Friday, July 17, 2009

My review of the Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince film

I'm not one those people who demand that movie adaptations be 100% true to their source material. I, generally, feel that if you want the book, read the book, if you want the movie, watch the movie. The simple fact that the medium is different makes it understandable that the plot will be shaped differently according to what does or does not work on film. So I haven't had a problem with any of the changes made between the Harry Potter books and movies, thus far.

Until last night.

Its weird, I don't really know how to write this review because there are so many great things about the movie but to me the few bad things ruined the experience. I'll start with what I liked.

1. The movie looks great. The cinematography, and effects are all amazing and I love how these movies just get darker and darker to reflect the atmosphere of danger that the characters are living in.
2. The performances are the best yet. With every HP movie I feel like the kids show improvement but this was the first one that made me actually stop and take notice that, hey, these people are really great actors now.
3. Its funny. Easily the funniest Harry Potter movie and with all of the teen romance going on, it lends itself easily to comic relief.
4. Its all about character development and when you care as much about the characters as I do, its really interesting. However, the real question is will all the humor, character development, and cinematography be enough to satisfy?

Now what I didn't like:
This was the first HP where not only did they hack out huge parts of the story but they supplemented the film with completely original and almost always pointless scenes. They took a lot of liberties this time that I didn't understand the need for because everything they did was less cool than the original story. My biggest qualm is that it pulls all of its emotional punches. So at the end of the movie I'm thinking, it was funny and well made but it didn't move me at all. Its not epic, its not intense and it really should have been. Its like being handed cotton candy when you ordered a steak. Really, all of this doesn't become apparent until the end of the movie where there is supposed to be a huge, crazy battle that the movie has very clearly been leading up to and then it just doesn't happen. What you get instead is the weakest possible version of what has to happen to set up the next movie. All in all, its a great movie that leaves you completely dissatisfied. I was so disappointed and it was the first HP that I didn't leave the theatre ready to see it again as soon as possible.

Also, why did Richard Harris have to die? And why did they cast Michael Gambon as Dumbledore in his stead? Over the course of the four movies that he's had the role, he's done so many things that make me go "Hey, Dumbledore would never do/act like that." I keep thinking that he'll grow on me, and I think Order of the Phoenix is the closest he's gotten to doing so, but he never does, really. He's just not Dumbledore. He doesn't embody the kindness, courtesy, and omniscience that Richard Harris very effortlessly displayed. When I saw those first two movies, the thing I was most impressed with was the casting. Every single person was exactly as I pictured them and Dumbledore especially. Half-Blood provided him ample opportunities to show that he really got the character of Dumbledore but instead, like always, he gave a performance that really makes me wonder if he's ever read a Harry Potter book. I find myself wishing that Sir Ian McKellen had deemed it prudent to portray two white wizards in his lifetime.

So, my overall opinion is that this would have been the best Harry Potter ever if it didn't go limp in all the wrong places. Still worth seeing, still worth owning, still a million times better than Twilight.


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  2. Here's my thing with Dumbledore:

    I think the first Dumbledore was perfect for the first two movies, before we found out a lot of stuff about Dumbledore and before we, as readers, are ok with thinking that Dumbledore is, and was, a less than perfect human being. I think the Dumbledore they have now is fantastic for movies 3-6 because Dumbledore had to be taken to different, darker place. I don't think the first guy could have pulled it off because he was so kind and courteous. And Dumbledore is that in books 3-6, but he's also..less than perfect. Flawed. I love both Dumbledores and I think the transition happened at the most perfect time for the course of the stories. I've had the Dumbledore conversation a million times with people, and it's a little harder to convey via the Internet.

    As for Half-Blood Prince, I agree with you. Way too choppy, disjointed, and with scenes that weren't relevant and made no sense. IF it makes you feel better, I read an interview with the woman who plays Tonks the week before the movie came out, and she point blank said she didn't think this movie was very good and definitely not true to the story--not the book, but the story, the nature of the books. She did say that the scripts for the last two films are spot-on, perfect, flawless, and that they're finally going to do justice to the series and be able the encompass everything.

  3. I agree with you %100 with the Dumbledore switch up. I loved Michael Harris as Dumbledore. He was perfect, he was Dumbledore! Snape killed him too early! You know in The Goblet of Fire when Harry is chosen from the Goblet? Later Harry is in the tent and Dumbledore comes bursting in and practically tackles Harry saying "HARRY! DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE!!!" I was astonished. Dumbledore doesn't do that at all. Didn't Dumbledore keep his cool in even dire situations?! That was his thing! He was always as cool as a cucumber. You would see him worried or troubled in the later books but even when fighting he always seemed level headed and pulled together. Eh that's my take anyway. I think I could do a better Dumbledore than Gambon.

  4. That makes me feel better about Deathly Hallows because I was starting to worry about it.

    I've heard a lot of people say that Richard Harris couldn't have handled Dumbledore when stuff started getting darker but I say that if they can CG Christopher Lee's old-ass face onto someone else's body so he can play Count Dooku, then Harris could've handled Dumbledore's more intense parts. Besides, what's always endeared me to Dumbledore is how he remains kind, courteous and wise in spite of the darkness. I just think Harris played Dumbledore as a lighthearted person with some dark spots and Gambon seems more like an intense person who occasionally forces some lightheartedness.
    and also:
    I hate him.
    He's stupid.

  5. I meant Richard Harris. Michael Harris?! I don't know how it happened lol.

  6. He is stupid, he should of just starred in Toys and then quit acting.

  7. Betty,
    That scene in Goblet is the worst! When I saw that I was like "whoa, who's this asshole and what has he done with Albus?"

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  9. So basically what you're saying, casadekaloi, is that Michael Harris died at the right time?

