Jenn and I went to see the latest installment in the Harry Potter movie franchise based upon the books. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was a worthy addition, better than all of them except the first movie.
They made great use of effects where it was called for (and some where it was not, you’d think they’d save the effects budget for important stuff) and stuck (mostly) faithfully to the storyline from the book.
Spoiler warning. I discuss here the movie and its ending at length. There are elements that are new and not in the book. If you don’t want to know, stop now, see the movie, then come back and tell me I got this all wrong.
Sticking to the storyline (mostly) was unfortunately my major source of criticism. There’s no way that the movie makers can faithfully recreate the book and keep the film under 6 hours. There is just too much going on. They tried their best to throw in all the scenes which diehard fans would have clamored for if excised. However, at the end of the film, I realized that a lot of those scenes were throwaway and didn’t advance the plot of the movie.
For example, they pulled out Quidditch again for this movie, I’m sure to appease the fans. The scenes were fun, but the important part of the Quidditch matches in this book were how they advanced the plot with respect to the Ron/Herminone/Lavender triangle and Harry’s growing realization of his feelings for Ginny. This was touched on briefly by linking Lavender and Ron at the post-match party, but then they threw it away and never revisited it.
Also, Luna Lovegood is a glorious character in the book, making important contributions to the feel and tone of several scenes. In the movie, she’s mainly a replacement for Tonks in the beginning (finding a bleeding Harry under the invisibility cloak) and comic relief.
This would all be forgiven in my mind if the end of movie hadn’t been rushed as much as it was. In the book, the scenes from when Harry and Dumbledore arrive back on the astronomy tower after securing the locket, to the scene with Dumbledore’s body are critical for story development (setting up several things for the final book), character development (we learn to what extent Dumbledore is willing to go to protect Harry and The Plan) and emotional impact. The running battle through the castle and then out to the gates showed that these Hogwarts kids, while not yet up to the standard of an evil league of evil adult wizard, can effectively work together as junior Order of the Phoenix members. Harry’s duel with the Death Eaters and finally Snape show that he’s a wizard to be reckoned with and also that Snape outclasses him. These elements and more are all dropped in favor of moving from Dumbledore’s plea to Snape (“Severus, please…”) to the offhand-feeling revelation that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince as quickly as possible.
If they had discarded some of the lesser scenes in favor of making the final battle a renowned action and dialogue sequence I wouldn’t hesitate to call this a great movie instead of an acceptable one. As it stands, the final scene leaves you feeling a bit empty, wishing for more.
Oh, and they burned the Weasley’s house down for no apparent reason. WTF?