“HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE” (2009) Review

Below is my review of the new HARRY POTTER movie called ”Half-Blood Prince”. Directed by David Yates, the movie starred Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Sir Michael Gambon:


”HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE” (2009) Review

When the producers of the latest installment of the HARRY POTTER movie franchise had announced their intentions to push back the movie’s release date from November 2008 to July 2009, a relative of mine had expressed disappointment. My own disappointment was muted by the possibility that the movie required further retakes for improvement. After finally seeing”HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”, I am beginning to wonder if any retakes had ever been made.

Judging by my words, one would assume that I harbor a low opinion of ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”. Well . . . that person would be right. Because I do have a low opinion of the movie. I am almost inclined to declare ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE” as the worst HARRY POTTER ever made. But I believe that it would receive stiff competition from 2005’s ”GOBLET OF FIRE” for that particular title.

Not all of ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE” seemed terrible to me. One, the movie can boast some of the best acting featured in the entire franchise. Director David Yates seemed to have gone through a great deal of trouble to draw out some excellent performances from the cast. I was especially impressed by Rupert Grint’s lovesick Ron Weasley; Jim Broadbent as the new Potions Master, the eccentric and slightly selfish Horace Slughorn; Michael Gambon as a frighteningly vulnerable Albus Dumbledore; Jessie Cave as the Ron-infatuated Lavender Brown; the always superb Alan Rickman as Severus Snape; and Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. I was surprisingly pleased by Felton’s performance as a Draco who found himself recruited by Lord Voldemort to carry out a special task involving Hogswarts and Dumbledore. Felton’s past performances seemed to have been an exercise in adolescent hammy acting that was usually accompanied by sneers. For once, Felton portrayed Draco as a complex individual who may have gotten himself involved in something that was over his head, instead of a caricature of a school bully.

The movie also featured some rather memorable moments for me. Bruno Delbonnel’s photography and John Richardson’s special effects really shone in a sequence that featured the Death Eaters’ kidnapping of wand maker Mr. Ollivander (John Hurt) and attack upon one of London’s bridges. I also enjoyed the humorous scene that featured Slughorn’s introduction into the story. And from an emotional point of view, one of my favorite scenes centered on a quarrel between Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson) and Lavender over a hospitalized Ron, recovering from a love potion and poisoned mead meant for Dumbledore. But my two favorite scenes happened to be Harry and Dumbledore’s encounter with inferi inside a seaside cave; and also Bellatrix Black Lestrange (Helena Bonham-Carter) and Narcissa Black Malfoy (Helen McCrory)’s visit to Snape’s home in Spinner’s End. Although some fans have dismissed the inferi shown in the film as ineffective, I found them creepy. Especially when they attempted to claim Harry’s body for themselves. Dumbledore’s fiery solution to their threat proved to be breathtaking. As stated earlier, my other favorite scene featured the Black sisters – Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy – visiting Snape’s home. Not only did I enjoy how Delbonnel’s photography captured the gloomy and rain-soaked atmosphere of Spinner’s End, I also enjoyed the tense interactions between Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham-Carter and Helen McCrory when the sisters managed to coerce an “Unbreakable Vow” from Snape in order to protect Draco.

As much as I had enjoyed the above aspects of ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”, there was a great deal about the film that disappointed me. One of the main problems I had was the movie’s pacing. How can I put it? It was too damn slow! I cannot think of the numerous times I nearly fell asleep or squirmed in my seat out of sheer boredom. Perhaps the movie had emphasized too heavily upon the love lives of Harry and his friends and not enough on both Lord Voldemort’s past and the identity of the Half-Blood Prince. Even worse, the movie not only left out scenes important to the saga’s main narrative, but inserted scenes that proved to be irrelevant to the story. I will begin with those scenes featured in the novel, but not in the movie.

Considering that the name of this particular story was ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”, I found it odd that screenwriter Steve Kloves had placed such a small emphasis on the title character’s Potions book discovered by Harry. Moviegoers saw Harry use the book to win Slughorn’s favor during Potions class. And in one scene, Kloves allowed Hermoine to express annoyance at Harry’s use of the book. Moviegoers even saw Harry briefly spot the Sectumsempra spell before using it in a duel against Draco. But the movie never hinted any real effort by the friends to discover the real identity of the Half-Blood Prince, as they had done in the novel. And Snape’s identity as the owner of the book seemed to have come out of the blue near the end of the film. Nor was it ever mentioned that his witch mother’s surname was Prince. Hell, that Potions book almost became an afterthought in the film.