    Also, I am fine with the current Dumbledore. I feel that, as the other characters grow up and get into more mature situations, the character of Dumbledore should be able to match that level of maturity if not surpass it as a protective figure. They're not kids anymore and therefore do not require to be babysat by the old man down the block who has an incredibly bizarre fascination with candy. Gambon's more active, vocal Dumbledore does more in fulfilling the wizard's reputation as one of the greatest than Harris ever could have done with his approach to the character.

    However, this latest film did leave me hanging. I expected the final scenes of the Death Eater's departure to be more of an 'explosive' ordeal. The conflict that existed in the book between Harry and Snape wasn't even touched upon.

    It felt as if I saw the film through a primetime cable filter. It pandered to the now-pubescent fans of the story with all of the romantic bits and didn't concentrate on what made the book interesting in the first place, the horcruxes.

    Also, I would've liked to have seen the funeral.

    Seeing as how this film is the 'Empire Strikes Back' of the series, if the film ends on a sad note, why not milk it for what it's worth? It would be a great build up for the final two films and would have floored the audience with anticipation.

    uh...I think that's it.

  10. To answer your questiona bout Michael Gambon ever reading a HP book. The answer is no:
    THis completely bothered me when i read it because he can't understand Dumbledore's heart & persona without reading the books & only reading the scripts.
    I watched the movie with Taylor last night and as we both left the theater we were getting increasingly pissed. I've only rad 2 HP books, this one & the Deathly Hallows and I started re-reading HBP about 3 days ago and am about half-way through.. and I think that completely ruined the movie for me.
    My absolute main gripe about the whole movie is the ending. Harry should have been frozen. Having Harry stand there and watch everything that jsut went down is absolutely BS and does not fit in with his character at all. He completely acts on instinct and is hot-headed as he demonstated when he rusned out of the Weasley house when he just heard Belatrix's laugh.. but he's gonna jsut stand there and watch as an entire team of Death Eaters & Snape who he soesn't trust & Malfoy threating Dumbledore's life? In the book it made sense because Harry had to have been frozen or he would have done something. It was out of his control. But in the movie they are saying it was Harry's choice not to act.. and I hate that. Harry would have never stood by no matter what he promised Dumbledore.
    And the battle missing is so weak. I adds so much to the next story because is shows the Death Eaters win. You really get the idea that the good guys are screwed.. The death Eaters don't just get to walk out of Hogwart's untouched. This is the first time i've seen a HP movie when i've read the book but I feel like if I hadn't I would be missing so much. The impact of the book is missing from the movie.. no doubt.

  11. Ok lets start this with some confessions.

    1. I have never read a Harry Potter book.
    2. Living with Josiah, Taylor, and my wife has even me thinking its super nerd.
    3. I have watched all the movies, and the third is still my favorite.

    I enjoyed the movie as much as any of the rest of them. Jessica was also disappointed about the end fight, and the funeral. Seems to me the wands pointed to the sky take the place of the funeral, and gets the point across just fine that hes dead and everyone is sad.

    The fight seems like it would just be a retread, as all those people did battle before in another movie.

    I also like Michael Harris more than Richard Harris, but this may have to do with the first movie he was in was my favorite. No way Harris could have been as bad ass in these movies.

    I honestly think this is better than the fourth or fifth one. Jessica chalks this up to me never reading the novels, as most of the uber Henry Potter nerds love those in comparison to the third one.

    I also think its funny they are going to milk the last book into two movies.

  12. I don't think they're "milking it" by making it two movies. I think they realized that because so much happens in the 7th book and because they cut so much out of the other movies that ended up being important at the end and now they have to re-explain things, they can't fit it all in one movie and they want to be fair to the story. I'm sure the fact that anything with "Harry Potter" written on it makes a billion cazillion dollars sure helped to convince the studio to let them make 2 instead of 1, though.

  13. I also loved the first Dumbledore. I don't really know if he could have pulled off the fight with Voldemort in Order of the Phoenix, but this new guy is rotten. I don't care to know his name off the top of my head because I will not be looking for his next movie unless it be Harry Potter.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but I'm with you Taylor on every point. What the heck? No fight at the end? They waltz out the front door and no one says a word to them?

    I would add that they made it a little to clear about Snape's allegiances.

    It's encouraging to hear that they are sticking to the book on the next 2. They have to, otherwise, we'll have Harry hitting on chicks in the subway again. What?

    I absolutely loved the teenage romance. So funny. And I also said walking out of the theater that these kids had become such better actors.

    I'll be seeing it again very soon.

  14. so how the heck do you title the last two? part 1 & part 2?

  15. I asked that same question yesterday my red-bearded wonder.

    My wife said that having the battle scene at the end of this one would have been redundant since they all fought at the end of the last movie & they will all fight at the end of the next, to which I responded, "Did that not happen in every LOTR movie and you loved every one?" Cutting the fight is like not having the lightsaber duel at the end of every Star Wars movie! It's supposed to be there. You wait the whole movie for that battle!
    That said, Istill liked the movie and feel like what they did get right they got very right. I just wanted a little more. I'm already jonesin to see it again. I hope there is a 4 hour extended cut coming to blu-ray.

  16. I agree.

    Casadekaloi: That is an interesting point about the new Dumbledore. I will really have to think abotu that.

  17. Paul, my wife said the exact thing! I don't think so though.

  18. well the first two movies have extended cuts that run on abc family all the time, but I doubt they filmed that fight scene and then didn't put it in.

    I have a feeling they are saving alot of stuff so they can resell everything in a few years.

  19. I hope so. I would gladly buy it all again.

  20. Here you go:

    Hint-- the title of the article is called "Gambon Shuns Potter Books"