Non-Gaming: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Movie Review


I know, I know, this isn’t strictly gaming related, but I was privileged enough to be treated to an advanced screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince today, and thought I’d share with you my thoughts.

I think the easiest thing to get out of the way is that the movie is a very concise, condensed version of J.K. Rowling’s tale of Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts.

Young Tom Riddle. Even as a kid, he was a creepy little S.O.B.

Young Tom Riddle. Even as a kid, he was a creepy little S.O.B.

Events are rearranged, dialogue is reworded or altered altogether, and even more surprising, scenes are added that were not in the book. I know at that last part Potter maniacs are probably bristling, but please know that these changes and additions do nothing but good for the overall pacing and execution of the story on the silver screen.

I guess I’m just one of those folks that accepts that the mediums of film and books are vastly different, and what works in a book in terms of narrative will not work in a film. Some things simply won’t fly on film, and vice versa.

Overall, I thought the changes helped established some relationships that don’t become fully important and crucial until book 7, The Deathly Hallows (of which part 1 of the 2 part film will hit sometime next year), and the film is truly condensed down to it’s vital components to tell the story of Harry and Dumbledore’s journey into Voldemort’s past.

The big 3 put in what I believe to be their strongest, most nuanced performances yet.

The big 3 put in what I believe to be their strongest, most nuanced performances yet.

Moving on from what was cut, I’ll discus what is there, and it should not disappoint.

As stated before, the story is briskly paced, despite a 2 and a half hours plus running time, and never once does it feel like the film is plodding along. Each scene, and each line of dialogue serve to push the story forward (or push character relationships toward their inevitable conclusion in The Deathly Hallows), and it doesn’t feel like anything is wasted or simply shoved in. An area that I’m a little concerned about, moreso for the next film, are certain elements that were left out of this film that, in the book, were vital to the Deathly Hallows. I’m keen to see how screenwriter Steve Kloves handles these omissions and and still keep things clean and tidy in that film.

The main trio of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) do remarkable jobs in this film, and it’s certainly impressive to see how they’ve grown as actors, and how they’ve become more confident in their portrayals of Rowling’s endearing characters. Harry is more mature, naturally, but is also being overtaken by his raging teenage hormones, as are Ron, Hermione, and the students of Hogwarts in general.

Love and relationships are the throughline of this movie, and we get to see Harry’s relationship with Ron’s sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright) evolve and grow into something more romantic. The same is said for Ron and Hermione, who must deal with issues of jealousy, as Ron has found himself an admirer in the form of Lavender Brown (Jesse Cave), who hilarously swoons over him for the duration of the film.

Harry and Dumbledore prepare for the dark times coming.

Harry and Dumbledore prepare for the dark times coming.

Beyond all the mushy gushy stuff of teen love, Harry becomes aware that Draco Malfoy is up to no good, despite protests from his friends that it’s simply Malfoy being, well, Malfoy. Throw in Harry being captain of the Quidditch team, secret meetings with Dumbledore, and a mysterious character named the Half Blood Prince, whose scribbled notes in Harry’s Advanced Potions book is giving Harry the edge in a class he, truthfully, blows in, and you’ve got a movie filled with a lot of story.

You’d think that this would make it rather convoluted and confusing, but Director David Yates, who helmed Order of the Phoenix (and is also helming the Deathly Hallows), does a fantastic job of explaining all of this story to you through a great balance of dialogue, and simply showing you the information using the superb performances of the actors.

The remainder of the cast do a remarkable job, although the continuing sticking point with me on the film adaptations since Prisoner of Azkaban has been Michael Gambon’s portrayal of Albus Dumbledore. Don’t get me wrong, Gambon is a phenomenal actor, but his Dumbledore is simply played too hard edged and, well, curmudgeony than the endearing, charming Dumbledore that Richard Harris brought to the table in the first two films. It doesn’t detract from the drama and his relationship with Harry, but I would have loved to have seen a more mirthful portrayal of Dumbledore, as he is in the books.

Alan Rickman once again steals every scene he's in as Severus Snape

Alan Rickman once again steals every scene he's in as Severus Snape

That aside, Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape once again steals whatever scenes he is in (which are more than in Order of the Phoenix, but not as much as in previous films), tied only with Evanna Lynch’s portrayal of Luna Lovegood, who isn’t in nearly enough scenes in the movie, as she is absolutely hilarious and charming throughout the film.

The remaining cast of characters have reduced roles, since, in truth, this movie is all about Harry, Dumbldore, Draco, and Snape, with a smattering of love stories mixed in with the remaining supporting characters.

One disappointing aspect of the movie is that it lacks a real emotional moment in the film where Harry, and maybe even the audience feels something of resonance. This isn’t like in previous films when certain key characters die (which I won’t spoil in case some of you reading the review have not read the books). Even the ending lacks a sense of climax or finality to the proceedings, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if they didn’t just slap a “To Be Continued!” at the end, before the credits rolled.

Clearly things are coming to a head, but unlike in the book, there isn’t much of a sense of closure to this film. It feels open, begging for the 7th and final part to be told.

Or maybe that’s just me, being so eager to see the Deathly Hallows on the big screen, due to the brisk pace at which the Half Blood Prince reaches it’s conclusion, and the genuine feeling of wanting more of the story, and now.

I’m also curious to see how Yates and company handle some of the sticky plot elements they’ll have to contend with next film due to the omissions of this one.

Overall, I think it was a fantastic film, and tonally different from the previous 5 films while still maintaining that “Harry Potter” feel. The visuals and effects are excellent, and the feeling of looming danger is ever present from beginning to end, even if it’s not beaten into your head over and over again (which is often the case in the previous movies).

VERDICT: WATCH – Any fan of the Harry Potter stories should check out the film. Yes, it takes some rather surprising liberties with elements and scenes from the books, but the true core of the story is not lost, and you are left with a fun, entertaining summer movie.


3 Responses to “Non-Gaming: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Movie Review”

  1. I’m not a Harry Potter fan but the movie, from what I’ve seen so far, looks like it’s going to be good. You have no idea how it kills me to say that. I’m relieved to hear that it’s well paced. The last few movies I’ve seen in the theater have dragged on *cough cough* transformers *cough cough*.

    Side note, Alan Rickman= awesome.

  2. lol. we’ll have to see it next week or something. you’ll like it, babe!

  3. mrdee23 Says:

    I liked the movie as well. Although I was shocked at some of the things taken out, I think the movie will please both fans and critics better than any of the other films.

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