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I am SO crossing my fingers that the next ones are not this bad

  • Dec 10, 2009
Rating:
-3
Pros: Acting for the most part

Cons: Story, it seems to have been missing along with decent special effects

The Bottom Line: I watched it a second time, hoping that I was mistaken.  I hated the fifth book, so there is a precedence for me not recommending the important Harry Potter stuff.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Two years ago, I struggled to write a review of the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Prior to being able to finish it, I had to write a gripe essay explaining how difficult it is to write a review of Harry Potter at all. The reason I bothered to write a review of the fifth movie is because of how much I loathed the novel. The essay and review did some personal squaring. I actually liked the movie.

Reviewing this one ain’t any easier because I really didn’t like the movie.

The penultimate story in a series, the penultimate chapter in a mystery novel or other plot driven story, cannot stand on its own—it is the nature of what it is. Every part before it has some liberty to travel in a few different directions highlighting this or that aspect or character. In a tight story, the next to last part is all responsibility and no reward. Multiple plotlines coming into it have to narrow to a controllable few for the finale. The way I’ve always viewed this structure is a volleyball analogy: the second to last is the setup, the last is the spike. How you get to the setup can go in many different ways so long as the ball stays in play, so long as the main plotline is not destroyed.

Half-Blood Prince the novel was better than its predecessor (but something scribbled on a wet napkin by a left handed gibbon using its right paw would be better) but it is not impressive. It does its job. Half-Blood Prince the movie does not do its job well; it left me very confused. There are many reasons for this but the one that will speak to it most clearly is: who is the half blood prince? I’ll get to the details in the analysis, but we get an announcement “I am the half-blood prince” but how we get there . . . who it is . . . why . . . ? This isn’t trivial, it’s the title of the movie. It would be the same as having The Order of the Phoenix go to just before the end and say, oh, we forgot, we’re the Order of the Phoenix; yea we’ve been helping and all but we just forgot to tell you our name.

Harry never gets to do any of the muggle things in the muggle world—he is a wizard, but he did live all of his childhood living in a cupboard. On summer break, he gets an impromptu date set up when Dumbledore appears and demands Harry’s help. Despite the start of the civil war in the wizard world, Hogwarts remains open and serves most of the full compliment of students—a mantra states that Hogwarts is the safest place in their world. Dumbledore needs Harry’s help in getting a retired professor, Horace Slughorn to return and take over teaching potions. It takes a little prodding but Slughorn agrees.

Just before the start of term, the trio Harry, Hermione, and Ron make a quick visit to the decimated Diagon Alley where they once bought their supplies. Ready to leave, they notice Draco Malfoy and his mother walking into the area dealing with darker magic. Draco goes into a shop known for dealing in the darkest forms of magic. This begins the main subplot.

Harry is highly encouraged to take Potions from Professor Slughorn despite being terrible at it. Not expecting to take it, he has no book, so he is sent to a cupboard where he finds a very used copy, filled with scribbles that turn out to be extremely handy—refining and even correcting recipes in the book. The former owner was the eponymous “Half-Blood Prince.”

Dumbledore pulls Harry aside once more. He shows Harry a series of memories concerning Tom Riddle (cum Voldemort), a critical one belonging to Slughorn, but the memory is altered. Harry’s job is to be spy and diplomat to recover this critical tidbit. Malfoy is on his own mission that weighs him down heavily. He often slips into a secret room where he experiments with a mysterious cabinet whose transportational abilities seem dicy: an apple goes and returns, a finch goes and returns dead. His mission is so daunting that it leaves him breaking down in tears more than once.

Woven into the story is the normal high-school behavior and activities but with wizard world hazards on top of the usual muggle ones. Ron has issues with more than one girl that leave him typically baffled and at one point nearly fatally poisoned, drinking a mead meant for someone else. Hermione’s emotions are almost as intense as her knowledge and she spends more time being maudlin than smart. Ginny Weasley has her beau troubles but is able to maintain a mature strength that begins to act as a stablizer for the trio so tightly drawn they sometimes lose perspective. Ron faces inadequacy issues in quidditch because of a new (and unexplained) student. And another highlight, a student is almost fatally hexed carrying a charm necklace meant for someone else.

