Spoiler warning!!!! This is an in-depth analysis and review of the film. Haven’t seen it yet? Haven’t read the book? Don’t want to know anything? Turn back now.
Words could not possibly describe how unbearable it was for me to wait for the film of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince to be released. Of all the books of Harry Potter books, the sixth book had always been my favorite of the bunch. Ever since I truly became a fan about a year ago as a result of an unusual fascination with Alan Rickman (hence my pen-name), I waited for this book to become a movie. I will admit I was one of the fans that wanted to damn Warner Bros. to hell for moving the release date to this July. I know that business will be business and it was their decision; but not only did we all have to wait twice as long for the movie, they also opened the flood gates that would lead to the irrepressible monstrosity we know as the Twilight franchise (sorry to any Twilight fans out there, but nothing will convince me to read those books). I can actually now see the reasoning behind the move. I mean, it turned me into a psycho super-fan. But as I waited for the movie, I had some very real fears about the movie. When I saw the movie of Order of the Phoenix, I wasn't pleased with what director David Yates did to the story. When I found out that he would be directing the rest of the films, all I was saying to myself was "Dear God, please don't mess this one up!” I finally got the opportunity to see Half-blood prince with my friend and her brother the Monday after it was released. Five days later, I saw it again with that same friend along with our mutual friend. And after seeing the movie twice, I managed to scrape together a thorough opinion.
I thought that the film was very well made. The special effects, whether it be audio or visual, were state of the art, much better than when the films started. But the only way I can describe the story, as a fan, was that I was rather disappointed.
As an adaptation, I thought that the film was very poorly written. My impression was this movie was nothing but the skin and bones of what it really is. For a movie that’s three hours long, I feel like I didn't get as much as I could have. I understand that liberties have to be taken to adapt a book of that size into a three hour long movie. I just feel like there may have been more intelligent ways that screenwriter Steve Kloves and David Yates could have achieved that. Many of the major changes that were obviously made were quite pointless, and the sheer lack of detail and mystery was utterly disgusting.
For example, the Half-blood Prince’s book. The book is called Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince for a reason. Harry and Hermione go do whatever they can to try to uncover his identity, and it comes as a shock to all when it’s discovered to be Snape. This plot seemed to get lost in the story and laid by the wayside. And to me, this was almost a crime, as the other films included enough of their respective titles to earn them. Speaking of Snape, what happened to the great debate of Harry Potter?! The way that Kloves and Yates wrote the film, it’s completely obvious that Snape is really a bad guy. Of course, those of us who have read the book or otherwise know better than that. But dear god! Snape’s true allegiance is going to come out of left field for some. This pissed me off not only as a fan of the story, but as a bigger fan of Severus Snape.
By now, as a fan of literature, I’m used to story points being left out of film adaptations due to time constraints. However, it’s one thing to leave things out. It’s a completely different thing to change certain plot points altogether. Several times, I found myself thinking that the diversions from the book made by Kloves and Yates could have been lived without. Not to mention that along with disappointing die-hard fans, they’ve got their work cut out for them to justify some of these changes in future films. I mean, really! The plot problems that may come up could have been easily avoided by leaving the story as Rowling wrote it.
One of the first things that I discovered to really bother me was the progression of Harry's relationship with Ginny. In my neck of the woods, this had to be one of the most anticipated plot twists in the whole damn film series. Not to mention that there are plenty of people out there in chat-room land who love the Harry/Ginny pairing. I was never a fan, but I accepted it. Rowling can’t exactly re-write the book. With all the promotion that this storyline was getting in the media, I was expecting it to be quite well done. What I saw was a very uneven story that ends with no resolution. Firstly, it doesn’t do a thing for Harry’s character that he’s picking up girls in cafes, and then is suddenly into Ginny. From what I remember, I found Harry’s almost immediate attraction to Ginny and his jealousy of Dean Thomas (who’s relationship and eventual break-up (wait a second! Did they even break-up?!) with Ginny went vastly unexplained) to be alright. But the actual romance was almost completely wrong!
