Jul 17 2009

Unreal Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Published by at 10:00 am under Movies,Reviews

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There’s no doubt that Harry Potter has grown up. And I don’t mean the character. Daniel Radcliffe and his cohorts appeared to be fully through puberty at the start of Order of the Phoenix, and they don’t look markedly different from the last film.

Rather the film series itself is what has grown up. What started as an undeniable kids movie full of funny ghosts and bumbling trolls chasing around eleven year olds is now a full-fledged epic series for all ages.

And though it’s what everyone’s talking about, it’s not just because this Potter film is the “darkest” yet, although that is a contributing factor, rather, the film is the most emotionally mature entry to date, something that the series has mostly lacked to this point.

For me this is the first film that didn’t feel at all rushed. Most of the first five installments took great care to cram as many plot points as they could into around two hours so the little kiddies wouldn’t feel fatigued, but Half-Blood Prince takes its time, and gives a long book its due by stretching the film to two and a half hours. The filmmakers finally realized that the fourth movie had it right (previously the series’ best entry at a rotund 157 minutes). The fact of the matter is, it’s Harry Potter, we’d be here all night if we had to.

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“YOU…SHALL NOT…PASS!”

It also helps that this book had a relatively straightforward plot compared to the others. Dumbledore is in need of a memory from Voldemort’s old professor that will help Harry destroy him, and Draco Malfoy has been chosen for a very special mission to serve the Dark Lord. The only subplots here involve the romantic relations of the student body, and arguably that’s the best aspect of this new film.

The previous Potter films often get so caught up in wizarding lore and the books’ plot points that they forget that the series is really about the characters. The mess of love triangles found throughout the movie show a human side to the characters we haven’t really had time to see, and I was particularly struck by a surprisingly powerful scene where Hermione witnesses Ron kiss another girl and bursts into tears.

The only problem I found with these romantic scenes was the chemistry between the actors, although that’s unfair, as it’s really about the chemistry between the characters from the books. I never saw Harry and Ginny together, and that really comes through in the film, where it’s like he hadn’t even thought of it himself until someone point blank tells him “You like Ginny.” And Ron and Hermione? They certainly banter well, but chemistry? That’s only between Hermione and Harry if you ask me.

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NOPE!

But enough slash fiction, the film is emotionally impactful in other ways as well. The terror in Draco Malfoy’s eyes the entire movie is palpable, and the monumental death at the end of the film is the most tear-inducing moment of the entire series to date, though an extra five minutes for the following funeral scene would have been well worth it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is without a doubt the best entry in the series to date. It’s emotionally grounded, unexpectedly funny and as thrilling as you’d expect. The worst thing about it is that we have to wait two years until the next one, but we know this isn’t Twilight, and quality films take time. And we should be more than happy to wait for another pair of movies as good as this one.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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I won’t ruin whose death they’re honoring like it was ruined for me. Damn you Rob! It’s been four years and I’m still pissed.





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16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Unreal Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

  1. Gauthieron 17 Jul 2009 at 10:48 am

    I’m sorry to say, though I thought the photography of the movie was wonderful, and all-around performances were very good (I thought the actor portraying Slughorn did an exceedingly good job), I was VERY dissapointed with this movie. I read the books, but understand the need to cut some or many passages to fit a movies of durable length. I wasn’t one to complain about the first five movies, I thought they were pretty good, each one bettering the performance of the last. For me the climax was reached with the fourth installment, my favourite.

    So, giant, billowing, vacuum-sucking plotholes aside, WHY did they not incorporate the final battle at the castle in this movie? WHY did they burn the Burrow to the ground? WHY did they set Hagrid’s cottage on fire, and then the scene closed and we knew nothing more about Hagrid’s rescue (and his dog)? WHY, pray tell, did they leave out the funeral of Dumbledore, one of the key formative elements in Harry’s life?

    I’ll stop here, refusing to continue on about the totally unrealistic laxness of the Death-eaters towards any of the good guys, the characters that were completely left out, the events that had a considerable bearing on the next chapter that were diminished or even completely cut out, etc. etc.

    I give this movie 2 stars out of five.

  2. Madisonon 17 Jul 2009 at 11:16 am

    I definitely plan on seeing this next week. I’m glad to read that Draco has a big part; he’s always been – to me – one of the more intriguing characters.

  3. Paul Tassion 17 Jul 2009 at 11:42 am

    @Gauthier

    It’s never going to be exact, and this is one of the few movies I thought where the cuts and changes didn’t make THAT much of an impact. The only thing I thought really should have been there was the funeral, but even the changed ending worked pretty well I thought.

  4. Lauraon 17 Jul 2009 at 11:44 am

    I’m super excited to see this tomorrow. I can’t help but get a little annoyed with people who get really nit picky with plots and such. I saw the first 3 movies before I read all the books, and I still thought they were amazing, not knowing the information. The 3rd movie was insanely good, and many think it was the best (kudos to Cuaron). I myself have left HP movies and said “Well what about this part/that part?” because you really want to see it transferred to the big screen, but a 600+ page book is hard to get everything on there you want.

    And I remember a long time back that Rowling approved the change with the fight/fire at the Burrow. Not that it changes anyone’s feelings about it.

