Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review - Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (movie)

I still have sadly not caught up on my Harry Potter reading. I'm still back pushing through the Goblet of Fire. I had hoped to catch up before seeing the latest Potter movie, but alas, it wasn't to be. Maybe I'll catch up before Deathly Hollows comes out. :)

Anyway, Lynette and I took the boys to see Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince last weekend. The boys haven't seen all of the previous films or have seen 'parent censored' versions where we skipped them past some of the more intense/frightening scenes. We were told that this film would be fine even for our 7 year old...for the most part that was true. There were a couple of frightening scenes, but mostly it worked out well.

Going into the movie, my expectations were based on previous Potter books & films. I figured we'd have Harry & team finding some new strange problem caused by Voldemort and set to destroy the world. While true from a high level, this wasn't exactly the case.

I viewed this film as more of a bridge to the final book/movie in the series. Having not read the final book, I can't know for sure, but it certainly felt that Half Blood Prince was more about setting things up for a final confrontation rather than providing a wholly cohesive stand-alone story.

There were a lot of points that felt wildly disjointed or out of place. The opening scene has the death-eaters whisk down Diagon Alley and kidnap someone (I think it was the wand-dealer, but it was never fully acknowledged and only even barely alluded to when the kids make their way down Diagon later). The trailer hinted that the evil would be moving from the Magic world to the Muggle world...and we saw that briefly (using the exact scenes from the trailer), but otherwise, any Muggle interaction was absent.

I had some problems with the character involvement, particularly Dumbledore. He has Harry help him try and figure out a 'memory' that happened between Tom Riddle and an old Hogwarts professor. Dumbledore seemed totally surprised by the information they gather, and yet he opens his desk drawer to show Harry that he has already been tracking down exactly the magic that they now revealed.

There have been a number of critiques stating that Dumbledore should have realized that Tom Riddle was evil and I was set to disagree, but watching the 'memories' play out, it is rather striking that Dumbledore didn't keep a closer eye on Tom. Here's a kid who Dumbledore learns (with their first meeting) steals from fellow orphans and hurts/kills pets and harms those who tease him. This definitely doesn't seem like a well-adjusted kid. I'll grant Dumbledore the benevolent factor of a mentor trying to "fix" a troubled child...but it seems he and the other Hogwarts staff left Tom Riddle to his own wicked devices far too often.

The romantic interludes in the movie were very comical but also slightly annoying. I'm glad to see the kids finally having some truly adolescent emotional turmoil, but there were points that it felt a little too 'soap opera.' Ron did well as the dumb-struck monkey in love. Hermione was good as the spurned secret lover. The Harry/Ginnie romance seemed to blossom from nowhere though. Through the first ~third of the movie, Ginnie was definitely 'attached' to another character. Then suddenly, she and Harry are an item...with no explanation at all. Part of this could be a directorial assumption that readers knew what happened, but for the non-readers watching, it was a sudden leap.

The general plot of the movie was decent but underplayed and didn't reach its full potential. A few things confused me about the plot.

SPOILER ALERT

Draco was given an ultra high profile mission and Snape vowed to help him achieve it or to carry it out himself.

For most of the film, the mission appears to involve fixing up the disappearing box. This mission didn't seem overly dangerous or problematic, but I figured if Draco was caught, he might need some protection. My assumption was that the box would be used to transport the Death Eaters into Hogwarts for an attack from inside the castle walls.

My assumption was generally correct, but not entirely.

By the end of the movie, we realize that Draco is charged with the task of killing Dumbledore. First of all, this seems like a ludicrous task to put on a young, unproven wizard in training. Sure, Harry is tasked with destroying Voldemort, but that is a mission of fate rather than of assignment...and Harry only muddles through successfully through sheer luck and help from friends. Having Voldemort ask Draco to kill Dumbledore seemed absolutely ridiculous...like asking some random college ROTC kid to try and kill the president when he visited the campus. Totally out of place.

Still, they had Snape to help him finish his mission...great. Snape could 'maybe' carry it off, especially since Dumbledore trusted him. OK, that works.

But no...that leaves the question of the disappearing box. Why is that there? Oh yeah...so the Death Eaters can come through, kick over some tables, break some windows, light an outbuilding on fire and leave. Sure, they rushed up to watch the final encounter with Dumbledore, but WHY else did they stop by? That would have been a perfect opportunity to knock out a few other powerful wizards...maybe not from the Order of the Phoenix, but at least wipe out some of the professors who help Harry out.

Or perhaps Voldemort himself should have come through and taken Harry down at Hogwarts with the Death Eaters there to back him up. After all, with Dumbledore down, Harry was essentially unprotected.

For an evil genius, this plan was so full of holes, I'm amazed it warranted such a prominent part of the story.

END SPOILER

Overall, the movie was a fun, action adventure. The love sequences were cheesy comic relief. The overall learning & plot progress was minimal with the exception of wiping out a central character and identifying a quest for the next book/movie. Special effect were enjoyable...I like that (mostly) the Potter series keeps the effects in check so they don't detract from the overall story.

While I had fun, I came away less than fully fulfilled. I felt like I left without much gain. The few plot advancements were things that could have been given in 15-20 minutes of recap rather than 2+ hours.

**
2 stars (out of 5)

1 comment:

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Yah. I didn't love this one either.