Kyle's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (movie) Review

Spoilers, of course.

I really liked it. I also had a few issues with it, but the stuff that I liked overshadowed most of what I didn't.

But let me go backwards for a second.

I'm not a fan of the film version of "Order of the Phoenix." It felt...un-Harry Potter to me. Part of it was the opening scene. It didn't feel like something from the world of Harry Potter. It took place out in the open, during the day, in the modern world, and Dudley looked ridiculous as a wannabe gangsta. And, of course, all of what I just mentioned stood in contrast to how it played out in the book. While I don't care if films make changes, this one hit the wrong tone. In the book, it's night time and the park is deserted. It's HARRY who picks the fight with Dudley, and it's after Dudley's gang has left. That's a particularly important key, too -- that it's Harry who is the aggressor, at least initially. And, of course, it's key that it takes place at night. But none of that was in the opening scene of the movie, and I have absolutely no idea why.

So I was a little thrown off by the beginning of the movie, as I already didn't know what to expect from David Yates (or new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg), and that opening didn't thrill me. Soon, we were in the Ministry of Magic, which didn't look particularly magical, unless shiny black surfaces are supposed to be magical. Again, I don't expect scenes in the movies to look like they do in my head, but this was a great departure.

It would take a while for me to feel like I was back in the film world of Harry Potter in "Order of the Phoenix," so the movie never felt natural to me.

I felt completely submerged just seconds into "Half-Blood Prince."

The difference was unbelievable. While I felt the co-mingling of the real, Muggle world and the magical world was jarring in the last film, it felt totally natural in this one. Maybe it was the return of Steve Kloves as screenwriter. Maybe Yates just felt more comfortable this time around. Whatever it was, the site of Harry sitting at a small diner and flirting with a waitress didn't seem at odds to me with what I expect from a Harry Potter movie. This was a wholly new, non-magical moment, and it felt perfectly fine.

Oh, and the opening with the aftermath of the Dumbledore/Voldemort fight was great.

I am a 12 year old girl when it comes to Harry Potter, both the books and the films. If there's one thing I've loved most about the movies, it's how quickly they've pushed headlong into the Ron/Hermione relationship. I could watch an entire movie about that relationship, and I practically did when I saw this one. I thought it was handled perfectly.

That leads me to one of the strengths of the movie this time around: every scene seemed important. Kloves had to cut a lot out, but made good use of what he kept. He had all of one Quidditch scene in the film, yet it then led to Ron dating Lavender, which, of course, led to much teen angst. It's much more involved in the book (and does involve Quidditch), but Kloves managed to pair it all down and still keep the important bits. Ron and Lavender are together for much longer in the book, too, but Kloves makes good use of Ron's poisoning to end that relationship and set up more Ron and Hermione moments -- and, of course, do some back peddling later so as not to jump the gun. All very good stuff.

The Harry and Ginny bits were handled well, too, I though, although it got buried towards the end. Yes, the rather suggestive and awkward moment when she ties his shoe was, well, rather suggestive and awkward, but having her take him to hide the book was a nice way to get them together on a level that only they would appreciate. I thought Hermione relating to Harry that Ron was fine with the pairing was forced, though, particularly given when it was done. I think it was added at the last moment, when it should have waited until the next movie (or not at all -- Ron could just off handedly say he'd given them his blessing, but didn't have to like it).

I'm kind of shocked that people keep talking about how dark this movie is (which it is to a flaw as far as style is concerned -- the washed out looked started to grate on me after a while), as it's easily the funniest of all the HP movies. Yes, a lot of the humor was drug related (all three of the main characters acted like they were on drugs at various points in the movie), but I'm fine with that -- people are funny when they're on drugs. And, hey, Ron's poisoned when he drinks alcohol, so maybe there's a lesson there.

For perhaps the first time, an HP movie actually pointed out to me a flaw in an HP book. Rowling was always very careful in her books to include a stand alone plot, one that would be introduced and (relatively) resulted by the end of the book. She would then fill the continuing stories in around it. "The Half-Blood Prince" has easily the weakest of any of the stand alone plots in the series. It's also impossible to translate, as the entire point is to make Harry like a character he doesn't like (without knowing it). I've read complaints about how the whole Half-Blood Prince aspect of the movie is glossed over, but, honestly, it was probably annoying to include. It's ultimately unnecessary and I'm sure, had the book had a different title, would have been dropped completely.

In fact, the Half-Blood Prince angle becomes even more irrelevant considering how little they said about the prophecy in the last movie. It doesn't matter that Snape is the one who overheard Trelawny's prophecy, at least not in the movie, because that was never explained. The idea that Voldemort picked Harry to be his nemesis never comes up. And while that's a great storyline, I can understand why it didn't make the cut for a film.

As funny and as "squee" inducing as the movie was, I did have a few problems with it, although all but the last are minor.

I was not a fan of the "attack on the Burrow" scene. For one, I hate that Hollywood dictates that all scripts must be formulaic, and this scene felt like "we need an action beat here." I would have thought, that given all the money that's been made off of these films to date, they could branch out a bit and not stick to the Hollywood formula. A friend that I saw the movie with said he was glad it was there, because up until that point the movie was entirely about teen angst. And while I'm clearly biased, I do think his opinion was in the minority. I think most people were perfectly happy with the teen angst. Besides, I thought the scene with the necklace added some tension.

If the goal, however, was to show that the Death Eaters were scary, there were plenty of bits from the book that could have been used. The films have a long history of explaining things through newspaper articles, so a series of moments involving the deaths and kidnappings (which they showed in the very beginning) interspersed with newspaper clippings would have done a good job of explaining the situation.

Beyond that, I think my big problem with this scene is that it didn't do anything. It had no baring on the film at all. Even worse, all of the Weasleys just stand there as their house burns -- um, aren't you people freaking wizards? Didn't we just watch Dumbledore practically put a house back together in two minutes at the beginning of this movie? Why would the Burrow burn down with so many wizards there?

My biggest issue with the movie was -- as it is for many people -- the ending. As I said earlier, I have no misconceptions about scenes in the movie looking like the scenes in my head, and I'm fine with that. But Dumbledore's death didn't just look wrong, it played out wrong, simply on a character level.

Harry never reacts.

In the book, Dumbledore freezes Harry (using a spell that Malfoy had used at the beginning of the book, which they kept for the movie, in theory as foreshadowing), who is unable to do anything but watch what happens. This makes sense, as Harry has show himself to be a pretty impulsive guy (and rightfully so). In the movie version, not only does Harry just stay completely quiet, he does so a Snape's behest! That would be the same Snape that Harry has never, ever trusted. It is completely out of character for Harry. Even worse, the way it's staged in the film would make it impossible for the Death Eaters to get so far ahead of Harry after Snape kills Dumbledore, as opposed to in the book where Harry collapses on the ground after Dumbledore dies, and has to recover and go after them, running through pitched battles to try to follow Snape.

I was also rather disappointed to see how heavy handed Dumbledore's death scene was. I loved the fact that Snape just acts in the book -- he doesn't bemoan the situation, doesn't get all squishy faced, he just walks out, sizes up what's going on, and kills Dumbledore. It's pretty perfect.

Of course, there are no pitched battles for Harry to get past to try to catch up with Snape. Up until this point in the movie, they'd done a great job of inter cutting Malfoy's story with Harry's story, so I have to wonder why they couldn't have set up the arrival of the Death Eater's before Harry and Dumbledore returned. It certainly would have increased the tension.

The fact that no one is fighting the Death Eaters does raise this question: why do they run away? They've just infiltrated Hogwarts and killed Dumbledore. Why not just take the place over? In the book, they run away because they're fighting the Order of the Phoenix. One of them is killed. So, in the movie, why do they run? It doesn't really make any sense.

And, let's face facts, the battle at the end would have at least LOOKED cool.

I also thought it ended a bit abruptly. While I thought the scene with the students and faculty dispersing the dark mark in the sky was really touching, I never felt like Harry was really upset. The scene in the tower at the end just felt tacked on.

Does it bother me that there was no Bill and no Fleur? Nope. Does it bother me that there wasn't more Remus and Tonks? Nope. Do I wish they'd explained the Horcruxes (and their possible locations) a bit better for fear of getting expositional Hermione for a solid five minutes in the next movie? A little. But I'm fine with all of that. If I want all of that, I'll read the books -- which I did and which I do.

No, in the end I just felt like Dumbledore's death scene was out of character for Harry, and those are things that always bother me -- and the logical missteps (no, seriously, why did they run away?).

Still, this is my second favorite of the six movies, which says a lot, considering how worried I was after the last one.