Sunday, October 16, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2008)

Director: David Yates
Writers: J.K. Rowling (novel), Steve Kloves (screenplay)
Composer: Nicholas Hooper


Cast:
[returning cast]
Harry Potter- Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley- Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger- Emma Watson
Professor Dumbledore- Michael Gambon

Ginny Weasley- Bonnie Wright
Neville Longbottom- Matthew Lewis
Draco Malfoy- Tom Felton
Professor McGonagall- Maggie Smith
Professor Snape- Alan Rickman (RIP 2016)

Hagrid- Robbie Coltrane

Fred and George Weasley- James and Oliver Phelps

Lupin- David Thewlis
Mrs. Weasley- Julie Walters
Mr. Weasley- Mark Williams
Bellatrix Lestrange- Helena Bonham Carter
[newcomers]

Horace Slughorn- Jim Broadbent
Narcissa Malfoy- Helen McCrory
Lavender Brown- Jessie Cave

Write-up:

Opening Comments
Looking over my previous entry, which I wrote about in January... oh man, 2016 needs to end soon... too many great people have died since David Bowie and Alan Rickman... some of old age, so I don't feel nearly as bad about them.
Just please, no one else... Prince was the deepest cut of all, but at least when I listen to him, I can trick my mind into believing he's still alive. His spirit certainly is.

Anyway... onto the movie...

For starters...

By the time the movie came out, I'd only read the book once and it wasn't as fresh in my head. Meaning that I didn't pick the movie apart and say how they skipped a certain scene from the book or reinterpreted some things. If there were any changes, they made sense and the overall story pretty much stayed the same.

If you read my "Order of the Phoenix" post, this might be a bit of a reprieve. Although there are one or two scenes I could nit-pick at. More on that later...

Firstly, there was a mighty big spoiler about this book that has worked its way into pop culture. And by that, I mean it was referenced on "Big Bang Theory." Leonard run off to Penny's apartment because Sheldon spoiled the main event in the Half-Blood Prince. Then again, Leonard waited until that particular time to start reading the books...

I'm not sure if there's any truth to this rumor, but I heard there was a midnight book release where people were still waiting in line and someone who got their book ahead of them ran down the line and shouted the spoiler.

Seriously, this turn of events was like the major spoiler of Games of Thrones...

By the way, I will be mentioning it further down the line. If not in this entry, then in the 2nd Deathly Hallows post.

The Story
Spoilers ahead... read the books!!
The wizarding world has now accepted the fact Voldermort is back from the dead. And it's just a matter of time before the world crumbles apart. The only things keeping things generally stable is that fact Harry Potter and Dumbledore are alive. Because of Harry, there is hope. And because of Dumbledore, Hogwarts is still a safe haven.

We begin our journey with Harry when Dumbledore takes him a trip. His mission: convince a former Hogwarts professor to return. Horace Slughorn is reluctant at first, but because he gravitates towards exceptionally talented students. He even has a shelf of photographs of students he had that later became famous or have connections to famous wizards and witches.
It later becomes clear that Harry is to get close to Slughorn because he has something valuable for Dumbledore's plan to put an end Voldermort.

On the other side of things, Snape meets with Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy, wife of the now-disgraced Lucius Malfoy and Draco Malfoy's mom.
Draco has been assigned a particular difficult, potentially dangerous task, and Narcisssa asks him to protect him. And he agrees to make this Unbreakable Vow.

While with his friends in Diagon Alley, Harry follows Draco Malfoy to a store in Knockturn Alley called Borgin & Burkes. Based on what he witnesses, he believes that Malfoy has become a Death Eater, one of Voldermort's circle of followers.

Eventually, we get to Hogwarts where a lot is going on. Slughorn is the new potions teacher. Harry is finally doing well in potions class thanks to a used potions book said to be property of "the half-blood Prince" and Snape finally gets his chance to be Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Ron gets a position on the Gryffindor Quidditch team and a new girlfriend. Hermione also comes to grips with her own feelings about Ron and Harry is doing the same regarding Ginny Weasley.

At the same time, Harry has regular meetings with Dumbledore where they go into Voldermort's past to learn more about him. And thanks to a memory they recover from Slughorn, they learn about Horcruxes--a object a person uses to hide a piece of their soul, which allows them immortality.

Throughout, we also have a number of incidents where Dumbledore was the intended target, but other students wind up getting hurt instead.

Highlights
For starters, Jim Broadbent is a great addition to the cast as Slughorn. I didn't remember liking this character quite as much in the book. The whole thing about him "collecting" students as if he could take credit for their achievements because he taught them... seemed a bit egotistical to me. At least in the movie, he can have a good sense of humor about things, but also heart in the times that really mattered.

