...Or, Why Half Blood Prince Was Not a Good Film
Blah, blah, blah. I am a Harry Potter fan. Books, films, etc., I love the world of Harry Potter. I think they are great stories and a lot of fun. But too many Potter fans have trouble facing reality. Whether they feel they can't say anything bad against the franchise or their infatuation tricks them into believing nothing can possibly be wrong--for whatever reason--some of the films are just bad.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (HBP) is definitely not a good movie. No matter if you look at it as a book adaptation or as a standalone film, HBP did not live up to its immediate predecessor's quality, nor did it turn out to be a compelling, decently paced movie.
As my friend Robb pointed out in a Facebook discussion:
[Order of the Phoenix] is my least favorite book but my favorite movie, mainly because they realized they couldn't fit everything from the book into the movie so they focused on getting the themes and feel right. HBP reverted back to the Goblet [of Fire] mold where they fit in what they could and what they couldn't they brushed over or left out.
This was frustrating to me. Especially as HBP, the book, has some of the most spectacular and tide-changing action in the entire saga. So what was wrong with the film? Let's get into it.
Harry Potter Never Used To Be Boring!
HBP was definitely a long movie (153 minutes!) with plenty of time to put together an exciting and interesting flick. But for some reason the screenwriter went back to his pre-Order of the Phoenix (OotP) method of taking emphasis off of the important events and shifting it to events that really don't make much difference.
For instance, in HBP Draco Malfoy fixes the vanishing cabinet in the Room of Requirement as a means to let the Death Eaters in to take over the school. Malfoy and Malfoy alone was directed to kill Dumbledore, with Snape as a backup due to the unbreakable vow he made with Narcissa Malfoy. It had nothing to do with the other Death Eaters.
By not including the incredible Invasion of Hogwarts, the entire purpose of Malfoy rehabbing the Vanishing Cabinet is downplayed. It seems that it was so he could just let Bellatrix in to smash a few dishes on the Great Hall's tables and set Hagrid's hut on fire. The students never had to make a stand. The members of the DA had basically forgotten their entire purpose in OotP and weren't challenged at all in HBP. It was almost as if Dumbledore's Army never existed.
And this film needed a huge battle. Other than the Inferi scene in the cave, there's not much battling done. Nothing spectacular anyway. Nothing in the magnitude of the battle in the Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries in OotP.
With how long this film was, it needed another climactic battle. And the way the Battle for Hogwarts was dropped out of the film downplayed immensely the fact that Dumbledore was killed. And making his death less meaningful, I think, is quite sad in the scope of the Potter canon.
And why wasn't it put in? The Battle for Hogwarts might have taken 7-10 minutes. They could've shaved those off of any number of places. For instance, there were A LOT of shots of a brooding Malfoy. Also, the same shot of him pulling the blanket off of the Vanishing Cabinet. And trying to get things to vanish. That could've been compressed. And there's more.
The Defacing of Fenrir Greyback
That whole part at Christmas that was added in could've been done without. Did they think that because they decided not to introduce the new Minister of Magic at the beginning of the film they had to make something up to replace his Christmas Day visit? The way they presented that scene made no sense with the rest of the movie for a number of reasons.
First off, Fenrir Greyback was never shown to be a werewolf. Why not? He certainly wasn't a Death Eater like they made him in this film and it doesn't make sense that he'd become a Death Eater since Goblet of Fire (note: Greyback was not in the circle in the cemetery in GoF--the film or book--when Voldemort was brought back). So, they added a completely irrelevant scene and didn't even make Greyback be the cool werewolf that his is supposed to be.
Like my colleague Dan said to me last week at work, "In the movie Greyback is just a big, scary man." So true. Though he's not even that scary. I would've rather they had just left Greyback out of the story instead of making him a minor-minor character. It was another opportunity for awesome action in a movie that was too long.
So we've established that action was not in the front of the screenwriter's mind. Instead, it seems they felt the relational aspects of the story were more important. And I felt they did a good job on that point. But it was at the expense of excitement and good pacing. For the first time in a Potter film, I actually felt like it was too long. Given, it was 20 minutes longer than OotP, but I feel the pacing could have been tightened up a bit.
What else important was downplayed? How about the theme central to the book? The memories Dumbledore collected? How is Harry going to be able to find all of those Horcruxes in the Deathly Hallows films if he doesn't have Dumbledore's experiences to learn from? Just saying. The pensieve took over the entire book and was used sparingly in the film.
We barely met the young Tom Riddle, we don't know any of the backstory of the ring, and there wasn't much emphasis placed on Dumbledore's "trips" which were not just memory-gathering missions. And yet Harry has done an about-face from his animosity toward Dumbledore with no reason for it (presented in the movie). The book gives a reason. But not the film.
Call the movie for what it is: boring and less than acceptable. HBP is one of the best books in the Harry Potter series and should've been handled the same way OotP was. They should have gotten the themes right instead of trying to cram whatever they could into the film and glossing over the things they couldn't
I hope that with a span of two movies that WB will treat Deathly Hallows with the respect it deserves, giving fans a film that does justice to an incredible ending to the Harry Potter film series.