A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

July 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

After the unremitting darkness of Order of the Phoenix I was not much looking forward to this movie. I was beginning to feel Pottered out and I wasn’t ready for a whole lot more depressing drama. I need not have feared though: this movie is an entirely different sort of beast and it’s much more fun to watch. This was a tremendous relief.

There are parts of this book that are a little muddy. There are basically three different plots going on simultaneously and although they all do come together in the end it isn’t perfect or seamless. This is amplified in the movie because there is so much that has to be truncated and glossed over just to make the movie fit into a reasonable time bracket, which means that several important plot points don’t make much sense because the groundwork to explain them isn’t part of the movie.

The movie starts out with Harry being brought to the Weasley home by Dumbledore, but the first plot point deals not with Harry, but with Draco Malfoy, his long time rival. Draco has been chosen by Voldemort for a task that his mother wishes were not his responsibility. She turns to Snape – who is not entirely trusted by the death eaters, but is still a follower of Voldemort – to protect her son. Bellatrix Lestrange does not trust Snape at all, and forces him to swear an unbreakable vow that he will defend Draco, and that if Draco is unable to complete his task Snape will in his place. That’s the darkest and most ominous of the three plots.

Then there’s plot number two – which involves Dumbledore and his attempts to discover something about Voldemort’s past – a memory of Tom Riddle while he was still a student at Hogwarts. Dumbledore convinces the glory-seeking Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts as the new potions master and tasks Harry with getting close to Slughorn. Tom Riddle’s secret, which Dumbledore is so desperate to uncover, is somehow involved with Slughorn.

Then there’s the plot from which this movie (and book) gets its name. The mystery of the half-blood prince. Harry comes across a old and battered potions book full of tweaks and adjustments to the advanced potions he’s learning as a sixth year student which make him an absolute master of the craft as long as he follows them. These annotations are, apparently, the work of somebody who called himself “The Half-Blood Prince” but nobody knows who this person could be.

I got the impression as I watched this movie that the producers would have jettisoned the spellbook altogether if it were not for the title of the film. It’s hardly involved in the final product we get to watch, and the big reveal of who actually WAS the half-blood prince feels almost tacked on. It completely lacks the importance it has in the book. Indeed in the books the identity of the half-blood prince is very much tied into the whole Draco plot and helps to provide a different perspective on most of what happens in that thread. There is also a lot in the book that ties the half-blood prince to Harry’s mother Lilly – which is laying groundwork for the end of the series in Deathly Hallows part 2 – so it’s kind of disappointing that it’s missing here.

What surprised me as we watched this movie though was how enjoyable it actually turns out to be. In my review for Goblet of Fire I said that my favorite parts of the movie were the more intimate and personal moments and not the big glitzy action scenes. This movie takes that notion and runs with it. Quite aside from the Draco plot and the half-blood prince plot and the Slughorn plot this movie is about Harry and Ron and Hermione and their friendship – and the hints of romance that have started to work their way in. This results in a great deal of romance and humor and snogging and jealousy which acts both to provide some levity to the movie and to make the characters more human and enjoyable. I found myself having a great deal of fun with this movie because in spite of all the grim things going on throughout it the real core of the movie is about friendship and love and all the things worth fighting for that were mentioned at the end of Order of the Phoenix.

There was also something else about the movie that I didn’t realize until quite near the end: it features an altogether much more enjoyable soundtrack than the previous films. I do like the work of John Williams, and his scores are great for big summer movie blockbusters, but after a while his sound gets a little “samey.” You hear hints of Indiana Jones and Star Wars and Superman in everything he does and it’s a little jarring for me. This movie features a much more organic score by Nicholas Hooper which felt, to me at least, much more appropriate to the action we were seeing on screen. It did what a great score often does: it provided emotional background for the events on the screen without calling attention to itself. I think this contributed to my enjoyment of the movie as a whole.

And I did enjoy this movie. I had a wonderful time with it. It features some dark events, and it shows how the wizarding world is starting to fall into Voldemort’s power, but it also has a lot of genuinely tender humor. Jim Broadbent (who I will never forgive for stealing Ian Mckellen’s Oscar) makes a fantastic Slughorn – so obsessed with holding court for his prize students so that he can claim to have known them once. The movie does an admirable job of not letting the darkness that is a part of it make it a depressing slog like yesterday’s movie. Indeed I’d have to say that my initial impression after seeing this for the first time was that it was my favorite Potter movie since Prisoner of Azkaban. Now I feel ready for the big two-movie cinematic conclusion to the series. We’re watching Deathly Hallows part 1 on the 30th and then plan to go see part 2 in the theaters on the 31st. Harry’s birthday.

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July 29, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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