Half-Blood Prince is my favorite of the 7 books. I've been looking forward to this film for so long, and after everything I've heard recently, my expectations were super high. So I finally saw Half-Blood Prince at midnight last night. I went straight to bed after I got home (as I had to be at work in the morning), so I've had plenty of time to let things sink in. But you know what? My feelings are exactly the same as last night: This movie is brilliant and blows all the others out of the water.

The movie picks up pretty much where the last one left off, and Harry (Dan Radcliffe) is about to begin his 6th year at Hogwarts. But Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) shows up and takes him on a bit of a side-journey to have a talk with an old professor of Hogwarts, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), to try and get him to come back. Later, Harry and friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) notice Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) up to something strange, beginning a bit of an obsession from Harry toward Draco. And then there's Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) who makes an Unbreakable Vow with Draco's mother, Narcissa (Helen McCrory) and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) to help Draco out in his mission that Voldemort has set him. And this is all before they even get to Hogwarts. Once back at school, emotions run high as everybody is feeling romance in the air, including Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), who has an enormous crush on Ron, and Hermione, who is starting to realize her feelings toward Ron, as well. And then there's Harry's growing crush on Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). But not all is light within the school. As Draco continues his secret mission, Dumbledore puts Harry up to the task to get buddy-buddy with Slughorn for a very important reason.

I am a fan of the books and the films, so I'm going to try and make this as fair of a review as possible. I will try to review it both as a film and as an adaptation. Let's start with the actors.

Jim Broadbent's Slughorn, while looking nothing as described in the books, plays him perfectly. His acting, shifting between whimsical and serious, is spot on. Of course, we also have some of the more background players moving to the foreground, such as Draco, Ginny, and Snape (not a background player in the books, per se, but definitely has been given a smaller role in the films as of late). Tom Felton, though with few words, shows us Draco's internal struggle to do the task he has been given, and it's brilliantly played when push comes to shove and the moment finally comes. Ginny, as well, while having almost no lines in the previous films, really shows us that she can play Ginny just fine when asked.

But then we have Snape. Oh, Alan Rickman, how great you are. You've been the perfect casting choice of the entire series, and you still claim that throne. Although Snape appears to come to the foreground even in the book, he's honestly not in it as much as you probably think he is. In fact, I had a discussion just today that the person felt Snape wasn't in it as much as the book, but as huge of a role he plays in the book, he's actually not in it as much as it seems. It's kind of a "Jaws" effect. He's always around, and most things seem to center around him, but he's not always there. Is that to say he's not in the movie a lot? Absolutely not. He has a large role in the film, as well, and plays it to perfection as usual.

Then there's the Trio: Harry, Ron, and Hermione. This movie is downright hilarious, and most of it is thanks to these three (and Lavender, who was obsessively brilliant). But for the first time in a long time, I felt Emma Watson really captured Hermione again. When her hand shot up excitedly in the air to answer a question, I grinned wide. And there's even a fun bit where her hair gets all frizzy and bushy, which had to be a nudge to the fans. I also loved "drunk" Hermione (too much Butterbeer!). Then you have Rupert Grint who also, finally, found a great balance between comedy and loyalty. And then you have Dan Radcliffe, who had some exceptional moments, particularly the Cave scene and the Felix Felicis scene (which is just hilarious).

But the top bill... and I can't believe I'm actually saying this... has to go to Michael Gambon, who--for the first time--acted Dumbledore perfectly. Like Slughorn, there was a perfect mix of whimsy and serious. But the kicker? I think for the first time, I actually saw Michael Gambon smile. And boy, does that make all the difference.

Of course, there are other, smaller characters that did well, too, like Luna (who is great as always). And funnily enough, after my Flitwick complaint recently, he was actually given some dialogue in this film (although one of those dialogue moments was to mention choir practice... oh well). And McGonagall actually gets some decent screen time for once, as well.

Overall, on all the actors' parts, the movie was a great film of expressions. I mean, a lot of the parts (seriousness, heartbreak, fear, comedy) were expressed purely through facial expression, and expressed well, which really says something.

As an adaptation, besides the characters being acted perfectly, the movie does very well. Total purists might not like it for things cut out, but I felt what was cut out wasn't purely necessary to begin with (as long as they're able to include the missing information somehow in the final film, as some was important). For instance, there were three important aspects from the book that were declared cut that had some fans up in arms. These scenes were half the memories, the 'Battle', and the funeral. Let's take these one at a time.

In the book, there are about 6 or so memories into Voldemort's past. In the film, there are 3 (one being a completed version of another). These memories are important in figuring out what Harry has to go after in the final story to help defeat Voldemort. With the memories cut from the film, Harry doesn't exactly know specifics on what to go after... but it works fine. Harry knows what he's supposed to be doing, and in the final book, there really wasn't too much of a need for Harry to know specifics. And if we're lucky, the Trio will just figure it out themselves, making them look much smarter and more important in this mission (because, as we know from the book, that didn't happen too often).

