Massawyrm kind of likes, but is ultimately disappointed with, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE!!
Published at: July 14, 2009, 9:33 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
The chief problem with HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is that it is not only a film entirely dependent upon the rest of the series, but that it seems to operate fully under the knowledge and understanding of that dependence. It is not a film in its own right as much as it is a film designed to set up the (supposedly) splintered adaptation of the finale of the series HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. There’s no real plot to speak of here. Oh sure, there’s story and character interaction - but very little actual development and no real storyline to follow outside of the romantic foibles of our now teenage leads.
It is a film that very much wants to be THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – it wants to ramp up the tension, take us to dark places and flesh out the character’s emotional attachments so we can wring as much pathos out of the series climax as possible. But none of that payoff begins here; and it certainly never hits us with the emotional punch that we get out of the loss of one of our main characters in EMPIRE. What losses we endure aren’t of the characters we are terrified for or afraid to go on without. As a result it is a film that revolves entirely around emotional weight, but ultimately delivers none.
Also, more than any other Potter film, this is the one you most need the cliffs notes, a knowledgeable friend or actual knowledge of the book to fully grasp what is going on. For example, you’d think that in a film titled HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, you might find out what, exactly, the term Half Blood Prince means. You will certainly find out who this Half-Blood Prince is, but never what it means to be one. Not unless you have a trusty friend to explain it to you as I did as I was walking out. And once I did, I felt a little cheated. “Really? That’s it?” But in truth, only a little cheated. Because the movie’s big revelation was cheating enough as it just kind of throws that information at you as an afterthought. An oh, yeah, we should probably tell you who the Half-Blood Prince is. Here you go.
But ultimately the real disappointment is that such an unfulfilling film is filled with so much to love. To be honest, there isn’t a single moment or sequence in here I distinctly disliked. When it’s not trying to be heavy or hint at what is to come, the film is cute and very funny, and I really enjoyed the film’s focus: the romantic fumbling and stumbling through relationships at an age which our characters haven’t yet learned the value of straightforwardness. Watching Hermione try to grab Ron’s attention while Harry navigates trying to woo Ron’s sister (without alienating Ron) is all golden material. Every actor pulls their weight in these scenes and milks a lot of laugh-out-loud comedy from very simple sequences.
Everything that aims at being cute, succeeds. Everything that aims at looking cool, succeeds. Everything that aims at being funny, succeeds. And that’s all well and good. But when all of this isn’t linked together with a strong through line, and what important plot-worthy sequences just kind of pop up out of nowhere, the result feels a bit hollow and meandering. Almost like it is stalling. Raymond Chandler once said “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand,” and that is very much the theory here. Every time the film slows down, Death eaters show up wands-a-blazin’ to break up the joint and then leave. But none of it ever means anything. And it never feels threatening.
Finally, and most odd of all, the film seems to be lacking the background magic that we’ve come to love in the series. There is plenty of wand-play, with wands mostly serving as the six-shooter side arms of wizards – and even a great scene in which two characters say “Wands out,” and make their way through a dilapidated, broken down old house with the ends lit that seemed like a parody of every Ashley Judd movie I’ve ever seen – but the background has just become…mundane. Gone are the moving pictures, the ghosts, the magical staircases, the passwords to get to and from different places, and all of the wondrously bizarre things that made us fall in love with the Potterverse to begin with. For the first time in the series, Hogwarts just feels like an old, drafty castle with floating candles in the dining room. Sure, I get that they don’t need to focus on the magic as much as they did early on; but now magic only shows up when it is needed as a plot device. And that just seems a bit lazy and adds to the hollow, cold feel of the film.
When all is said and done, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is a whole that does not equal the sum of its parts. I liked so much about this as it chugged along, but as it petered out at the end I sat there wondering “Really? That’s it? That’s all? Nothing else happens?” I never felt the terror or thrills or excitement that I’ve felt in previous chapters, and when the big romantic payoffs came around, they never did so with the feel of sweeping romance. They just kind of happened. If you’re going to make a two hour and 40 minute love story, I should have fallen in love. And I didn’t. So this doesn’t even have that going for it.
But it is still big and beautiful and worth checking out on the big screen. But it doesn’t live up to the series and I think, in the long run, will be remembered as one of the lesser, transitory Potter endeavors. There were characters for me to care about, just not much for me to care about them doing.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.