Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

August 18, 2010

I like this movie a lot.  The last half hour is (necessarily) super depressing and it ends on a bad note but that will be fixed when they finish the series (assuming that they don’t mess it up a la Return of the King).  For the moment I though I can say without reservation that it was breathtakingly beautiful … and very funny.  The teen romances that start to build up in the story make for a lot of humor.  One of the things that makes it work the most for me is how comfortable all the actors seem with each other – they have actually all been friends for as long as their characters have and it makes for nice screen chemistry (see above).  The movie does a lot of things oddly but on the whole I can forgive it anything … for the following reasons:

The Score is Fantastic: I can’t possibly rave enough about how much I love the musical score by Nicholas Hooper which is odd because I don’t love his score for Order of the Phoenix nearly as well.   The subtle waltz rhythm to Harry and Ginny’s love theme knocks me sideways.  The drama over some of the action sequences is note perfect and the menace of, for example, Snape and the Unbreakable Vow is truly unsettling.  Slughorn’s Confession, which is really a bit of a Lily Potter theme, nearly brings me to tears.

The added details are delightful: I love that Hermione is working in the library.  Its not in the book – I don’t think Madame Pince would willingly let any student shelve her books – put its perfectly in character and it works for the movie version.  I ADORE the scene it sets up where she and Harry talk about Slughorn’s party and the danger from girls wielding love potions.

“She’s only interested in you because she thinks you’re the Chosen One.”

“But, I am the chosen one.”

Also the way that Slughorn’s party is illustrated is great – McLaggen is a thankless role that whom-ever-that-is does brilliantly.  I didn’t even mind Harry’s non-cannon flirting with the girl in the shop at the beginning.  It works.

The things they screw up are funny: I think its hilarious the way the movies throw Harry and Hermione together and then have to work so hard to separate them again all the time.  For some reason the movies have always downplayed Ron and emphasized Hermione in the importance, skill and utility of the trio.  Hermione is on the ball and Ron is goofily distracted – snoring, looking blank, pigging out, tripping etc.  I mostly try to ignore it.  However in this movie its taken to whole new levels.  It shows up in the blocking: the last scene on top of the astronomy tower shows Harry and Hermione leaning out at the rail rehashing the plot and checking that the audience didn’t miss anything important while Ron sits in the background looking at the floor.  She even gets his line; “Ron says its ok” meaning Harry and Ginny.  Its all so strange and unnecessary.

The result of all this is that we now have Hermione set up as a brilliant, bold and very, very stylish teen beauty who is supposedly head over heals for a boorish prat who has to be helped onto the Quiddich team.  Any viewer in their right mind would decide she’d be better off with Harry.  A conclusion further compounded by the fact that Ron and Ginny are both demonstrably with other people and Harry and Hermione spend a lot of time consoling each other about it, one way and another.  So what does the movie do about it?

They have to work constantly to throw up barriers between them, visually.  At the burrow when Harry arrives, Hermione runs down the stairs and hugs him and then pulls back, grabs him by the shoulders and pushes him away.  After the Gryffindor win where Ron kisses Lavender, Harry goes out to find her crying on the steps.  The most natural thing in the world would be for him to put an arm around her shoulder to comfort her but instead he sits down on the step below her and sort of leans in slightly so that she lean on his shoulder.  Its a beautifully awkward  moment and I laugh out loud every time I see it.

from the amazing mugglenet.com forum

And yet somehow the movie manages to stay serious: Its even creepy.  The Slughorn memory is really well done from start to finish and Harry’s relationship with Dumbledore seems appropriately unhealthy all over the place … as it should be.  The scene in the cave scares me every time and I have to sniffle when I watch all the students raise their wands to Dumbledore and erase the Dark Mark.

The one thing that really gets me: It does make me ABSOLUTELY-CAPSLOCK-CRAZY that Dumbldore doesn’t incapacitate Harry under the cloak before the final confrontation.  That changes EVERYTHING.  If he could have moved there’s just no way that a person as brave/reckless wouldn’t have jumped out and got himself killed in the aftermath.  Its the perfect symbolism for his general inability to prevent the chain of events.  And its the way that he knows, really knows, that Dumbledore is dead and that its not a trick – because the spell on him breaks.  Grah.

But that reminds me … Draco Malfoy totally steals the show: Its partly just because his scene are shot in my favorite two locations among all of the Hogwarts sets, of course.  And the lovely and eery musical theme is also great.  I loved the way they show him testing the vanishing cabinet, first with the apple and then with the birds.  But also Tom Felton does a brilliant job with the part.  I’m just overwhelmed with the pathos in his whole portrayal of the role.

I can’t wait to see where they go from here.  I’m tapping my toes for November.

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One Response to “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)”

  1. epbeaumont Says:

    Great reviews. The movie of Half-Blood Prince was much maligned by some fans, but now I have a benchmark for “show, don’t tell”: Tom Felton’s performance as Draco. He doesn’t have that many spoken lines but nobody forgets him.

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