When Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the book) came out, two of my best friends and I got into a heated debate over the inflection in Dumbledore’s voice when he spoke his last line in the novel. It seems trivial, but the interpretation of how the line was spoken really could be a big clue for the rest of the series. On the page, the line was ambiguous. In the movie, however, it was clear who was right all along. Our argument is illustrative of a key difference between reading a book and watching a film adaptation of that book. The making of a movie from a book can be a tricky business and, unfortunately, I think that the creators of the latest installment in the Harry Potter series could have done a better job. People often say that the book is better than the movie.Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is no different.
The movie covers Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and company’s sixth year at Hogwarts, during which Harry finds a tattered potions book with copious marginalia, belonging to a former student who called him/herself “The Half-Blood Prince.” The book shoots Harry to the top of his Advanced Potions class and, of course, gets him in trouble. Meanwhile, the lovebug bites basically the entire student body, Harry is on a mission from Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is up to no good and falling apart over it.
While the movie is funny, and lighter than the previous two installments in the series, I still wonder if PG was an appropriate rating. I feel like playing up the humor is pandering to a younger audience. The characters are getting older, the series darker, and some parts of this movie are definitely frightening.
I saw the movie at its midnight opening and the experience was a lot of fun. The audience clapped a lot, laughed a lot, and cried a little. Through all its flaws, this movie really is a crowd pleaser. Clearly, though, this was a crowd of avid fans. I still wonder if audiences less engrossed with the series wouldn’t be confused by everything that was left out of the screenplay.
The acting in Half-Blood Prince is wonderful. As Draco Malfoy, Tom Felton really shows skill. I find his part of the plot one of the most interesting elements of the whole movie. This book/movie brings his character a more important role than just the school bully and Felton rises to the challenge. Jim Broadbent (Bridget Jones, Inkheart) as Professor Slughorn was pretty much perfect casting. Daniel Radcliffe flexes his muscles and shows that he can do humor without just being cheesy.
The style of this movie makes me hopeful for the final two films in the series. Really, the movie is just stunning. The saturated blue-silver color scheme, more adult performances, wit, and over-all polish of this movie were all a treat. Even Snape seemed to have his hair washed for the first time in years. Further, the score uses some familiar pieces, creating a sense of continuity with the previous installments. On his third Potter movie, I think director David Yates really hit his stride with the series. If you’ll pardon the phrase, the experience of watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was magical.
That being said, I thought the adaptation was poorly done. I feel like too much was assumed. A lot is left out, a lot is changed, and some things are added, for example the much talked about “I killed Sirius Black” scene. I’ve read the book multiple times and still found it all a bit confusing. What happened to the battle? Where’s Hagrid? And wasn’t the Half-Blood Prince (you know, the title character…) a bigger deal in the book? I realize that in adapting a novel, especially a long one like the Potter books, editorial decisions must be made, but these decisions shouldn’t detract from the tone of the original. I think that is exactly what happened in this case. In focusing so much on the budding romances, the movie looses clarity and urgency. It makes sense to want to revel in humor before the series plunges headfirst into the darkness for Deathly Hallows, but Harry Potter is done a serious disservice when the focus is turned from the fight against Voldemort to who is crushing on whom. I was very disappointed that more wasn’t done with the memories about Tom Riddle and all the mysteries that are explored in the book.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was written by Steve Kloves, adapted from the novel by J.K. Rowling. David Yates directed. It runs 153 minutes and is rated PG for scary images and some violence.
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