The romance and sports situations play out in a reasonable manner. Harry’s and Draco’s missions also play out in a reasonable manner. If I give any further detail to either plotline, I will wind up giving too much away. It is hard to imagine that someone not already familiar with the series would opt to use this review to decide, I will nevertheless maintain the standard review format.

The acting is the standard quality of the most recent casts). Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonnagall), and Alan Rickman (Professor Snape) pretty much can do no wrong. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) and Emma Watson (Hermione) are solid; they continue to define their characters rather than have it dictated the other way around. Bonnie Wright (Ginny) is brilliant, repeat, repeat again. Rupert Grint continues to have the same two expressions he has always had: confounded or nauseous. So whether that is good or bad, it is consistent.

The other members of what was Dumbledore’s Army in Order of the Phoenix have been relegated to having very little screentime, very few lines, and that’s if they are given any lines at all: Matthew Lewis (Nevil Longbottom), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan) each have a couple of scenes, but are more wallpaper than not. Which, for at least Mr. Lewis and Ms. Lynch, we get less of what is actually a good product.

Tom Felton needs his own paragraph. He has played Draco Malfoy throughout the series. Until Half-Blood Prince though, Draco’s character was flat, was really more a plot point: he’s there to offer some relatively minor danger and annoyance to the trio as they went about their missions. In the recent installment, that has changed. His mission is emotionally crushing because it calls for him to put into action feelings he had mentioned before, but now that they are no longer hot air (and now required by edict) he feels the strain. Mr. Felton pulls this off very well. I think, though he is aging very differently than his peers, his thin, wan look fits the character very well.

As for the newer arrivals, there is little to impress. Helena Bonham Carter got so sick of playing Edwardian drawing room drama characters in her teens and early twenties that she decided to take edgier roles. She left the set for Order of the Phoenix as Bellatrix Lestrange (unkempt Death Eater responsible for the most horrible crime to date in the series), walked across the street to the set for Tim Burton’s Sweeny Todd where she played an unkempt Death Eate . . . I mean Death Feeder, Mrs Lovett. Then she recrossed the road and reprised her adequate performance as a Death Fee, um Eater. Jim Broadbent is a consistently strong actor but chose to play or was told to play Slughorn as a kabuki-smarm: slinking around, keeping a bug-eye out for anyone that might catch him (Timothy Sprall, who can be a strong actor, did exactly the same thing as Ms. Carter, and he played the same kind of cliché smarmy roles—the Beadle in Sweeney and Wormtail in the HP films—Mr. Broadbent’s talents were used to that narrow, hackneyed end).

And I’m afraid I’ve said the best I can. There are likely plot spoilers as I run through the spoiled plot

The weakest thing about the movie was the story, but I need to tackle something technical first. I was less than impressed by the special effects (but the bit with quidditch players smacking through a goal was brilliant—I’m not above harmless harm) but totally mortified by anything involving the astronomy tower. This isn’t trivial. The HP movies depend on special effects—sets included--to make the world believable. Further, we’ve pretty much come to expect that special effects can work all form of reality bending fun. What I saw was a stage set with a cheaply painted backdrop. I bothered to notice because the first time I saw it, I did a double-take at just how noticeably cheap and bad it was (not just in comparison with the other special effects, I mean nearly b-movie cheap). The bloody movie ends on this cheap piece of scenery. If we notice a failure like that, we know that part of the illusion is ruined and it’s a Harry Potter movie, for all else it may have, illusion is why we watch.

What happened to the story? It has been a while since I read the novel (and there have been thousands of pages and hundreds of hours and all this typing, typing, typing hehe, since then) so I am not fresh on many details, so my question isn’t rhetorical.

The film is two-and-a-half hours long which puts it within five or so minutes of all others except Phoenix which was just over two hours. I mention the time because I just couldn’t quite follow what was going on and there was so much wasted time.