  5. Madisonon 17 Jul 2009 at 11:51 am

    @ Laura

    The third one is indeed the best, and you nailed it: because of Cuaron, the most underrated director working today. I’ll watch ANYTHING he does.

  6. Sverrir Sigfussonon 17 Jul 2009 at 1:58 pm

    “The worst thing about it is that we have to wait two years until the next one”

    Actually, The Deathly Hallows Part I comes out in November 2010.

  7. Paul Tassion 17 Jul 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Really? I just looked it up and I guess you’re right. I thought they were putting the two movies out like a month apart from each other. Not nine months like it seems to be now. Lame.

  8. Sverrir Sigfussonon 17 Jul 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Yeah, nine months seem like a bit too much.

  9. Matton 18 Jul 2009 at 3:52 am

    I’ve got to say that I can understand why the funeral was cut. In the book harry is giggling about all the weird things Dumbledore used to say and such. Trying to put that across in cinematic form really wouldn’t work. So rather than changing the scene to make it more filmable, it’s just left off screen.

    Granted my feelings ight change after actually seeing the movie.

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  11. Mitchon 18 Jul 2009 at 2:35 pm

    @Gauthier

    “WHY did they not incorporate the final battle at the castle in this movie?”

    They took the battle out at the end because there is one at the end of the seventh one and they didn’t want it to be repetitive/lose its effect.

    “WHY did they burn the Burrow to the ground?”

    The “Burning of the Burrow” scene was included because they had decided to remove the battle at the end. There hadn’t really been much action thus far and they put it in to keep things moving.

    “WHY did they set Hagrid’s cottage on fire, and then the scene closed and we knew nothing more about Hagrid’s rescue (and his dog)?”

    I don’t know why they did that. Probably just an oversight/lack of time. It’s not like it’s THAT important though. Most people know that Hagrid doesn’t die, so it’s not really anything major.

    “WHY, pray tell, did they leave out the funeral of Dumbledore, one of the key formative elements in Harry’s life?”

    They didn’t feel it fit with the rest of the film and that the ending that they came up with was better.

    Now I’m not saying I agree with all of these changes, but there is the reasoning for each one.

  12. Lauraon 18 Jul 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I thought it was great. This book was more about character development and not action. I was laughing A LOT in this movie, which is something that you aren’t used to with the series (especially the last 2). I found the part where Harry was under the lucky charm hilarious.

    As for the ending, I didn’t mind the changes. Yeah, the more action in the book was great to picture, but this one packed more of an emotional punch. Malfoy looked truly terrified, and I am still amazed by Carter’s Bellatrix (could you picture a more perfect casting?)

    I do wish that there was more with Snape. My friend made a good point when leaving the theater about the struggle the reader knows about Snape, and questioning whether he is good or evil. People who haven’t read the series are really missing out on the internal struggle that Snape faces (which is why the 7th movie is going to be amazing). That is a huge focus on in the Deathly Hallows.

  13. Gauthieron 19 Jul 2009 at 2:04 pm

    @Mitch: I see that you are purely pointing out the reasoning behind some of those changes, but come on, aren’t those the lamest excuses you’ve ever heard? This is not directed at you, I’m just frustrated that the only reason they burned the burrow was because the movie wouldn’t be”action-packed enough”. And the Hagrid’s cottage-scene, that that was an oversight… You can’t have that in a movie!

    And I’m honest when I say I completely understand the need to cut and change some things, that’s no problem to me.. And I last read The half-blood prince like two years ago, so I didn’t remember much anyway.. It’s just that I thought the movie was very incoherent. And I cannot for the world understand how this movie managed to haul in 87% on rottentomatoes.com and an 8,3/10 on IMDB..

    It’s very ironic that I’m the only one who feels so strongly about it, when normally I don’t get this peeved at movies… :p

  14. Paul Tassion 19 Jul 2009 at 2:08 pm

    In retrospect, I didn’t like the Burrow scene at all. What exactly was the point of that? What were the Death Eaters trying to do there? You’re right, they just put that in to make it more “action-packed,” which is lame and they could have taken that time to put in Dumbledore’s funeral instead, or you know, the actual battle at the school.

  15. CNAon 19 Jul 2009 at 6:40 pm

    I don’t agree with this, but, I’ve read that the reason they included Bellatrix/Fenrir’s attack at the Burrow/the burning of the Burrow is to show how all the increasing attacks were affecting people. However, they chose to leave out all of the ones in the actual book (except for Olivander being taken and the bridge breaking) and have one actually happen to Harry, to provide a better pace for the movie, rather than to just have him keep hearing about attacks.

    However, this logic works; for the individual film. Once you consider though, the revelation of the seventh book, that Harry’s greatest weakness has always been his desire to not have anyone hurt/die because of him (a revelation made by Voldemort himself), the fact that there are no “outside” attacks shown in the movie is, in itself, a huge flaw for the remaining two movies.

    I do think Dumbledore’s funeral should have been included. It showed how immensely important and loved Dumbledore was, a fact which, again, becomes quite important in Hallows when the world has to decide if he was worthy of their love or not.

    It’s small things like that, that work for each individual movie, but do not help out the series as a whole, which make viewers (who have read the books) feel that the movie is not as good as it could be.

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