Since it seems that the writers deemed it necessary to spare Harry the shit-load of trouble that he gets in with Snape in the book (another change which annoyed me because it not only changed points in the story, but Harry is left to not find out the shit-load of trouble his father and Sirius got in as students), he couldn’t exactly have the first kiss with Ginny the way people (or at least everyone I know) wanted to see. His detention keeps him out of quidditch, Ginny comes in to save the day, Gryffindor wins the quidditch cup, Harry and Ginny just absolutely snog in front of the entire Gryffindor house in their common room, and then they start dating for the rest of the book. I don’t know about anyone else, but I thought that was awesome! It was sudden, it was unexpected, and it was cute! In the movie however, this moment was replaced with Ron and Lavender making out after he wins the first match. While this makes for a touchingly beautiful moment between Hermione and Harry, it leaves the Harry/Ginny story to get off to a slow start. And when the kiss actually does happen, it leads to a major change that may compromise the plot of Deathly Hallows. Harry didn’t go into the room of requirement alone, therefore he doesn’t place the Diadem of Ravenclaw on top of the cabinet where he ultimately hides the Half-blood Prince’s book, and therefore he doesn’t know where the fuck it is when he’ll eventually have to look for it! And furthermore, this change makes the kiss less climactic. If these two fancied each other as much as it appeared in earlier scenes, these two should have gone to town as in the book. And that whole “close your eyes….peck, quick, run hide!” thing, come on! And to top it off, that’s basically where that ends. A brief introduction to something that turns out to be a huge part of Harry’s story. With all the anticipation to actually seeing it, on top of the media coverage of the film, this turned out to be incredibly dissatisfying. I can only hope that they pick it up and make it work in the last two films. After all, this turns out to be love! Not just cute puppy love.
Another thing that annoyed me greatly was the Death Eater attack at The Burrow. If I remember correctly, that did not take place in the book. I find this scene to be rather pointless. Really, Bellatrix and Greyback (who, by the way, they fail to identify verbally) circle the house with flames, lure Harry out (thus luring Ginny out), barely a wand fight, then set the house on fire and escape. It seems to speak to me about how much is going to be cut out of Deathly Hallows now that the Weasleys are homeless. And the icing on the cake with this scene is an almost desperate attempt to introduce the concept of the Lupin/Tonks relationship. First of all, Tonks is already underdeveloped as a character. Then her role, already so small, is cut back to almost non-existent, an example being that she is replaced by Luna Lovegood in the scene when Harry arrives at Hogwarts. Then suddenly she and Lupin are dating, no issues about it. What happened?! Though a small storyline, this one has troubles too. It’s happens prematurely, and it seemed to me that this was only added as a passing glance to acknowledge that it actually does happen. Let’s see what happens next year. Overall, there seemed to be no actual use in this fight scene except to provide a fight scene.
This leads me to my greatest disappointment of all! The Ending!
Aaahhhhhahahhhhh! I could go one for days about this! Alright, firstly, the Death Eaters get in right under every one’s noses. Yes, I know that they do when they actually get in the castle! But they make themselves known! Big battle! Nothing of the sort in the movie! David Yates has made statements that the battle was cut to prevent the story from becoming repetitive, due to the huge battle at the end of Deathly Hallows. But what this did was that it allowed the writers to tell the audience, no, scream at them, that something really bad was about to happen. You could almost see Dumbledore’s death coming a mile away. Instead of increasing the tension, this just makes the ending anti-climactic.
Then comes the actual moment of Dumbledore’s death. Why did Harry have to be fully mobile and hiding instead of being stunned by Dumbledore? It just made Harry look like some kind of coward by just having him watch the whole thing without even trying to intervene. What happened to the Harry who will do anything for those he loves and cherishes? What happened to the Harry who once tried to take on Bellatrix to avenge Sirius? Not to mention that he is not under the invisibility cloak and he is seen and hushed by Snape. I have no clue why that bothers me, but it still bothers me. However, the scene’s saving grace is that the actual act of Snape killing Dumbledore was done to the letter. And for that, I’m incredibly pleased.
But the one thing that gutted me was the absence of Dumbledore’s funeral. I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I was strangely looking forward to this in the movie. It was an emotionally devastating moment and I feel that a character that important deserved that kind of ending. Buy hey! I don’t know their reasoning behind it, and I don’t know the first thing about film making. So I’m not going to argue it. I just wanted to see it.
On a lighter note, while I thought that the writing was borderline ludicrous at some points, I did find some good points about the film’s writing. I found this movie to be genuinely funny. At times, I found myself laughing hysterically, something I don’t usually do. And if I can give Kloves credit for something, it’s that the little moments between characters were wonderful. Whether it be Harry comforting Hermione, Ron’s reaction to drinking a love potion, to Cormac McLaggen up-chucking on Snape’s shoes (the moment my friends call one of the funniest in the film). And I just have to throw this out there. Bravo and a standing ovation to Kloves for the very first line after Harry kisses Ginny, courtesy of Ron “So, did you two do it?” I have never laughed so hard at a movie or line that wasn’t meant to be a comedy.
Now, switching gears, the poor writing seems to have been made up for with excellent performances by the whole cast. It just shows that all these films were very well cast and they picked actors that stand the test of time with these characters. In a lot of cases, the performances have gotten much better as the films progressed. In the case of the younger actors, I can identify with them as I'm still young and can remember those kinds of feelings and experiences from my school days. As for the older actors, I can never really give any of them bad reviews. These films are just examples of what makes them the big names that they are. While there are several roles that disappointingly cut back, like Robbie Coltrane’s portrayal of Hagrid or Evanna Lynch and Matthew Lewis, who both won me over a Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom respectively, the pivotal roles were probably the best of all the films so far.
Daniel Radcliffe always struck me as the perfect Harry Potter. Sure, that opinion has its roots from seeing him as a child in the first film and thinking that he looked exactly the way I would have pictured Harry. But in each of the films, Radcliffe seems to play Harry on such a deep level. He's a young boy with a big destiny, and at the same time, he's your average teenage boy with your average teenage problems. Every time, Radcliffe finds the balance. I think his performance in Half-blood Prince fantastic because he plays a Harry who has somewhat matured. He is totally committed to his mission with Dumbledore in finding out what could bring down Voldemort, while jugging it with his growing feelings for Ginny. And in the end, I love the way he accepts what he has to do and steps up to face his destiny. I have a feeling that I won’t be disappointed with his performances in Deathly Hallows pt. 1 and 2.
Emma Watson to me seems to be one of the actors that improved with age. I credit this to the advancement of Hermione’s character. It’s in this movie that we finally see Hermione have some real emotions, something that I think Watson pulled off without a hitch. I felt truly sorry for her as she mourned her unrequited feelings for Ron, tugging at your heartstrings as she cries on Harry’s shoulder. And her animosity towards Lavender almost makes you want to see Hermione sock her in the jaw. In my opinion, this film shows what Watson is capable of achieving as an actress, an opportunity I don’t think she quite got in the other films.
Rupert Grint successfully takes on the role of comedy relief in this movie. I won’t lie; I haven’t found anything genuinely amusing about his performance since Chamber of Secrets. Since then, I just saw Ron Weasley as a typical, tunnel-visioned teenage boy. I absolutely adore the way Grint bluntly delivers dialogue so that you can’t help but laugh. The scene where Ron consumes Romilda Vane’s love potion was absolutely phenomenal thanks to Grint. It, in my opinion, was the funniest scene in the film and Grint’s best performance to date. But I can only hope that Ron can get a heroic moment in the next two films, one that doesn’t take place on a quidditch pitch.
One person that I was quite surprised by was Bonnie Wright as Ginny. In films past, I was not a fan of her performance. In fact, I can say that I hated her as Ginny. I never found Ginny to be a likable character in the books, and Wright’s portrayal did absolutely nothing to help it. But in Half-blood Prince, that somewhat changed. I found myself seeing Ginny as a character worth liking. I have to say that this was due to the fact that I found Wright’s performance to be much more subtle than in the other films, thus making her more appealing. However, I don’t think she’s quite reached her emotional potential yet.
