Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Review

Harry Potter love runs deep in my family - my sisters and cousins combined have read the books too many times to count (although they do keep track and are quite proud of it). The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as I am a big Harry Potter fan as well.

The movies will never be as good as the books and shouldn't be compared to one another. They are 2 different mediums and lend themselves to different types of storytelling. I've always tried to view the movies as a works completely separate from the books. This objectivity usually leads me to think very highly of the movies, despite their differences from the books. But, this movie left me a little disappointed.

It is clear that the movie's attention is focusing on 3 aspects of the book: the emerging adolescent affection of Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione; Draco's journey as a new Death Eater; and the relationship of Dumblebore and Harry Potter, and with it Dumbledore's legacy.

I think that the movie portrayed the complexities of adolescent relationships - love, crushes, friends, competition, heart break, anger etc very well. And I enjoyed that part of the movie. There was great character development and I feel that it set the stage very well for the 7th movie. But, I feel that the rest of it was very lacking.

Dumbledore and Harry's journey to learn all that they can about Voldemort and the Horcruxes should have been the main focus of the movie. The hours that they spent together unraveling the mystery of Voldemort, and thereby strengthening their relationship, makes the ending all that more tragic. Simply showing one of the memories and moving on with very little discussion of its significance is not adequate.

Judging by the plot elements from the book that were either omitted or left in the movie and the cinematography, it is clear that David Yates wanted the focus of the movie to be on Dumbledore. And yet there were many missed opportunities to do this. More of the plot should've focused on Dumbledore and Harry as they work together to determine what all of the Horcruxes are. Because there is very little discussion between Harry and Dumbledore, Harry is just an observer. He views the memories that Dumbledore has collected, is instructed by Dumbledore to get one more and that's it. Because Harry isn't involved in the discovery process, we as the audience aren't either. There is nothing to draw us in. We aren't there in the room with them as they figure out what makes Voldemort tick.

Because the movie focuses so little on Dumbledore and Harry's time together, the ending is not very climatic. There is no great loss because there was no great gain to begin with. You have to spend time developing a relationship if there is to be any emotional effect when that relationship is ended. Yes, the movie can only be so long and things have to be cut to achieve this. But, I feel that the movie missed a huge theme in the book and that left the movie feeling very hollow. Plus, there was that strange scene at the Burrow that was not in the book and seemed to come out of left field. Surely that scene could've been sacrificed to obtain more character development for Dumbledore and Harry.

Additionally, less time should've been spent on showcasing the CGI - yes, we know you can make amazing computer generated images, we get it. But, really at the end of the day, it is meaningless. I don't pay money to sit and watch synthetic images on a large screen. First and foremost, the movie must tell a story and I don't feel that this movie told the story very well.

I know that when books are adapted to movies, not all the material makes it to the silver screen. Story lines that don't serve the theme of the movie must be cut in order to produce a cohesive work. I am not looking for the movie to be a prefect re-creation of the book. But, in this case, the movie did not adequately communicate a theme that it was clearly trying to.

I do have to say, that this would be one of the harder HP books to turn in to a movie. There is a lot of exposition, which makes a compelling book, but would make a very boring movie. I don't know exactly how this should've been handled. But, I do know that what was portrayed in the movie was lacking real depth.

Bottom line - the movie was just o.k. It is always wonderful to visit the world of Harry Potter and I automatically like the movies for bringing me there. But, this movie left me disappointed. It failed to tell the story that I know it was trying to tell.

This post is very long, and really, I could go on for a while longer, but won't. If you made it to the end of this review, you must really want to hear what I have to say about Harry Potter. Either that, or you completely disagree with what I have to say and are seething at my audacity of criticising a Harry Potter movie. If it's the latter, I have a feeling, I'll be hearing about it.

1 comment:

Lanette said...

Amber, I agree with you. My own little post about the movie is shamed by your much more insightful one :)

I am crazy about the books, and have never really loved the movies (likely because I fail at viewing them as different). I thought this one was about as well-done as the rest, but I definitely agree that it could've been more engaging and the Harry-Dumbledore relationship didn't really thrive. The death at the end didn't feel even a hundredth as tragic as it did in the book. Oh, and yeah! The burrow scene was so random, and definitely could've been sacrificed for something substantial and in the book.

I thought the movie just ok too, but I guess my low expectations were exceeded so I wasn't disappointed. :)