Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince
Directed by David Yates, 2009
If the sixth Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince", managed to do one thing it was this: it surprised me. I was already pretty devastated to learn that David Yates is to direct the rest of the HP films and it turns out that my fears were right, but in a way that I had not foreseen!
I have always been a fan of the HP-films, liking some more than others of course, but always seeing them as delightful, compressed reproductions of J. K. Rowling’s repetitious and longwinded books. Of course when filming works as voluminous as the HP-stories, you have to lose some of the sub-plots in order to make decent films, and that is quite okay, but that is not what HP6 is doing. It takes you from HP5 to HP7 alright, but it is just not "Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince"! The screenplay is so loosely based on the book that almost every second scene is new, and you’ll have a hard time recognising people and places and the plot as such. You could say that scriptwriter Steve Kloves has made his own Half-Blood Prince and in his version it has turned into a comedy.
Rowling’s long, dark and rather tedious book has become the funniest of the films so far. The book’s two main plots, the revealing of the identity of the mysterious half-blood prince and the journey into Tom Riddle’s (Voldemort’s) past, have become small sub-plots, because what the sixth HP film is really all about is teenage love. There’s plenty of romance, snogging and awkward teenage behaviour, although nothing of the angst and brooding, which the book displayed. The film has a warmer, cuddlier feel to it than its predecessors and even the odd attacks from the Death Eaters don’t alter that. Hogwarts has become smaller and cosier, the characters milder and funnier, because this is a feel good comedy.
It is down to three of the actors to carry the film, and they do it so well. Jim Broadbent as Slughorn manages to make the new potions professor a lot more human and loveable than in the book, although he is just as horrible.
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy is the only one to lend the film a little tension, a rough edge so to speak, and he does it brilliantly, transforming himself from just another child-star to a wide-ranged adult actor.
Finally there’s Rupert Grint, the film’s true star. His comical talent really shines through and the way he manages to switch between comedy and seriousness as Ron Weasley shows him as the true actor of the young HP-cast.
The 153 minutes long film doesn’t leave much room for Daniel Radcliffe to shine as Harry Potter, except for the felix felicis scene, where he up-stages everyone else. Radcliffe is always at his best when he comes across as pestering, cheeky and a bit wacko.
Nice also to see Emma Watson being capable of more than just looking pretty, this film’s Hermione being quite emotional (and with bushy hair). Even her acting seems to have improved a bit.
On the other hand Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley becoming a sex bomb is not believable. It wasn’t believable in the book and it isn’t in the film, either. You don’t turn a mousy girl into a Goddess by giving her a pair of high heels and a boy to snog! You can literally see how uncomfortable Wright is as sex symbol Ginny.
The same can’t be said about Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. She plays a bigger part in the film and she does it well, although I found it disappointing that she wasn’t allowed to keep her "gum disease" line, which was her best in the book.
Michael Gambon takes Dumbledore back to the days of Richard Harris, making the Headmaster milder and a bit loony, and Alan Rickman follows suit, turning Snape into a warmer, funnier person than in previous films.
Despite the teenage love theme, HP6 doesn’t seem to appeal to teenagers (they’ve all gone to "Twilight"!). When I saw the film in London, the majority of the 1,000 people strong audience was in their twenties/thirties, quite a lot of senior citizens as well, but no kids and hardly any teenagers. What seemed to impress this mature audience the most were the spectacular special effects, the beautiful filming and the rather naughty word-plays from time to time.
I did however detect a huge disappointment in the audience because the film doesn’t follow the book. The younger the audience, the less they liked it, and fans of the book were almost angry! Although I genuinely like the film, I have the same objection. At least the funeral scene would have been nice. I would also have liked to see more of Tonks/Remus’ love affair. In HP6 they are suddenly a couple, which they weren’t in HP5, no explanation at all. Also Neville (Matthew Lewis) and the Weasley twins (Phelps-twins) are sadly underexposed.
Personally I could have spent ages in the twins’ joke shop. What a magical set! Notice how the large man in the shop window looks exactly like Oliver Phelps who plays George Weasley. Like in HP5 he gets more exposure than his twin, whereas the main focus was on Fred Weasley (James Phelps) in the first four films.
Look to the future
As "Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince" ends, it leaves you in suspense, not so much because of what is to come, but because it’s difficult to see how director David Yates is going to wriggle himself out of the many changes in the HP6 plot. Some of those changes are rather disturbing:
Three out of many worries – three out of five stars: ***
@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2009