Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

It seems like ages ago that this whole Harry Potter thing began. In fact, the first book was published in the United Kingdom in 1997, and although it took some time to make it's way to the U.S. and get popular on this side of the pond, I can safely say that I've been hearing about Harry Potter for a third of my life.

Initially, I had no interest in Harry Potter. After all, I'd read Terry Brooks' Shannara books, Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance and Death Gate books, and Salvatore's Drizzt books when Rowling was still scribbling notes on napkins. Why would I waste my time reading what I thought to be children's books when I was already reading hardcore fantasy?

My then-girlfrend-present-wife was interested in the movies, though. I thought the first one was a snoozer. The second one was boring, but not as bad as the first. By the third film, I found I was actually entertained. After the fifth film, I decided to read the books.

It's probably best that I did. One thing you'll notice about the books, if you ever line them up at the bookstore, is that each book was thicker than the one that came before it. The pacing of the first two films seem okay, but the third film feels a little rushed. It was jarring when you realized that the events of the fourth book were supposed to be spaced out over a year at the school. The fifth film plays out like a Reader's Digest version.

This unfortunately makes the latest film, the Half-Blood Prince, play out almost like the Cliff's Notes.

Don't get me wrong, you'll get the gist of it. The key events, like Harry using the Half-Blood Prince's Potions book to excel at the class are presented. But very little background is presented. Secondary characters like Bill Weasley and Fleur are missing entirely, and scenes with those characters are either edited to used main characters or omitted entirely. Subplots are removed as well, grossly simplifying the developing relationships between the characters. Even as scenes are changed and dropped to fit in the film, new scenes were added, which actually don't fit very well with what does happen, either in the books or in the film.

This makes the Half-Blood Prince and odd creature; fans who have already read the books will get the most out of it, since they're the only ones who will really understand what's going on, but fans who have read the books are also the most likely to criticize its differences from the books.

I don't want to be too hard on the film, though. The actors played their roles brilliantly, especially Daniel Radcliffe as the titular Harry Potter. The scenes presented in the film are presented well, especially a particularly creepy scene when a student is cursed near the beginning. And with a book as long as the Half-Blood Prince, it was inevitable that it would have to be edited to fit the time constraints of a movie. The director and/or the producer seems to be aware of the problem as well, as the final book will apparently be split into two films.

It's hard to say for sure if I recommend seeing the Half-Blood Prince. If you're a fan of the books or have enjoyed the movies thus far, you might enjoy seeing the film. By the same token, if you're a fan of the book (which was my favorite of the 7, by the way), you already know how the story goes, and you might not appreciate a few key scenes stitched together into a film that doesn't really do justice to the source material. Personally, I was entertained by the film, but I'll say that it definitely wasn't my favorite of the films.

Final Score: C+

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I'm sorry but I thought that the Half blood Prince was amazing. It was by far the best movie since the third one. I have read the books and I knew that they would cut a lot out of the movie but I thought what they did worked well. I recommend seeing it and I liked it so much I will see it twice. (tho I have to because I went to see it with a friend and still have to see it with my wife.