And then we have the cut 'Battle', removed because David Yates felt it might become repetitious due to the battle in the final film. And I agree. There didn't need to be a battle in this one, and the way they did it was just fine. There's still destruction (and one Auror does actually get blasted), but the stealth mode worked, and it will make the final battle that much more epic. As for the funeral, again, unnecessary. In the book, Harry pretty much pays little attention to it anyway, and it's over before you know it. And there's still a nicely done gesture anyway. The movie ends pretty much exactly the same as the book... the Trio talking about what to do next. Actually, I think this is the first time in the movies that the movie has actually ended exactly how the book did. And if the movie seems to just stop, that's because the book did the exact same thing. The movie, like the book, is basically just a setup to the final installment(s).

And speaking of setup, I loved the little nudges the film gave for those who had read the final book (especially the Harry snake-head thing when he touches the ring). And I'm also glad they didn't muck things up (Luna didn't actually see Harry with her SpectreSpecs... and expelliarmus is cast at the end of the movie (which I started getting worried about when it didn't happen immediately)). And there were also some fun in-jokes for those who are knowledgeable of the earlier books/films (Like when Slughorn asks if Aragog had a family, and the tone in Harry's voice when he goes "Oh yeah" is just great).

If I had any complaint about this film, it would be the downplay of the Half-Blood Prince subplot. The potions book really is downplayed in the film, but it was never really that important in the grand scheme of things even in the book, so it's not like it really mattered. It did what it was meant to do (and by God, the Sectumsempra scene was even better than I could have hoped). Draco's mission also became much more obvious in the film than in the book (though I'm not really sure I could say that since I had the book spoiled for me before I read it). But it was still incredibly obvious what he was trying to do. Though in the realm of cinema versus books, I'm not sure that's a bad thing, really.

Some might complain about all the romance, but the book was the same way... and I thought it worked particularly well (in fact, some of it I thought was better than the book, mostly because the book couldn't do the brilliant facial expressions like the film could, not to mention some brilliant lines not in the book). The romance is rarely at the forefront of any scene, but it's a part of a many of them. I even liked how they got around one of my only annoyances of the book, Tonks' moping about mysteriously, later for us to discover is about Lupin. The film? Just puts them right together and gets it over with. Smart move, I say. But if you complain about the love and relationships in Harry Potter, you're missing the point of the series completely. As is said at the end of the Half-Blood Prince book (paraphrasing), one should be proud to see a little more love in the world... because remember, in Harry Potter, love is the most powerful magic. And what better episode to center around love than the one where Dumbledore comes to the forefront? Plus... they're teenagers.

I know this is an incredibly long review, but how could I not talk about the music and cinematography? Nicholas Hooper's score is just beautiful. I gave it a listen before the film came out, and it's just as great in the film as it is out. And the cinematography by Bruno Belbonnel (Amelie and Across the Universe) made an outstandingly gorgeous film. Every shot was so beautiful, it really set this film apart from all the others in visuals, including Prisoner of Azkaban. I really can't stress enough how gorgeous the film is.

Overall, the film was near perfect for a Harry Potter film (Deathly Hallows might trump it simply because it has 2 films to tell its story). It was gorgeous. The music was beautiful. The acting was completely, by everyone, spot on. The movie was hilarious (much funnier than anticipated). There was a perfect balance of dark and light (and when it was dark, it was pretty dark, so I'm really surprised this movie got a PG rated... I'm still not sure how). As an adaptation, there were things cut out and some things added in, and a few things changed, but everything seemed to work. What most adaptations try to do is either be like the first two films and try to put every detail in or be like Goblet of Fire and try to be true, but make it really choppy due to things cut out. For the first time, I've really felt that a Harry Potter movie took the essence of the book and made it into its own creature--staying true to the story and the book, but doing other things of its own volition that separated the book and film and letting it work on a cinematic level. I could go on endlessly about this film, but I'll spare you. Let's just say I can't wait to see it again and again.

Royale With Cheese

(P.S. Did anybody else's heart skip a beat and/or breath get caught in their throat at that final "...Please." right before the occurrence?)


  1. Having never seen or read Harry Potter in the past (but knowing the plot twist (but not when and where it'd happen), I was a bit disappointed in how they handled the end, which, I guess, is because they downplayed the Half-Blood Prince thing.

    I think the end of the movie would have been a whole lot weightier without that tease at the end of the film, where Harry and Co. just talk. It works in a book, but I hate it in movies. Imagine Rocky ending with the after fight press conference, or Rocky talking to Adrian at the pet shop the next day.

    I realize that isn't just a knock on this movie specifically. Just about every epic since Phantom Menace (where epic isn't a description of it's goodness, but its thematic elements) has had this problem. We don't need an extra scene where the characters take a deep breath and get ready for the next adventure. That's what the credits and the time between sequels are for.

    Cut that last scene, and you get an extra three minutes of Rickman and Carter, and maybe Broadbent, who were all great.

