Char Says/Ash Says: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Reviewed

19Jul09

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If you couldn’t tell from the title of our blog and the unofficial Harry Potter Week, we like to obsess over our favorite books and movies. Pretty much anything that catches our fancy is fair game, so of course we were both standing in line with screaming teenagers (feeling old) at midnight on Wednesday morning to be the first to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. What did two every day run of the mill obsessively devoted Harry Potter fans think of the sixth movie? We’re going to let you listen in on our own post-movie conversation (that spanned 1600 miles).

Char says: First off, BEST. POTTER. MOVIE. BY. FAR. Blew all the others, including Order of the Phoenix, out of the water. I’ve been really critical of all the other movies, and this is the first one I think to really do the book justice. I still have a few complaints/letdowns, but (unlike the other movies) those complaints didn’t diminish the overall awesomeness of the movie. I laughed. I cried. It moved me, Ash.

Ash says: Okay, so I loved it too. Maybe not as much as Char (I think Order of the Phoenix is still my absolute favorite), but I still very much enjoyed myself and was mostly pleased with the adaptation. David Yates, you win at life.

Char says: My biggest beef with the preceding Harry Potter movies was that it seemed obvious they were rushed. Unlike awesome adaptations like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter 1-4 seemed like they were just trying to get the movies into the theaters as fast as possible to cash in on a popular franchise, and I think it showed in the quality of the adaptation to screen. We’re a loyal fan base and its an enduring story. We weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The richness of the story deserved more time to think about how to translate that to screen, and I think David Yates has done that with 5 & 6. I’m glad that their splitting up book 7 because a lot goes down that needs to be unraveled.

Ash says: Oh man, romantic teenage angst angst angst! It was cute at times (Hermione hiding from McLaggen in the curtains), annoying at times (seductress-Ginny and her “take my hand, Harry” and “close your eyes so you won’t be tempted Harry!” speech), ridiculous at times (hey, Dumbledore died and that really sucks, but don’t worry Ron is TOTALLY okay with you snogging his sister), and heartbreaking at times (Hermione crying with Harry in the hallway, and both of them just hurting so badly because the objects of their affections are being SO STUPID). At the end of the day? Holy moly, I’m glad I made it through those teenage years. You couldn’t pay me enough money to go back to that!

Char says: My loves in this movie: Ron/Hermione/Lavender triangle. Harry/Ron/Ginny awkwardness. Everything Luna Lovegood. She is very quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. Everything having to do with Liquid Luck was hilarious from Harry beating Hermione to Harry’s use of it. How incredible the final scenes with Dumbledore’s death were. I’m one of those people who loves movies that make me cry, movies and books that make my heart wrench for the characters. I could hardly breathe during Harry and Snape’s fight while Snape was escaping. Also, the effects of how the Death Eaters get around. All that black smoke is so badass.  The Malfoys. You really just start to feel bad for them in this movie.

Ash says: Ahh, Dumbledore’s death scenes were such tearjerkers, loved them too. My other loves? Luna’s lion head – even MORE awesome in real life than it was in the book. Lovesick Rupert Grint had me laughing the ENTIRE time. The touching moments of Harry and Hermione supporting each other. Possibly topping all those was the focus on Malfoy’s story line: the way that Yates gradually showed his increasing psychological strain was pitch perfect.
And lastly, hoohmygosh. Weasley in Keeper uniform? He could be my king anytime.

Char says: My biggest complaint this movie was the change in Harry and Ginny’s first kiss for several reasons. Number 1: They left out the Quidditch Cup and the party the kiss happens at so the little Quidditch that is there seems a bit out of place. Number 2: Like Ash says, it makes Hermione’s line at the end about “BTW, Ron’s fine with you dating his sister” really awkward. Number 3: We miss out on seeing Ravenclaw’s crown in the Room of Requirment when Harry hides the book for himself, a key moment Harry must remember in the final book. Number 4: We have to listen to that cheese out of Ginny’s mouth in the Room of Requirement.

Ash says: Parts that had me twitching in my seat? Dumbledore’s sudden interest in Harry’s romantic life (say WHAT? so frigging weird). Character design for Narcissa Malfoy…I guess I’ve just been looking at Makani’s (include link) version of her for too long, and this movie version just did NOT fit for me.

Char says: Other than my major complaint, the only other thing I didn’t like was the burning of the Burrow and Ginny. Was Ginny this flat of a character in the book? I don’t remember. I haven’t read it since it first came out. No offense to the girl who plays her. She can only do so much with those few, simple lines. Seriously, she’s supposed to win over the Chosen One? And the whole scene with the Burrow was just like, really? Can we not fly over the fire ring and grab Harry and Ginny before Bellatrix has a chance to blow up the house? They’re wizards!

