Typing Faster

July 23, 2009

Harry Potter and the How Bloody Long is this Movie?

Filed under: Movies — petertypingfaster @ 10:45 am

Went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. A few thoughts:

Don’t make the same mistake I did and see a late show. Movie’s way, way too long.

I’d much rather see a movie about all the supporting characters (Snape, Malfoy, Dumbledore) than a movie about Harry, Hermione and Ron.

This movie felt like it lacked a couple of big action sequences, and the ones they did have were disappointingly lackluster (the cornfield, the sea cave).

I’d take the time to give a more thorough review, but I’m tired and I’ve got a lot of work to get done today, so I’m going to punt it instead.

David Chen over at /film went and watched all of the Harry Potter movies over the span of a week and reviewed them all. You can find the reviews here, here, here and here.

Cribbing the relevant bits from his review of the Half-Blood Prince:

It should be noted that the movie doesn’t really stand up on its own as well as the other films, since it ends with a very clear cliffhanger. I’m not going to dock points for that, since it’s inherent to the storyline, but what I’m justifiably unhappy about is that the fim squanders some of the little dramatic potential it has. As with some of the less enjoyable Potter films, Half-Blood Prince takes an excessive amount of time in setting up the main conflict of the story. By the time you understand what all the pieces of the puzzle are, the film is almost over.

Arguably one of the most significant twists of the series is the fact that Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) has been working for the dark lord this entire time. In this film, he is introduced, matter-of-factly, as being on Voldemort’s side right from his very first scene. You could argue that his allegiances are actually ambiguous throughout the film, but I would argue that every single scene Snape is in during this film cements his status as a bad guy (not to mention the fact that halfway through the film, we learn about the true nature of the Unbreakable Vow). Also, the final reveal that Snape is indeed the Half-Blood Prince carries no weight with it; what feels like it was supposed to be one of the film’s big moments falls completely flat.

There’s also the matter of Draco Malfoy, who I think is completely wasted in this movie. The idea that Malfoy is chosen to assassinate Dumbledore is incredibly interesting, but he is given almost nothing to do in this film other than stalk around the school’s hallways a lot, get hurt by Potter in the bathroom, then scream a lot towards the end of the film. Why was Malfoy chosen for this task? Why does Malfoy feel this is a task he has to complete? What is the nature of Malfoy’s internal conflict? None of these questions are answered in a satisfying way. I am not exaggerating when I say I literally learned more about Malfoy’s motivations in the first few films, when Malfoy is still a kid and opining about how dirty mudbloods are.

If there’s one thing in the movie that really worked for me, it was Dumbledore and his relationship with Harry. We learn some of Dumbledore’s history with Voldemort, and Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore is tested throughout the movie (The famous line, “Once again, Harry, I must ask too much of you,” is great not only for Gambon’s delivery but for the pathos it carries). When Dumbledore’s assassination finally comes at the end, it is a death exactly as tragic as it should be, a momentary triumph of evil over good and a signifier that from this point on, Potter and his friends are on their own.

I wanted and expected Half-Blood Prince to transcend the constraints of its pedigree, but I found that overall, Half-Blood Prince exemplifies everything that is right and wrong, cinematically, with the Harry Potter series. It suffers from languid and uneven pacing and manages to contain too much exposition and not enough exposition, all at once. It successfully creates its own universe and lets us inhabit it for a short period of time, yet often struggles with how to make that universe’s events suspenseful or purposeful. The greatest joy in this film, as with the entire series, is getting to spend more time with the characters we know and love. But if I had to guess (since I haven’t read the books), I would say that like the rest of the series, this movie relies way too much on one’s knowledge of the book’s characters to make it thoroughly enjoyable on its own.

Is this movie worth seeing? Sure, especially if you’re a fan of the series. Does it live up to its potential? Not in the slightest.

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