My favorite scene has to be when Harry takes the Felix Felicius (basically a "liquid luck" potion) to talk to Slughorn and he seems to be high on some odd sort of adrenaline. Lots of great comedic lines. But also when Slughorn finally levels it with Harry, it was a great emotional scene and it harkens back to when Harry's parents were killed. Not just Harry embracing his destiny, but more background information.

Draco Malfoy gets a lot of great character development. It seems in the beginning that he was just a pompous bully from a rich family. But he gets more dimensions and Tom Felton does a great job bringing that out of him.
Harry, while he was right to be suspicious, you have to admit he goes too far at one point. And I can't help but wonder (as I'm sure a lot of people have)- how the hell did he not get expelled for what he did to Malfoy? Especially since Snape catches him afterwards...
The chemistry between the young actors and actresses really shined here. They've gotten so close after spending years working together, you'd think this was just another normal day. The Ron and Hermione relationship really gets tested here, particularly how Hermione feels about Ron.

To his credit, though, Rupert Grint does have a few great comedic moments in the movie. First, I believe, was a scene added for the movie. Harry and Ron were goofing off during a free period where they would have had Potions. Professor McGonagall, in her own dry humor way, breaks up the party. At the end, she adds "take Mr. Weasley with you, he looks far too happy over there."
Then later Ron is crippled by a love potion originally intended for Harry. The sheer goofiness is worth all the laughs. But this being a Harry Potter, things do have to get serious.

While the climax isn't as substantial as it was in the book, the tension brought in by the 3rd act.... it's catastrophic. The bad guys get the upper hand in the situation and everyone can feel the devastation of it.

The build-up of Harry and Dumbledore's "lessons" on defeating Voldemort leads up to finding a Horcrux. and it's easily one of the most troubling, scariest scenes in all of the movies. Neither of the two goes completely unscathed.

On a final positive note, it's great to see Quidditch back in the Harry Potter movies. We got short-changed at the Quidditch cup and absolutely no Quidditch in the 5th movie (where Harry, Fred and George get banned for beating up Malfoy... at least I think they beat him up, it's been a while since I read the book).
Ron finally gets his time to shine and it happens thanks to a little white lie from Harry.

Lowlights 
While there aren't a lot of lowlights in this movie, considering it's based on a great book, there's always going to be nitpicks.

First of all, Harry's first scene makes no sense. He meets a waitress at a restaurant, she's into it and Dumbledore shows up to whisk Harry away for their mission.
In the book, there are a great scene where Dumbledore finally tells off the Dursleys for their mistreatment of Harry. All the movie scene does is kill time and set up the fact Harry is a teenage interested in girls.
I also never really got Harry and Ginny becoming an item. It just felt so random to me... about as random as how Harry and Cho were broken up in the last movie. I would have been fine if Harry never wound up with anybody. At least Ron and Hermione made sense.

Also: Snape finally gets to become Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and we don't see him teach a single class? Talk about a rip-off. All that build-up through the course of the films for nothing. I can't even remember in the book if we had a scene with him teaching.

I could nitpick on Luna finding Harry on the train after Malfoy cursed him... in the book, it was Tonks, who was there to help guard the castle after the last attacks from Death Eaters. She and Lupin become an item in this book, something that was barely touched on in the movie. But for me that was another random coupling... just didn't make sense.

I could live without the "Battle of Hogwarts" scene that led to a couple deaths and Bill Weasley (Ron's oldest brother) becoming a werewolf.
But I can't understand the scene where The Burrow is attacked. It wasn't in the book and really served no purpose other than for Harry and Ginny to have a good battle scene together. The result was the Weasley house being cast into flames... yet the house was perfectly fine in the next movie. To me, it just felt like they decided they needed an extra action scene. And the explanation I found of them needing to bring the fight to Harry to make it more real... sorry, don't buy it.
The Elephant in the Room...

BIG SPOILER ahead
 

Snape killing Dumbledore... that was maybe the biggest blow in the entire series. I wasn't upset about Sirius because I didn't really get to know him until the movies. But this was a guy you thought for invincible. The only wizard Voldemort ever feared. It was one of those things that didn't make sense because you thought he'd always be around. But if we wanted things to get REALLY real for Harry, that was the one thing that made the most sense.

As for Snape being the one doing it... my reaction was "I KNEW IT"... all this time, Snape was meant to be the bad guy. Everyone said how Dumbledore trusted him and therefore we should, but there's just that feeling there where all the pieces only added up one way. Between that scene and the earlier one where he makes the Unbreakable Vow and explains (in the book anyway... I'm sure in the movie if they had the time, they could have done that whole chapter through flashbacks) all the moments he could have killed Harry and why he didn't.
 
Meanwhile, my mom reads it and still believes that it's way too easy to assume Snape is the bad guy and there has to be an explanation.

I'll go into this more in the final entry on this film series... but by the end of it, obviously, only one of us is going to be right about him.

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