I also found myself annoyed that the movie only featured two flashbacks or memories of Voldemort’s past – one in which Dumbledore first met the eleven year-old Tom Riddle, and the second in which Horace Slughorn told an older Tom about horcruxes. As any fan of the HARRY POTTER franchise knows, a Horcrux is a “receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a part of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality.” With part of a wizard’s soul thus stored, the wizard becomes immortal so long as the Horcrux remains intact. For this reason, Horcruxes are typically hidden in a safe location. The literary version of ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE” allowed Harry to learn about the objects that Voldemort had converted into Horcruxes via the memories of others who had met the dark wizard. In the movie, Harry only learned that the diary he had destroyed in ”THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS”, Salazar Slytherin’s locket and Marvolo Gaunt’s ring were Horcruxes. I can only wonder how Yates and Kloves will reveal the identities of the other Horcruxes in the two ”DEATHLY HALLOWS” movies. What exactly are the seven Horcruxes that Voldemort had created? They are:

*Harry Potter – Dumbledore realized that the boy wizard was a Horcrux right before his death
*Nagini – Voldemort’s pet snake seen by Harry in his dreams about Voldemort in ”GOBLET OF FIRE” and ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX”
*Tom Riddle’s diary – destroyed by Harry in ”CHAMBER OF SECRETS”
*Marvolo Gaunt’s ring – found and destroyed by Dumbledore in ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”
*Salazar Slytherin’s locket – taken by Regulus Black and substituted with a fake
*Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem – unbeknownst to anyone
*Helga Hufflepuff’s cup – unbeknownst to anyone

The movies have only revealed the following Horcruxes to the audience – Harry, Nagini, Tom’s diary, Gaunt’s ring and Slytherin’s locket. Of the five, the movies have either skimmed over or never revealed the origins of the ring and the locket. Nor has ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE” bothered to reveal how Voldemort got his hands on Ravenclaw’s diadem or Hufflepuff’s cup. Without any additional scenes featuring Voldemort’s past and with Dumbledore dead, I am curious to see how Kloves will allow Harry, Ron and Hermoine will learn about the diadem and the cup in the two”DEATHLY HALLOWS” movies.

There are other deleted scenes that disturbed me. Audiences had learned in the first story,”SORCERER’S STONE” that Snape had coveted the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor for years. Yet, when he finally assumed the position, the movie never gave audiences a glimpse of his tenure in this position. Also, Dumbledore did not put Harry in a body-binding curse and hide him underneath his invisibility cloak. Instead, Harry is instructed to hide when Draco and the Death Eaters make their appearance in the Astronomy Tower, and do nothing. I really cannot see Harry following these instructions. Even if Dumbledore had made them. Even worse, Yates and Kloves also left out the battle between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix, after the former managed to infiltrate Hogswarts’ grounds. Either the director or the producer had claimed they did not want to repeat themselves, considering a similar battle will be featured in ”DEATHLY HALLOWS II”. But audiences will not be able to see this in another two years. I really see no reason why they could not have included this. It made no sense that the aurors posted at Hogswarts would not eventually become aware of the Death Eaters’ presence, especially with Bellatrix Lestrange whooping it up inside the school’s Great Hall. In fact the entire finale left me feeling disappointed. Not only did Kloves and Yates include a scene that featured Dumbledore instructing Harry to hide inside the Astronomy Tower, they deleted Dumbledore’s funeral, yet included a scene in which the students and faculty at Hogwarts had gathered around Dumbledore’s body before paying homage to the dead wizard by lighting up their wands. Let me go on record in stating that this whole ”We Are the World”moment left me rolling my eyes in disgust.

And speaking of inserted scenes, I have noticed several others that were included in the film. One scene featured a flashback with Harry and Dumbledore emerging from the Ministry of Magic, following the battle that resulted in Sirius Black’s death in ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX”. I can only assume that the flashback was meant to hint Harry’s continuing grief over his godfather’s death. And yet . . . aside from a brief mention by Horace Slughorn, there was no further mention of Sirius. The filmmakers had decided to add this scene, yet did not bother to add a sequence featuring Harry’s inheritance of the Blacks’ home at Number 12, Grimmauld Place and their house elf, Kreacher. A plot point that would prove to be very important in the upcoming ”DEATHLY HALLOWS”. Another scene featured Harry at a neighborhood café, where a pretty waitress manages to catch his attention before Dumbledore made his appearance. Was this scene supposed to be a foreshadow of the adolescent soap operas that permeated a great deal of the movie? Or Harry’s own libido? Well, the topic of Harry’s libido was first approached in ”GOBLET OF FIRE” and continued in ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX”, through his relationship with Cho Chang (Katie Leung). In other words, I found both the Ministry of Magic flashback, and café scene irrelevant to the story. Both could have easily been replaced with Harry learning about his inheritance from Sirius. Yates and Kloves also decided to include a scene featuring the Death Eaters attacking and burning the Weasleys’ home, the Burrows, during the Christmas holidays. My question . . . why bother? What purpose did this scene serve other than to include an action sequence in the movie? Neither Ron, Ginny or Harry seemed disturbed by the event following their return to Hogwarts. In fact, audiences never learned where Molly and Arthur Weasley were staying following the fire. And in the end, the sequence only robbed more potential screen time from the more important horcrux storyline.

