Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Okay, so I had a good bit of sleep, and am feeling good about this review, though possibly a little heat stroked. I’m hoping I can possibly do a better job reviewing tonight, as I felt my last one was a little disjointed. In my own defence, I did the bulk of it at 2am. So here we are starting this review around midnight…suiting to review these at the “Witching Hour” I suppose eh?
Let’s see, where to begin on the Half-Blood Prince? I think that this film, and to a lesser degree the book, was really a big filler that needed a splash ending to keep everyone hooked until Deathly Hallows. The book did do a much better job developing the characters, and showing them grow (yet again) from year to year. Puberty hits Hogwarts in the book, more so than it does on screen, but still we see some budding romances between a few characters.
On some levels I enjoyed the film, because it was yet another sensory treat into the world of Harry Potter, and again featured a cast of fine actors. On other levels I had many problems with what I was watching. I’ve given it the same rating as I did Prisoner of Azkaban, but the two films were not as enjoyable as the others for entirely different reasons.
We actually got to see more of Snape this time out than really ever before I thought. It may be that his screen time was more or less the same as the other films, but at least we got to see more plot and development circle around him. And it looks like we were right all along, he was just foolin’ us with his “reformed” act….Of course I’ve read book seven. Other than that we really didn’t get much of the other teachers on screen. McGonagall and Hagrid as well as the Order of the Phoenix members only walk by once or twice. Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn was a very welcome addition to the teaching staff at Hogwarts, though he too was a little under-used. Broadbent has yet to disappoint in anything I’ve seen him in. If you enjoy his work, check out Perrier’s Bounty, a smaller film a lot may have missed with Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson, everyone’s favourite ex-Auror, Mad-Eye Moody.
Though I enjoyed the effects in most of the movies so far…read back a few days to see my thoughts on Prisoner of Azkaban; I was a little put off by them in Half-Blood Prince. I thought there was possibly too much CGI. I know the others have been riddled (no pun intended) with CGI, but what got to me were the castle exteriors. I’m a traditionalist, and would have loved to have seen those accomplished as model shots. Moon was a spectacular film, set on…well, the Moon, and for all the crafts they had buzzing about, they used models which was a really nice touch, and looked fantastic and very real. It is a small grievance I know, but one I felt like voicing. It may have been easier to have the camera glide in and around towers of the castle to get to the window we were to look into, but this time around it just didn’t suspend my disbelief, as good effects should do.
I had various other problems with this movie, that were more plot based than anything. It seems that the studio knew that David Yates would be directing for the remainder of the series and let him move things around from book to book or from film to film to make things work for his vision. I felt that the “Malfoy mystery” was revealed far too soon. After the first accident, we find that the intended victim was Dumbledore, which I don’t believe was revealed in the book, making it much more suspenseful as you thought he was after Harry most of the time.
Other things that were sadly missing from both this film, and really from Order of the Phoenix as well, were more Weasleys. We have not seen Percy these last few films, nor the stress on the family as he sides with the Ministry and cuts ties with his parents. This film had no Bill either. It had no Bill and Fleur, it had no Bill and a werewolf bite. We did not get Snape’s important final words to Harry, or more pensieve trips to see more Tom Riddle, which would have better setup the trip to the cave. We did not see Harry hide true Half-Blood Prince’s textbook in the Room of Requirement, which means his tiara setup which will prove critical in Deathly Hallows was not there either, and we barely saw any of the DA (Dumbledore’s Army) crew. Of all the supporting characters brought out by the novels and movies, I think that Luna “Loony” Lovegood became my personal favourite, and was rather disappointed that I didn’t get more Evanna Lynch as the quirky Luna, though in the few scenes she was in we did get to see a little more of her background with the Quibler, but not enough explanation of this, and how she fits into the final film(s)/book.
Finally in this film, Michael Gambon has something to do as Dumbledore, as he takes a more active role in things this term. Curiously, as I was watching Half-Blood Prince I kept thinking back to Fellowship of the Ring. Dumbledore really looked like Gandalf in a lot of the shots. Battling on the island, I half expected the Balrog to jump up. The Prince’s textbook also seemed very “ring-like” as Hermoine urges Harry not to use it, but he seems very protective of his precious book. Thinking back to the original text this seems consistent, as he almost seems addicted to the book, and the help that the Prince’s notes give him. Curious by its absence was an entire funeral for a key character, which I did not understand the omission of. I was also a little surprised at how empty Hogwarts was most of the time. The hallways were rarely full of students, as it seems that perhaps attendance is down with a certain Dark Lord on the rise, or perhaps there was not enough budget left over for extras, which I’ll touch on briefly below.
I also know that my memory is not what it used to be, but having only read the book a week ago, I don’t remember a scene where the Burrow gets attacked and burnt down. With the kids on Christmas break, Bellatrix Lestrange (again insanely portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter) attacks the Burrow where they are all staying with the Weasleys. Okay, they wanted to spice it up and thrown some action in the middle of the film I suppose, but when Harry & Ginny chase after her, how is the wheat that tall at Christmas time? I’m not a farmer, but shouldn’t winter have taken care of that?
Half-Blood Prince clocked in at 2 hours 23 minutes and had the greatest budget of all the films.
Philosopher’s Stone $125 million
Chamber of Secrets $100 million
Prisoner of Azkaban $130 million
Goblet of Fire $150 million
Order of the Phoenix $150 million
Half-Blood Prince $250 million
Deathly Hallows Part 1 $125 million
Deathly Hallows Part 2 $125 million
(budget numbers provided by The Numbers)
I’m not sure where the extra $100 million went, but it certainly didn’t go to anyone in charge of plot holes or continuity. I suppose they can’t all be winners, and there is a prize at the end of all these films waiting for us. We just have to be patient to get there.