First off, all my cards on the table. I’ve read the first few books of the Potter series, I think it was the first 4. They were okay, but I usually don’t enjoy reading about the tortured love lives of teenagers so I didn’t make it to book 5 or beyond. I’ve seen all the movies. My wife loves the books and the movies, so I know what happens in each book, and I knew what was going to happen in this film.
There are spoilers in this review. You have been warned.
I saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince yesterday, opening day in the UK. The showing we were at (5:30pm) was sold out and packed. There were people from the age of 1 to 70. It was an awesome example of broad appeal cinema. The young lad behind us needs to learn that when you’re trying to chat up a young girl, you need to let them talk more and force them to listen less. I know his full life story and the fact that he’s had 18 jobs. Never been sacked mind you, but he has had a lot of jobs. And he only left university last year. Anyway.
HP6 (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince being too long to type over and over again) is a long film at two and a half hours. I appreciate the book is pretty big and if you want to get the main points into the film it has to be long. However, it’s also a slow film, it’s certainly not an action adventure movie. There are a lot of character pieces where we see the terrible trio developing their lives (Harry, Ron, Hermione) and relationships. I’ll come out and say it straight – the best thing about this movie were those three with Ron and Hermione stealing the performances as usual (I rate them both above Potter and always have). Their interplay, humour, and obvious friendship off-screen gives them a life on-screen that you can’t ignore. As I alluded to above, I don’t like re-living teenage romance but the three of them pull it off with aplomb and the writing and acting make it a joy to watch. Those were the strongest moments in the movie for me. The second strongest element was the relationship and activities of Harry and Dumbledore.
The scene where Harry forces Dumbledore to consume the potion is probably the most moving moment of the entire film, which perhaps paints it grander than it is since I felt the film was generally pretty flat and emotionless, but never-the-less that moment had some impact and was well played.
Sadly, the movie had too many things missing for me to rate it anything more than average. As someone who hasn’t read the book, there were too many things left unexplained, too many moments where I thought ‘huh’ and too often I felt something bigger was going on that was glossed over. I spoke to Grete afterwards and she confirmed that in the book there is much more attention paid to the Half Blood Prince’s book of the title, and there is a pitched battle when the Death Eaters make it to the school. The book of the title makes an early appearance and has some focus but is then mostly ignored. Malfoy is weak and non-threatening and the Death Eaters are almost clown-like and more amusing than scary. Although there appears to be a huge war brewing, the movie chooses to focus almost exclusively on recovering a couple of memories from an old teacher, which don’t really live up to the claims of Dumbledore (necessary to save the world) and I learned that in the book it makes a lot more sense and provides a lot more background.
For fans of the book I’m sure it’s no issue, they can fill in the blanks as they watch, for fans of the movies only however, it leaves too many unanswered questions and requires too much acceptance of stuff to make it a truly engaging experience.
I felt overall, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was a missed opportunity; with some more aggressive editing out of the pure social elements we could have been given a wizard pitched battle and a more threatening Death Eater experience. I just hope if you go to see this you don’t have any young kids with short attention spans.