Another aspect of the movie’s story that annoyed me turned out to be the Vanishing Cabinet that Draco used to smuggle Death Eaters inside Hogwarts Castle. Now, I am well aware that the Vanishing Cabinet played a major role in the story. But Kloves and Yates took it too far. In other words, they gave away the mystery surrounding Draco’s actions before they could surprise the moviegoers. While still in London; Harry, Ron and Hermoine managed to eavesdrop on Draco interacting with the owner of a Knockturn Alley shop called Borgin and Burkes. And instead of following Rowling’s example by maintaining the mystery behind Draco’s actions until near the end of the story, Kloves’ screenplay continuously hinted Draco’s intentions and the cabinet’s magic properties before the finale at the Astronomy Tower. In my opinion, Kloves and Yates could have maintained the mystery, leaving enough time to explore the horcrux storyline via memories of Voldemort.

Although I found myself impressed by the acting featured in the movie, I had a problem with three of the characters. One of the characters I had a problem with happened to be Cho Chang (Katie Leung), Harry’s girlfriend in ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX”. Or should I say a lack of Cho Chang? What happened between Harry and Cho? ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” never bothered to bring closure to Harry and Cho’s story, after he and Hermoine discovered that Cho had been forced to expose Dumbledore’s Army thanks to the Veritaserum (truth potion) forced upon her by Dolores Umbridge. I had expected to see such closure in ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”, but it never materialized, much to my disappointment.

I also had a problem with the characterization of Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), as well as the Harry/Ginny romance. I just want to say that Bonnie Wright is not to blame. She has shown in the past – namely in ”GOBLET OF FIRE” that she is quite capable of portraying Ginny as J.K. Rowling had written her – a lively and sardonic girl, whose outgoing personality made Harry feel relaxed. And then came ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” and David Yates. In both the fifth film and this one, Ginny seemed quiet and . . . dull. Well, at least two scenes in ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”gave Wright a chance to portray a lively Ginny – one that featured the Quidditch tryouts for the Gryffindor team in which she managed to get everyone to shut up, and the Room of Requirements scene that led to her first kiss with Harry. There were times when I suspected that Yates had a view of Ginny as the quiet type and that it seemed to be at cross purposes with Rowling’s portrayal. As for the Harry/Ginny kiss in the Room of Requirements . . . meh. I am not certain if they actually kissed or simply touched lips. Harry’s kiss with Cho in ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” seemed more memorable. Either Daniel Radcliffe found Katie Leung more attractive than Bonnie Wright or . . . you know what? I do not know. I just was not that impressed by the kiss.

Last, but not least, there is Evanna Lynch’s performance as Luna Lovegood. In my ”ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” review, I was very critical of Ms. Lynch’s portrayal of Luna. I thought she came off as too unemotional for my taste. And two years and one movie later, her performance has not improved one whit. I hate to say this about the Irish actress, considering that she is such a major fan of Rowling’s book series. I hate to say this, considering that everyone else seemed to think that she is perfect. I simply find it hard to accept this prevailing view of her performance. Ms. Lynch does not strike me as a talented actress. I’m sorry.

I might as well be blunt. Although I found cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s photography of the Death Eaters’ attack upon London and the Spinner’s End sequence impressive, I hated the rest of his work. I hated that he had decided to use a dark, washed-out tone for the movie, similar to what Roger Pratt had used in ”GOBLET OF FIRE”. For some reason, there seemed to be this idea that in order to convey the story’s darker tone, the film had to look similar to the second and third movies from the ”LORD OF THE RINGS” trilogy. And I am not that fond of those two movies. I also hated both Yates and Delbonnel’s decision to emulate ”LORD OF THE RINGS” again by shooting Dumbledore’s fatal fall in the same manner that Gollum’s death was filmed in ”Return of the King”. I found the whole scene rather cheap, worthy of another eye roll.

I wish I could say that I loved ”HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”. I wish I could say that I even liked it. I will admit that I enjoyed a few scenes featured in the movie. And I certainly felt impressed by the cast’s performances. But . . . I feel that screenwriter Steve Kloves and director David Yates made some major mistakes with the movie’s plot by leaving out scenes and storylines that were necessary to drive the saga’s main plot. And even worse, they inserted scenes that were not in the novel and – at least to me – irrelevant to the plot. Nor did it help that the movie crept at a pace that nearly put me to sleep, halfway into the film. Honestly? The filmmakers of the HARRY POTTER franchise could have done better than this.

Advertisements

3 Responses

  1. Around the World: London…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  2. A pretty fair review all said. The film is watchable, but for anyone who hasn’t read the books, I suspect that there are too many steps that have been skipped in the plot.
    I too got sick of the sepia tones, overly deliberate cinematography, and slow pace.
    The film is called Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and yet there is not much more of Snape than in Goblet of Fire.
    The extra scenes were pointless, and the characters appear to only be aware of the scene they are in.
    I must disagree with you on the Inferi. I saw an army of nearly identical Gollums. Maybe I just had high hopes of bodies being made to move in ways that normal humans do not, with identifiable clothing, and looks of despair and terror of their eyeless faces. Oh well.
    I am one of the few who thinks that spiltting the Deathly Hallows into two films is a good idea; in fact I’ve been of the opinion that there should have been two films per book since Goblet of Fire, with each pair of films produced as a single project. Hopefully they will pull it off – I, like you, really wanted to like HBP.

  3. Wonderful article post on the blog bro. This particular is just a tremendously nicely structured blog post, just the data I was looking just for. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: