Saturday, July 25, 2009

HP and Half-Blood Prince Review (spoilers)

Before I review the new Harry Potter film, with the requisite spoiler alert, I find it interesting that there are now at least two different websites listing 1984 as one of the best years in movies. EW has a pretty exhaustive month by month list while considers it the best year for Guy movies (Ghostbusters, Karate Kid, Terminator, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, etc). The EW list is very striking since each month had several memorable movies from Footloose to Beverly Hills Cop to the Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai--I am trying to remember how I paid for all of these films.

Anyhow, a remarkable year for movies.

Spoiler spacing

In my ranking of the books, HBP was towards the top of the list. And it is perhaps my favorite movie (with two to go, of course). It had an excellent blend of romance, comedy, action and magic. It did drop some of my favorite scenes in the book (which always happens, given how good and long the books are) and added a few, including one questionable one. As always, I break down the movie to get a good idea of where it stands.

  • Best moment: Has to be the discussion between Ron and Harry about why guys fancy Ginny, Ron's sister. Apparently, she has nice skin. Ron being under the influence of a love potion is also up there.
  • Worst change from the book: Harry and Ginny's first kiss. They do a nice job with it in the movie, but the book does it so well.
  • Best Quidditch: This movie has two quidditch sequences--less than the book but more than the rest of the movies, and the two here are better than those in the other movies. The tryout sequence is perfect, and the big game with Ron playing Keeper and Ginny rocking as the lead Chaser is also very good.
  • Second Worst change from the book: No Dursleys. I like it when Dumbledore calls them out. Perhaps something like that will start the next book. That Harry is out and about during the summer in this one seems to be quite contradictory, but I do like the scene in the cafe.
  • Best Damage to a tourist spot: The scene with the Millennium Bridge is great since I was just on it a few weeks ago.
  • Third worst change from the book: It was understably necessary, but the Quidditch sequence where Cormac ends up knocking Harry out.
  • Strangest Addition: Why add the sequence over the holidays where the deatheaters burn down the burrow? Not clear what this adds to the movie or sets up for the next movie. There is already enough action and danger.
  • Hardest Omission to Overcome: Harry inherits Sirius's stuff in the book, including Kreacher and Grimmauld Place. This is pretty important stuff for the end of the series--how do they compensate? Or perhaps the omission of Bill and Fleur--they are supposed to have a big wedding in the next book, as my wife pointed out.
  • Best Realized Drinking Scene: The whole Felix sequence is absolutely perfect. Cannot complain about that at all. Some nice comic chops from Daniel Radcliffe here. And this whole thing works best in British accents.
  • Most Interesting Choice: In the book, we know that Draco Malfoy is trying to do something, but it is not clear what. In the movie, we know from the outset what his plan is. Rather than tension focused on trying to figure out what he is up to, instead the movie provides some real insight into the desperate effort Draco is making and the stress he is under. Not a bad choice at all.
  • Best Progress From Hints to Stage Front: One of the challenges of this movie was to bring Ginny to the forefront. The books allow her to develop from the victim in Chamber to background to progressively more in the foreground. In the movies, she makes a big appearance in Chamber, of course, and then disappears until she is a member of Dumbledore's Army and demonstrates some of the most intense magical power in the classroom and in the Ministry of Magic. Here, she is present from the start, and Bonnie Wright does a nice job with the role. It is hard to show the humor that Ginny demonstrates in the book, but it is clear even in the movie that she is pretty strong. She holds up Harry at the end, not to mention leading the Chasers in the Quidditch sequences. Indeed, disturbingly bold (the father of a teenage girl did not like the shoelace move) at times.
  • Best Voldemort: The older one. The younger actor was just fine but had less to work with. The teenage V was pretty darned scary.
  • Best Omission: No spider-man moment where Harry tells Ginny that they cannot be together due to enemies using her against him. Glad to see that go.
  • Another Very Interesting Choice: They dropped the funeral at the end (and all of the Minister of Magic stuff) and replaced with a rather moving and symbolic moment--all of the students and profs using their wands to send light to counter-act the Dark (mark). Very powerful stuff there.
  • Yet another challenging omission: Less info about the likely horcruxes here. Not as difficult as the other changes, as this can be covered pretty easily in the next book.
I will have to think about the other movies more, but this one was just a lot of fun. The story moved pretty quickly despite the length of the movie. The acting by young folks and the older pro's was top-notch. Jim Broadbent was a terrific Slughorn, Alan Rickman had more to do with this one and ran with it, Helena Bonham-Carter was wonderfully wicked, Gambon has been a strong replacement as Dumbledore, Bonnie Wright is perfect as Ginny, and Emma, Rupert and Daniel wear these roles quite well.

I have a good guess about where they will split the last book to make two movies, and it involves one of the most dramatic moments in the series. If they drop it from the movies, I will be sorely disappointed. And, of course, they must keep Mrs. Weasley's moment as well.

If Harry Potter teaches us anything, it is patience. The long waits between the books and now waiting for the next movie. And, of course, I have no patience. Just ask my family.


KathyS said...

I think the loss of the Fleur and Bill romance -- and related romance stuff between our favorite werewolf and his punk shapechanger -- was what I miss most, but I understand why they cut all of it. Some form of it is probably going to be moved to the first Book 7 movie. Because they cut the Bill plotline, that cut Greybeard's attack on him, and so instead of a pitched battle with the Deatheaters at Hogwarts, they just stroll in, and then leave. So I think that's why they had the whole sequence at the Burrows. They needed a Deatheater fight, so they made one instead of the one at the end of the book.

In the book, that Draco's task is to kill Dumbeldore is very clear from the beginning and certainly by the time he curses Katy. The Unbreakable Vow scene is in Chapter Two of the book, so I don't see why you think that's a change, sweetie.

The younger Voldermort is Fiennes' nephew and I thought he was pretty good. The Spiderman moment with Ginny will probably be in Movie 7A. They do have some foreshadowing about the other horocruxes in the film.

Overall, I really liked it, even if my kissing scene got changed. They really did have to change it, and the new version was cute. I think this may be my second favorite Potter movie, actually.

Steve Saideman said...

Yes, we knew Draco was trying to kill Dumbledore, but not how. In the movie, we see it from start to finish, which was fine.

Making the 7th book into two movies definitely gives them some room to make up for earlier stuff.