Every scene with Ron and Lavender lasted twice as long as necessary to prove the point. When Harry and Dumbledore find Slughorn as a chair in a demolished house, there is an unnecessary tidy up—I think this bit of special effect is unnecessary because most people watching, even kids, understand that sort of thing so if it wows more than a few I’d be shocked. The quidditch try-outs could have taken a cut here and there to save on time and special effect stuff, both of which were needed elsewhere. An astounding amount of time was spent on Harry finally getting Slughorn to talk—before he does so Harry watches Slughorn steal part of a plant, say a eulogy over a massive spider (whose venom he collects), then sing drunken songs with Hagrid, and finally . . . the secret.. A two-minute buildup instead of something closer to ten would be all that was necessary. The cave scenes went on far too long. Despite what it may look like, it isn’t the climax so it needn’t have taken ten full minutes. My rough guess is about twelve minutes would be created (so you could keep the full cave scene and still have ten to work with). In that time we could be given information on how we learn who the Prince is and how it matters. We could have been given a bit more meat to the Malfoy story so it is more than just a boy and a cabinet. I mean is his entire role vis the cabinet to stand before it saying a couple of Latin words then put stuff in it and hope it comes back alive? Also, there is not enough time for a connection between Malfoy and Snape with regards to his mission. There is just one warning. Is there more information on Tom Riddle than just those two pieces we were given?

My point here is I think I’m very underprepared for the next movie(s). Honestly it seems that nearly everything in the movie was dross except for a restored memory, an amulet, a murder, and the murderer. No new characters are developed. Important characters from before are glossed over. So I’m left with the impression that just the trio with perhaps a part-time Ginny (or a full-time Ginny being used only half as well as she could be) will be all we have to fight the Death Eaters. I know there will be others, but the Death Eaters run rampant through Hogwarts, hitherto impossible, and there is nothing from the Order. I’m supposed to believe that the Death Eaters just left on their own. Not only is that wand raising PLAY FREEBIRD-memorial so cheesy it smells more than my gym-socks, it feels like it takes the place of something, like any of the Order showing up? (Yea FREEBIRD, whoo FREEBIRD)

David Yates directed this one, Phoenix and is directing the two Deathly Hallows movies. Two items do not make a pattern if more are to follow, however, it does leave me wondering. Will DH 1 will be worse and the finale to end all finales for all time and forever again so that everything in our movie viewing lives will forever be an anti-climax DH II will just suck?

P.S. I really liked both actors playing Tom Riddle; I very much don’t like that they will apparently not be returning in the DH movies. Now . . . dammit . . . where’s my quill and my howler, ah yes

Dear Mr. Yates, it’s a bit late perhaps, but, um, are you really cut out for this job, or do you really want to go down in history as the man who ruined Harry Potter? Also, you’re making me a bit lactose intolerant, there are apparently a growing number of us, and we’d really like you to cut down on or just totally remove the cheese—toodles!!

Recommended:
No

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Paul Savage ()
Ranked #30
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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Wiki

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a 2009 fantasy-adventure film directed by David Yates and based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. It is the sixth instalment in the Harry Potter film series, and is written by Steve Kloves and produced by David Heyman and David Barron.[5] The film stars Daniel Radcliffeas Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley andHermione Granger. The supporting cast features Michael GambonJim BroadbentAlan RickmanTom Feltonand Helena Bonham Carter.

Filming began on 24 September 2007, with the film being released in cinemas worldwide on 15 July 2009, one day short of the fourth anniversary of the corresponding novel's release. In everywhere but the United States, the sixth film was simultaneously released in regular cinemas and IMAX 3-D in all countries. Due to North American theaters having a several week commitment by Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,[6] the IMAX 3D release of the film occurred on 29 July, two weeks after its original release.[7]

Half-Blood Prince opened to critical acclaim along with instant commercial success, breaking the record for the biggest single-day worldwide gross of all time. In five days the film made $394 million, breaking the record for biggest five-day worldwide gross in ...

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Details

Director: David Yates
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: July 15, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 153 Minutes
Studio: HeyDay, Warner Bros Pictures
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