ring of protective fire in the Horcrux cave was spectacular. His death was well filmed, evoking just the right set of emotions. In all, the technical work of the film was fantastic.
Unfortunately, technical excellence is not enough to make up for glaring faults with the plot and the translation. I still recommend seeing it, if you are at all immersed in the Harry Potter universe. I warn you, however, not to hold your expectations too high. Enjoy the movie as a simple movie, rather than an adaptation, and you might come out happier than I did.
-Because I said so