Ash says: I know! Burning the Burrow? Where in the world did THAT come from? Sure, it was BRILLIANT aesthetically, with stellar cinematography, editing, score, the whole shebang. But still, what in the world? My friends and I were talking about it afterward, and could only come up with a few (largely unsatisfactory) reasons for this:

    A. It highlights the helplessness of everybody sans Dumbledore. But isn’t there going to be enough of that in the next two movies?
    B. The film needed some action? So let’s throw in some incomprehensible plot stuff! And burn something down! The Burrow! Let’s burn the Burrow!
    C. More Helena Bonham Carter! Which is almost always a good thing in these movies because she’s flipping insane and NO ONE could do a better Bellatrix. But giving her a chance to kill Harry and then taking it away just makes her appear much less powerful than she is.

Anyone actually have any good reasons for this very odd choice?

Char says: I read an Associated Press review of this movie and I liked how they summed it up saying something to the effect that Half-Blood Prince let’s all the magic take a backseat to the characters and the story, and that’s what makes this movie better. Harry and his friends and enemies are front and center, and the magic, instead of taking over the movie, weaves throughout in the form of David Yates’ awesome transitions between scenes, time and place; catalysts for action, humor and tragedy, and even just the way the movie looks. David Yates, you win at life. I marveled at Radcliffe, Grint and Watson’s growth and maturity as actors, and as always was rocked by Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham Carter and David Thewlis (even though he was barely in it, he’s still an awesome Lupin). Also, hats off to Tom Felton and Evanna Lynch to bringing Draco and Luna to beautiful silver screen life. I’m still trying to figure out what makes a film adaptation of a book a success. The film has to have the book’s essence I think, despite losing beloved scenes or making up new ones. If it has it’s essence, I think it’s a hit, but I don’t know how to tell if the essence of the book is there other than you just know. Walking out of the theater into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I just knew.

Ash says: I think creating movie adaptations from books is difficult to do successfully. As a viewer, your experience can be so subjective: depending on if you read the book, if you liked the book, what you liked about the book… Overall though, I think an adaptation is worth its weight in gold if:

1. The movie adds depth and life to the world the book created. The recent Pride and Prejudice did this with its beautiful and appropriate score, and sweeping shots of the wildly gorgeous English countryside. Lord of the Rings did this in the visual vocabulary and history created for each race of Middle Earth, from armor and weaponry to tapestries and architecture. Movies have the opportunity to be incredibly thoughtful in their visual presentation.

2. It aesthetically and appropriately shares the meaning and message of the book. Obviously not every scene is going to get included, each character is not going to receive the development the book gave them, favorite parts are going to be sacrificed – these are not the strengths of movies, and it is not WHY movie adaptations are made. If you come out of the movie upset that a favorite scene was missing, you’re missing the point of the adaptation. The filmmaker’s duty is not to individual characters, but to the story as a whole and (in my opinion, most importantly) the driving message behind the work of literature. Sometimes this means that new scenes must be added, while other plot elements are synthesized or completely cut…and I’m okay with that, as long as there is justification for it.
So how did the Half Blood Prince do? One of my favorite things about director David Yates is his imaginative additions to the Hogwarts world. No, his flying Death Eaters vs. Order of the Phoenix battle from movie #5 were not canon…but they were SO COOL, and they added a palpable, other-worldly dimension to the battle scene that was appropriate. Also incredible from the last movie were the transitions between scenes, with flying in and out of the newspaper photographs. Brilliant way to sum up information. In Half Blood Prince, few things stuck out to me as inherently new and brilliant in this way – possibly because the wizarding world is pretty well established by the 6th movie/book. The exception to this are the memory scenes: I love love LOVED the smoky, hazy aspects to them, with the most important parts in focus, but blurred around the edges. Such wonderful aesthetic choices!

The driving message of Rowling’s stories have always been centered in love, the power of friendship, the trials of youth, and an enduring hope in the good of humanity. Each scene and character detail highlighted in the film seemed chosen to further support and enhance these themes, which shone through beautifully in nearly every minute of film. In the fights, the reconciliations, and the support from within the Trio. In Malfoy’s incredibly poignant and raw struggles with the concept of murder. In the last moments and decisions of Dumbledore’s life, all of which are focused on those around him. And lastly and most strongly, in the moments after his death, when hundreds of tiny lights from Hogwarts wands reach out to honor him, each of which provides enough feeble light to blind out the Dark Mark from the skies above Hogwarts.

What did you think of the movie?

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3 Responses to “Char Says/Ash Says: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Reviewed”

  1. 1 Kara McG

    Awesome reviews, ladies! 🙂

  2. I say: “meh”. In OotP the screenwriter & director focused on getting the main themes and “mood” across in the film. I felt that HBP went back to the old Goblet trend of “fit in as much as you can and gloss over whatever you can’t”. It may not have felt rushed, but it felt long. And left out REALLY important things. And in some instances didn’t make sense at all. I go into that more here: http://joel.thegoodmanblog.com/2009/07/19/accio-realitas/

    Just my two-cents. Think I’m in line more with ash on this one. But probably even not as much enthralled as she was.

  3. 3 Melinda

    very comprehensive review. It was fun to read what each of you thought. Can’t wait to buy this film and add it to our collection.


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