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Harry Potter and the Half-Baked Film

July 28, 2009

HP6After looking forward to the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie for a long, long time, I finally saw it on Sunday. The movies have done a great job of living up to the books – until now.


HP6Draco

What worked:

  • The additions and change in sequence at the beginning of the film were much more visually engaging than a scene in the Prime Minister’s office would have been.
  • More time with Malfoy and a peak into his plan. I don’t remember if the cabinets were even mentioned in previous movies, so this change was probably necessary so that they didn’t come completely out of nowhere.

What didn’t:

  • The attack on the Burrow. Why, why?
  • The absence of Voldemort. A huge part of the book details Voldemort’s history and rise to power. He is a central character, though we see him in only a few scenes in the movie.
  • Dumbledore’s astonishment at the Horcruxes when he and Harry finally see Slughorn’s original memory.
  • The omission of the Order of the Phoenix-D.A./Death Eater battle.
  • The change in Dumbledore’s death scene. Yes, it would have been difficult to visually show an immobile and invisible Harry and even more difficult to explain how Dumbledore, realizing someone was coming up the stairs, took the split second that he had to save Harry and thus doom himself. Without this important aspect of the scene, however, we don’t realize Dumbledore’s sacrifice, and instead of being powerless to act, Harry appears too obedient, scared, uncertain or selfish to come to Dumbledore’s aid. And he trusts Snape, which, like Harry standing by while Dumbledore is murdered, is completely out of character.

Harry’s relationship with Dumbledore is one of the biggest aspects of the book that has not come through in the movies, and this time, it was an even greater loss that will have major ramifications for the final installment(s). What should have been a shocking, heart-wrenching ending didn’t even draw a tear – and barely seemed to impact the professors and students of Hogwarts. Where I expected crumpled or at least shocked expressions, single tears fell down dry cheeks as the small crowd around the beloved headmaster’s body raised their wands in a kitchy farewell. Without a strong emotional connection to the movie-Dumbledore, will anyone care as Harry wrestles with his newfound knowledge of the headmaster in HP7?

HP6Dumbledore

While movie adaptations cannot – and should not – follow books word for word, even minor changes can have a huge impact on our perceptions of character. Take Harry and the Sectumsempra scene, in which three small but important changes occur. First, Malfoy does not begin to perform the unforgivable Cruciatus curse – so instead of using Sectumsempra as a desperate attempt to save himself, Harry proactively uses the unknown, dangerous spell “for enemies”. Second, once Harry sees what Secumsempra does, he pauses. He is not shocked or horrified that he has caused life-threatening wounds to Draco, but rather stares impassively. Third, the absence of Moaning Myrtle makes us wonder, how did Snape know to come to Draco’s rescue, and just when was Harry going to call for help?

Even though HP6 was the darkest of the movies so far, it lacked the urgency and danger so integral to the book. I actually found myself – dare I say it – getting a bit bored during the movie. With the final book split into two movies, the first which isn’t coming out for another year, I’m just not sure how much momentum Harry Potter will have left when Nov ’10 finally rolls around.

What did you think of the movie? Love it? Hate it? Why?

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