  2. However, I about freaking lost my mind at the Die Hard tribute. I can't imagine the book ripping the end of that movie for its nefarious purposes, but considering who was in that scene, I had this absolutely massive grin on my face that nobody else around me quite understood.

  3. Your thoughts regarding how the story plays out, I mean.

  4. You've never seen or read an HP movie/book before going into the sixth film of a series with an over-arching story? No offense, but that pretty much discounts your thoughts completely :P . And the last scene couldn't be cut... it's rather important in the grand scheme of things (particularly the R.A.B.).

  5. I'm relieved you liked the movie so much. After your long list of flaws with the previous films, I was a little worried. I too saw this at a midnight show and really enjoyed it, though I think I have a few more complaints than you.

    Absolutely agree about the acting and the teen romance plots. The tro were fab and funny (the Felix Felicius scene was perhaps funnier than the love potion), I loved the way they portrayed Draco Malfoy's plot, and Gambon did do his best Dumbledore yet. (I also loved both the younger actors who played Voldemort - so creepy).

    However, when it comes to the Horocrux lessons, I wish there had been a tad more. I don't mind the cutting of nonessential information (Order of the Phoenix is my favorite of the adaptations as well) but I feel that at least one scene (or memory) should have been added that explains *how* Voldemort chooses his Horocruxes would have been important. I'm sure they will find a way to introduce this info in the next film, but I think 1 additional memory would have been more crucial to this story than the random attack on the Burrow.

    Also, for me, Book 6 has always been about the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry - the way Harry trusts and understand's Dumbledore's methods is important to the 7th book - and in Book 6 Dumbledore is essentially preparing Harry for what he must do once Dumbledore is dead. While he did talk to Harry, and they did discuss the Horocruxes, it never felt the Dumbledore was specifically preparing Harry for the work ahead, as I thought it should. Oh well.

    That said, I was happy with the overall product. There was something that didn't quite gel for me, but I'm hoping to make more sense of that when I see it again next week. I love the way Yates films - the camera placement and composition of shots, the cinematography and lighting, the very real sense of place (I love those dusty, winding Hogwarts corridors), and I absolutely agree with you about the score. Wasn't what I was expecting and yet was perfect.

    Sorry for the very long comment! Good discussion fodder! :)

  6. Ah, yeah, trust me, my list of likes is 100% longer than my list of dislikes. I just pretty much have an enormous dislike for Cuaron and his involvement in the series that I like to rant about :P .

    The memory where they essentially figure out how Voldemort chooses his Horcruxes WAS included in the film (it's the first one at the Orphanage). However, they just didn't include the discussion after the fact on "collecting" as they did in the book. But as I said, I trust the filmmakers fully now and think they've already planned out exactly how they're going to figure it out. I mean, they can't just exclude it from HBP without knowing how they're going to rectify it in the final film.

    I have a love/hate relationship with the Burrow attack. On one level, I liked how it helped with the overall pacing of the film, which is part of why it was created. On another level, however, they just never mention it again, and it's kinda like "um... okay then."

    But I did catch something unbelievably amazing when I just watched it for the second time earlier today. (Spoilers for those who haven't read the final book and are reading these comments). When Harry touches the ring and does the snake-head movement thing, you can see in Dumbledore's face that he realized just then that Harry is a Horcrux. So that means that what he says next has a full double meaning (the "I think I've discovered another one, and I fear I can't destroy it alone. I'm afraid I must once again ask too much of you, Harry.") In realizing Harry is a Horcrux right then, Dumbledore is both talking about the locket and Harry, and it makes the words that much more powerful.

  7. Nice catch! I'll watch for that when I see it again. I did really like the editing of that moment and the ring spinning!

    The Burrow clip was released before the film and I was ready to accept it if it offered something, but, while you're right about the pacing, I don't think it really added anything necessary. I thought it would maybe setup the Greyback/Lupin connection or reveal some other information, but all I ended up coming away with was "why the hell is Bellatrix chilling out in the reeds?" It just seemed kind of a waste, partly because, as you said, it was never mentioned again. I did love the way it was filmed and the sound effects of the splashing and the stalks whipping against Harry's face.

    I do trust the writers/filmmakers and am sure everything will ultimately be accounted for. It just seemed like those elements could have at least been set up with just one 2-minute scene or a few more lines of dialogue. With as much of The Deathly Hallows revolving around Harry understanding Voldemort because he really has studied him with Dumbledore, they seemed slightly more important to me than other excised subplots and info. But, perhaps it screwed with the pacing. I do trust them to do the overall story proud.

  8. Nick, I'm just about Pottered out for the day, but I wanted to be sure to etch "Fletch was here" in this space. I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Though, as Rachel pointed out earlier, opinions do change (for better and worse) on repeat viewings, and I look forward to watching this one again.

    Just not in the theater.

  9. Oh man. I couldn't dissagree more. This was my least favorite movie by far. I was so let down by it!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.