Friday, 24 July 2009

Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince

If a random person asked me to explain any of the Harry Potter books, it's highly unlikely that the sixth installment would be the one that I spoke. The reason for this is that it's the only of the seven books that I've read once. I started reading it on the 17th of July, 2005 and I never picked it up again after that. Why is this piece of trivia important? Well, the fact that as someone who knows quite a bit about Harry Potter etc, I've always been slightly miffed when the screen adaptations are underwhelming, so with Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince being the book I knew least of, it could mean that I'd be an easier judge of it.

Anyways, last night I finally saw Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, the latest film installment. The film wastes no time in letting us know that all is not right with both the Wizarding and Muggle World as black Wraith like creatures traverse the city wreaking havoc on mortals. The Muggle Newspapers even report these extremities that have the population worried. Meanwhile Dumbledore [Michael Gambon] and Harry [Daniel Radcliffe] go on a seemingly pointless journey to meet a wizard - Horace Slughorn, played by the delightful Jim Broadbent. Soon we realise that Slughorn is to be a prospective teacher at Horgwarts. Interesting? Maybe...maybe not. But this is just in the first twenty minutes. What is interesting in the first twenty minutes is the visit that Bellatrix [the luminous Helena Bonham Carter] and Narcissa [the bland Helen McCrory] pay to Severus, the excessively macabre Alan Rickman. Snape makes a binding vow to protect Draco Malfoy while he plots to perform the orders of the Dark Lord. Yes, that Dark Lord - Voldermort. Even if you read the book and know the outcome there is still a feeling of anxiety as Bellatrix essentially binds Snape to Voldermort's will.

The year passes with the usual occurences of teen angst -broken hearts, loquacious teenage girls etc, but it all culmintates in Dumbledore's quest to unearth Voldermort's secret of Horcruxes. This entails a thrilling exposition in a sinister cave where we Dumbledore surrounded by a ring of fire where he seems to be a biblical figure almost - a modern Moses of sort, paving the way for Joshua - Harry.

Of all the installments before, this films seems to be the most complete. It doesn't start at the beginning and there is no decisive ending but as far as film-making it seems to be a complete film. For example, I was very conscious of the score througout the two hours. One of the technical triumphs of the movie. Visually, too, the film is a success. From the aforementioned fire sequence to the entire of the Horcrux expedition, the crazy Death Eaters in the air led by the marvelously demonic Helena Bonham Carter and the memories Dumbledore has of Tom Riddle. All make use of some good visual effects, that are not over the top or used just for their own sake. And after six tries, it's about time. The cinematography too, seems good. Although this is coming from my decidedly layman opinion.

Then there's the acting. I have never been comfortable with Michael Gambon's interepretation of Dumbledore. There are times during the first half hour where I cringed at his obvious acting, but he had better moments too...and his final scene with Harry is very gripping, if somewhat sentimental. Most of the other adults don't really have much to work with. Alan Rickman continues to be effortless as Snape and Julie Walters is still undervalued as Mrs. Weasely and Maggie Smith has little more than a cameo as does Helena Bonham Carter - but that was expected. There is a scene where she runs through the woods screaming that is just freakishly awesome. As I mentioned earlier I was unimpressed with Helene McRory and I was right in thinking Kristin Scott Thomas would have been much more effective as Mrs. Malfoy. Jim Broadbent is the only other grownup who has a chance to impress...and that he does, reminding me how wonderful he was in Moulin Rouge! There's a scene where he tells Harry about his mother near the end of the film that on paper seems so pedestrian in its sentimentality, but Broadbent is so sincere you can't help being drawn in my his emotion.

But don't think I forgot the children. Not much has changed with them though. Bonnie Wright continues to be inadequate as Ginny lacking any chemistry with Radcliffe. And speaking of Radcliffe, I've never been particularly bowled over by him, sometimes he exudes the personality of a plastic bag but he as a few strong scenes, and he's not horrible. He seems more comfortable playing loud and angry than quiet and brooding and seeing that Harry is more of the latter that seems rather odd. I suppose Emma Watson is not that better than him, but I'm biased. She does lack subtlety quite often, but she can be good at times. Still none of them can hold a candle to my boy, Rupert Grint. It's possible that my appreciation for the character Ron has transferred to my appreciation of Grint, but I doubt. Although he continues to have the least screentime of the three leads he still outshines them. The scene where he consumes some edibles meant for Harry is obvious, but it's still funny and that's because of Grint's candour and expressiveness. Tom Felton, does his best work yet as Malfoy and Frank Dillane is haunting as a young Voldermort, in his one scene he acts as if the film is about him.


Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is not without it's fault, in case my raving has annoyed you. There were some things that struck me as odd afterward. But that's what makes it good. Unlike the last films where the inconsistencies struck me as I watched, the faults of this film were only retrospective. I was that caught up. For instance, why does the potions book seem so unimportant, why aren't we privy to more of Dumbledore's memories and Voldermort's young life, why is there so little of Snape, why does the revelation of the Half Blood Prince not interest me at all, what about Dumbledore's funeral and most importantly what about the big battle after Dumbeldore's death. But all that's secondary. The fact that the movie was good made me appreciate it. It can't have everything, I have the book for that. Anyways, I f**cking loved this movie. And you can quote me.

B+

I may be back with another post. I can't help it.

1 comment:

Emma said...

Watson, Radcliffe and Wright were all very,very poor. The last line and grade, completely agreed. :)