Newswise — Harry Potter movies have a lot going against them. Either die-hard fans of the book series compare the movie to the books, or movie buffs compare the current movie to previous movies in the series. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an enjoyable movie that moves along at a pace quick enough to keep the viewer from noticing the two hour and twenty minute running time. The cinematography is hauntingly monochromatic.
Yet there is humor. Dan Radcliffe, playing Harry Potter for the sixth time, looks like he is thrilled at the opportunity to poke some fun, especially mid-movie when he downs a small bottle of Felix Felicis potion for luck to try to obtain a secret from his professor. The rough broomstick sport of Quidditch returns, with special effects that make it look like a true sport that could be learned as easily as a game of football. As usual, the supporting actors shine: Jim Broadbent plays Professor Horace Slughorn, a groupie who collects famous students, and who, years earlier, had provided the young Lord Voldemort with a piece of information that may hold the key to Voldemort's future destruction. Jessie Cave, who plays Harry's friend Ron's (aka Won Won) overly-bubbly girlfriend, Lavender Brown, provides laughs partially because of her ridiculous behavior and partially because of Harry's friend Hermione's jealous reactions to her.
Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, has grown up and makes it through the movie without any cringe-worthy actions, even carrying off a scene where he accidentally consumes a love potion intended for Harry with an understated skill. The screenplay, written by Steve Kloves, who has written five of the six Potter screenplays, manages to convey the main plot points to the audience, although some of his changes are, as usual, baffling to anyone who has read the books. The novel focuses on two large mysteries, the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the Potions mastermind who has annotated a battered textbook Harry finds early in the story; and the history of the evil Lord Voldemort's early life, told through the memories that Headmaster Dumbledore has collected over the years.
The books are told from Harry's point of view, but in the movie, the story shifts at times to focus on the activities of Harry's schoolmate, Draco Malfoy, who is obviously up to no good. This subplot, which is so subtle in the book that it is barely obvious until the end, is forced upon the viewer of the movie, multiple times, including a scene halfway through where Arthur Weasley, father of Harry's best friend Ron, reveals all in plain English.
The positive side of this twist is that Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy with a classic sneer, gives a thrilling performance as a boy forced to grow up before he is ready. The downside is that by the time the audience discovers the identity of the Half-Blood Prince of the title, the revelation seems insignificant. Perhaps the Christmastime action that takes place at the Weasley's home, the Burrow, a scene fabricated entirely by Kloves and not in the book, could have been sacrificed to include more of Voldemort's history.
Courtesy Warner Bros. for the Harry Potter poster graphic. Some of Kloves's dialog is inexcusably bad, especially since he has access to a novel containing over 650 pages of more interesting dialog from which to draw. Harry, not one to express a great deal of personal emotion in the books, stares wistfully across the Hogwarts grounds from a tall tower at the end of the movie and declares, I never realized how beautiful this place was. Professor Dumbledore's attempts to relate to Harry are often incredibly lame, at one point telling the baby-faced Dan Radcliff, You need a shave, my friend. Well, Dumbledore's eyesight may be failing, while Harry's is improving; in at least half of the scenes it is quite obvious that there is no glass in Harry's trademark spectacles.
Harry's romance with his friend Ron's sister, Ginny, a high-point of the books, is equally anti-climactic. In the book, their first kiss, a pivotal event that author J. K. Rowling describes as lasting several sunlit days and which takes place in the crowded common room with classmates looking on, instead occurs in seclusion, in the dusty, secret castle room, the Room of Requirement, in an art-house scene where Ginny kisses Harry briefly and then leaves him standing with a lovesick expression on his face. The subsequent weeks, which are supposed to be some of the happiest in Harry's young life, do not appear in the movie, which continues on its gloomy, monochromatic voyage.
Without giving away spoilers for anyone who does not know, someone dies at the end of this movie, and that character's final words: Severus, please... left book fans debating their meaning for two years between the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This scene in the movie is just as emotional as in the book, although even here, die-hard fans will take offense at Harry's altered position in this scene. While the fans of the books understand that they cannot be accurately represented on film without a thirty-hour miniseries, it is important for most that the films at least capture the spirit of each of the books.
With each movie, this is closer to the truth, and this is what leaves us anticipating the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, tentatively scheduled for release in November 2010.
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