Another performance that I was surprised by was Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. I just can’t deny that I absolutely hated him in the other films. It seemed rather amateur to me because I know how easy it can be to play someone so mean and nasty. But when I watched Felton in this movie, I felt sorry for him more than anyone else! He delivers an impeccable performance as Malfoy struggles to do Voldemort’s will, even though it is quite clear that he doesn’t want to. It shows a whole new side of Malfoy that we haven’t seen before, a side that shows that he’s not the miserable little shit that we all love to hate. When Felton stood before the bathroom mirror crying, I just wanted to jump through the screen and hug him! This movie shows just how good of an actor Felton really is.
Lavender Brown was a character that I expected to be a character that I would love to hate, and new comer Jessie Cave did not disappoint me. Her obsessive devotion to Ron (and the fiery passion that comes with it) along with her annoyingly high pitched voice makes you really wish that Ron would just wake up and smell the coffee. She plays Lavender as sort of a crazy fan girl who, like all crazy fan girls, just ends up crashing down to earth when faced with reality. And by doing so, she adds to the films comedy relief because it’s almost hard to believe that someone could really be that obnoxious.
It took a while for me to accept Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. This was made obvious by phrases being thrown around my Facebook page such as “Snape didn’t kill Dumbledore, Michael Gambon did!” In Half-blood Prince however, it was quite different. I think this is Gambon’s most Dumbledore-like performance yet. I loved the way he played the dear old headmaster as a man who, somewhat obviously depending on how you look at it, knows he doesn’t have much time left. But he still has a way with words that is just whimsical.
I didn’t quite know what to expect of Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn. I was unfamiliar with his previous work, although I was aware that he’s an Oscar winner. I thought that Broadbent’s portrayal of Slughorn to be positively delightful. He is well meant old man who knows what he’s doing in his line of work. Very much like Dumbledore in a way, and very non-Slytherin like. And yet he also plays him with a bit of guilt, since by the end of the movie we all know that it’s mostly his fault that Voldemort is impossible to kill. Broadbent played Slughorn in a positive light that purges the darkness that Snape held over the Potions classroom.
Which finally brings me to Alan Rickman...
Rickman's portrayal of Severus Snape has never failed to win me over. I'm more of a fan of his than I am of these movies. He's most of the reason of why Snape became my favorite character. Once again, his performance is absolutely amazing. I only wish there were more of him to talk about. With all the pages that Snape is on in the book, I was really excited about that possibility for the movie. My true disappointment! But he makes up for his lack of screen time by completely stealing the scene. His trademark deep velvety voice hypnotizes throughout the movie. And it’s in this film, as with the other films, that shows just how well Rickman knows his character. I could even see the faintest trace of “Why am I doing this?” deep in his eyes at several times. And for me, that sold it!
For a while, I thought as though I was going to walk out without one bad thing to say about Rickman. I thought that I was just going to walk out laughing at my friend’s comments. The only thing she could find wrong with him was that he looked like he had put on a little weight since the last movie. She found it funny to taunt me by throwing around phrases like "male pregnancy", like I noticed (okay...maybe I did notice, but I couldn't care less. Come on, the man is in his sixties. Back the fuck off!) But then we get to the end. Oh no! Snape's altercation with Harry was probably the one scene that I was most looking to seeing played out before me. It could have been a chance for Rickman to play on one of Snape’s weaknesses by being called a coward. It could have been his chance to show the most emotion in these films to date. But what do I get? I get the same…calm…pause filled speech that he uses throughout the rest of the damn movie. I don’t blame Rickman as much as I blame David Yates, but all I know is that this was the phrase that was echoing through my head “Come on, man! Freak the fuck out!!” But other than that, I find absolutely nothing wrong with Rickman’s performance, and I don’t care how biased you think I am for saying so.
In conclusion, I didn’t think that this movie was a bad movie. It is an example of how far modern filmmaking has come as far as special effects go. It’s an entertaining film for people who haven’t read the books, and even though many fans would be somewhat disappointed by the adaptation, I think most people would be satisfied. And the acting in this film is among the best in the film series. I only hope that I can walk out of both movies of Deathly Hallows and be completely satisfied, although I might have a hard time with that. I hated the way Deathly Hallows ended.