The realm of Harry Potter is an incredibly unforgiving one, with an astronomically sized fan base that is brutally unforgiving to any deviations from J.K. Rowling’s brilliantly penned masterpiece. Unfortunately, the translation from paper to film has been a decidedly lackluster one, seeing the complex story line muddled throughout the movie series and boiled down to nothing more than childish pander.
The problem that has plagued the Harry Potter movies continually since their inception is undoubtedly a lack of cohesion. A good Potter movie could be made that relinquishes the eccentricities of Rowling’s novels whilst still retaining their core values and plot points. Movies are often notoriously ill favored in relation to their book counterparts, largely because of the time constraints inherent in making feature length films. Not all movies have fared as gloomily as the Potters’ in this transition, however. Jurassic Park is perhaps the most evident of this phenomena, a widely popular book transformed into a similarly fantastic movie. Why Potter has suffered (critically not financially) and Jurassic Park flourished has to do with the successful adaptation of the basal values of each. The Potter franchise has opted to craft the movies as whimsical stories about a world of magic and a boy’s quest to understand his past. This represents a minute portion of the overall message shaped in the book series which instead delves deeper into character motivation and psychology as well as a struggle between good and evil that is not so clear cut as it is made out to be on the big screen.
The past Potter movies have all been exhibitions of this departure from the novels, something that has no-doubt angered those most ardent Potter fanatics, yet spelled box office success nonetheless. A varying set of directors has also complicated the series, allowing each a new vision for “their” movie, but completely obliterating any cohesion the series may have had. Most recently, the movies have been overseen by director David Yates, who has certainly brought a level of necessary darkness to the movies, but still continued the trend of decimating proper storylines for the obsessed fans and making the movies choppy for those who have not read the books.
This trend is certainly continued in the Half Blood Prince, and while it definitely improves the caliber of the movies, elevating them from comic fodder to contented entertainment, it still is lacking. At this point in the series (Don’t worry no spoilers) Harry and the whole of the wizarding world are finally aware of the return of Lord Voldemort something that brings the darkness that Harry and Dumbledore have been undergoing for the past five books to the whole of society, muggles included. The movie certainly does its job in illustrating that point, with an introductory scene that shows the horrors unleashed by Voldemort’s supporters (certainly a parallel to the post 9/11 world of terrorism we all reside in).
The series is also at a point that demonstrates the blossoming sexuality of its main characters, something smashed repeatedly in our faces like a ton of dungbombs. In fact, if you had only seen the HBP and not read the book, you would think that the story consists primarily of sexed up teenagers only worried about “doing it”, completely oblivious to the disappearances and deaths of loved ones. While providing a seemingly unending set of laughs, this detracts from the overall mood the movie is supposed to portray. Nowhere is this more evident than in the movie’s penultimate scene, one that should literally be ripping your heart out of your chest and exposing it to an unruly grease fire. Instead, we are left still puzzled by the horrific “romantic” scene between Ginny and Harry several minutes ago, unable to feel any emotion other than sheer bewilderment with a possible side of disdain.
The movie is not all bad, however, and demonstrates a definite improvement over the previous movies, if only for sheer entertainment value. Of particular interest is the Felix Felicis scene in which Daniel Radcliffe exhibits distinct acting ability something we haven’t seen in…well ever from him. Both Emma Watson and Rupert Grint also shine as clumsy and jealous teenagers clearly meant for one another, but always seeming to screw something up (Ron). In general the acting in the HBP is easily the best thus far and the seasoned actors of the series, especially Rickman, Gambon and Carter all are brilliant, as usual.
Unfortunately, the direction and scene selection is the crippling force that hinders the movie from excellence. Too much is left out, too much is extended or completely fabricated into existence (I won’t say what, but seriously wtf). An increase in cohesion and inclusion of several more scenes would be enough to make this movie much better than it is and provide an appropriate precursor to the Deathly Hallows pts 1 and 2.
In sum, I would say that the movie is a marked improvement over previous installments and a definite must see for those who loved the books or simply want to see an entertaining film. As this is no doubt bias towards the ardent Potter book fan I will give two ratings, one from a readers perspective and one from outside that perspective.
Out of 10 points
Reader Rating: 6.5/10
Non-reader Rating: 7.5/10