I’m assuming people reading this review have read the books – so there will be SPOILERS!
I don’t know what to say about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as a movie it’s a competent, highly watchable and pretty good movie. The problem is the film doesn’t exist in a vacuum – even if you ignore the books, within the context of the film Universe, I think HP-HBP fails. This movie is 2 ½ hours of nothing-substantial happening. But as a fan of the book series, a lot of the choices made here were maddening. The problem with watching the direction the films have gone is the knowledge that I have read all the books, so while watching the movies I’m enjoying them waiting for certain events to unfold then when the movie ends I’m left wondering what the heck just happened. This is why I hated Order of the Phoenix, I think that movie and this movie relies more on you having read the books than any of the other Harry Potter films.
I actually, loathe the book version of HP-HBP so I was hoping with the film they would keep what worked in the book, jettison what didn’t and maybe come up with a film way of doing other things. There was a lot of room where I thought a movie version could really improve this. Boy was I wrong. In this case, it’s as if Director David Yates and Screenwriter Steve Kloves just read some Cliff Notes version of the 830 page book and totally missed the major thrust and all the major points. For instance in the book everything about Dumbledore teaching Harry about Voldemort had an ultimate point with regards to how he created a Horcrux – you become immortal by splitting your soul and hiding pieces of it into objects.
This is a big deal and all of the objects Voldemort chooses/chose have a big significance to him and how he views himself. This becomes important in Deathly Hallows. The movie doesn’t touch on this AT ALL! As a matter of fact there are only two times when Harry actually sees a piece of Voldemort’s past and one of those moments is completely pointless. Are you telling me that in a 2 ½ hour movie where you invented your own scenes – like the pointless attack on the Burrow, you can’t take 10 minutes to explain that Voldemort is essentially a jealous packrat who likes to steal culturally important artifacts? The way Dumbledore just shrugged off and said, “Yes, Harry, Voldemort’s mother’s ring was a Horcrux,” totally misses the point. Voldemort didn’t care about his mother!
One of the major points of HBP is to give Harry insight into what makes his Enemy tick so that he can then figure out how to find the Objects in Deathly Hallows. When asked, all Dumbledore says is “Dark Magic always leaves a trace.” Is just crap. I mean really, what is Harry supposed to do in Deathly Hallows just cast some mystical spell to track Dark Magic, even though there are hundreds of Death Eaters on the Prowl? I won’t even get into how there was hardly any Snape in this and that for some reason this is the movie they decide to focus on Flitwick. The entire Book is essentially about Snape but the movie doesn’t touch on it hardly at all. At the end when they do the big reveal, it’s treated as though it’s nothing, we don’t get ONE, NOT ONE FREAKING SCENE where he’s teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts! It’s been a running theme throughout the books and movies and there’s not a single moment of him trying to teach Harry DADA? We don’t even get the major reveal that Snape wass responsible for Lilly’s death. Or get to see Harry confront Dumbledore about it.
The last ½ hour of this thing made absolutely no sense, even without reading about the battle in the book – this was so anti-climatic and just crummy story telling. In the beginning of the movie they make a big point about how Aurors are guarding the school, then in the end when Death Eaters finally arrive, there’s no battle, no one stops them in the Hallway (“Hey, Bellatrix, how ya doing? On your way to the great hall?”) – there are even some students in the background who just stand there as Death Eaters walk around the school. Then once they kill Dumbledore they decide to celebrate by making as much noise as possible, destroying Windows, Lights, etc and STILL not one Auror or Teacher or Order Member SHOW UP to fight!! What a steaming pile of garbage.
The earlier books all ended with about 100 pages of monologuing with everyone explaining the plot from multiple viewpoints but all the previous films cut all that. This movie ends with 20 minutes of basically talking about nothing. They don’t even explain what Voldemort’s possible Horcux’s are!!!! This movie is 2 ½ FREAKING hours (which really move by fast) and they can’t tell you what the possible Horcrux’s are? When they showed the Ring and the Locket they both looked so cheaply made, like something you’d get out of a dollar store, not magically significant objects, but like I said, they didn’t bother to mention that anyway, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the production designer just got some cheap costume jewelry.
From a set design stand point everything looked really dark and dank, gone was the magic and bright color pallet from the first two movies, heck even Movie 3 and 4 were brighter than this. It’s as if the budget was somehow cut, there were no moving staircases, no moving paintings, no ghosts, when they did magic, there were no light shows, the biiiiigggg battles that Yates talked about were completely pointless. All we saw were death eaters Aparating all over the place but they didn’t actually DO ANYTHING! Even when they did the dark mark it was just this weird cloud of indistinguishable smoke.
Speaking of Dumbledore, I’m GLAD he’s dead, maybe that means we won’t have to see Michael Gambon continue to bastardize the character. Every since the 4th movie they’ve destroyed everything that I’ve loved about Dumbledore. His portrayal isn’t of a kindly, whimsical, but powerful wizard, it’s of an angry calculating old man who has seen too much. It’s one note, not at all who Dumbledore is supposed to be. I’ve hated him since he first took over the part. In this movie the way he kept holding out his arm for Harry was so detached and devoid of any kind of emotional attachment to Harry. It’s clear that Dumbledore only sees Harry as a Weapon and not a person. Dumbledore’s past plays a major role in Deathly Hallows. They didn’t show any of Voldemort’s story in HBP, why show Dumbledore’s in the last installment? I always thought it was pointless, page filler stuff.
I loved the opening of the movie with them showing Harry and Dumbledore at the Department of Mysteries, and then they showed the dark clouds coming over London. It lead you to believe that there would be full on Attacks, but there wasn’t. In the midst of all of this Dark Activity where Harry (Harry Potter) is the number one target, he’s sitting at a muggle Coffee Shop reading a Magical Newspaper in public! They use this nonsensical made up scene, instead of having Dumbledore visit the Dursley’s? Why? Why destroy the Burrow if it’s not even going to be mentioned again in the rest of the movie. As a matter of fact the very next scene Ron is happy and snogging his girlfriend.
I will say the way they handled Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy’s (Tom Felton) story was absolutely brilliant and I think Felton should get some Award consideration for best supporting Actor. Watching his descent was truly sad, especially when you take it into context of the rest of the film series. With Felton going from just an arrogant bully to this “man” whose mission for the Dark Lord is slowly destroying his soul. I also loved how new Potions teacher Professor Horace Slughorn was portrayed by Jim Broadbent, I didn’t much care for him in the books but here, it works really well. You can really see how charming and smooth he could be when wooing potential star students.
It was really good stuff. I think all of the actors have come a very long way since the first movie and are uniformly good here. I loved Radcliff’s liquid luck moment and once again Emma Watson shows she has a lot of range as Hermione vies for Ron’s (Rupert Grint) affection. I actually thought this was handled better in the film than in the book, after reading the book I didn’t think these two should be friends or even in the same room together, much less “sweethearts.” I liked how the film toned their fights down. I also loved how they beefed up Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) role here.
There is just so much wrong with this movie and it’s literally making me angry just thinking about them. It’s literally a pointless time waster that does nothing to advance the story and do I mention they take 2 ½ hours to tell us and show us almost NOTHING!? This was my favorite movie franchise (I gave the first 4 movies As) until Alfonso Cuarón came along and turned it into some weird Art House wannabe. I still adore this cast and most likely watch this movie at least one more time when the Imax version comes out, but I don’t particularly like this world anymore. As an adaptation it is just horrible and getting worse and worse. Even as part it’s own “internal” film franchise, completely separate from the books it completely fails.
Final Grade D-
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