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3rd August
2009
written by Steph
In 2.5 hours, does the past unravel or just get more tangled?

In 2.5 hours, does the past unravel or just get more tangled?

I’ll kick off a review by sharing a honeymoon story with you:  Tony & I were really excited to find out that the new Harry Potter movie would be premiering while we were in Charleston.  Another thing to celebrate!  I jumped online and bought us some tickets to the midnight showing at the theater closest to our hotel and then just counted down the days.  When the night finally arrived, we drove up to the theater and we were a bit confused to see that there were several police cars stationed about.  Are Charlestonians violently passionate about Harry Potter?  And what was with all the lawn-chairs that the people in line were toting about?  Surely they couldn’t have been waiting in line that long to necessitate seating!  We swiftly discovered that the movie theater had decided it would capitalize on the rabid fandom by airing the midnight showing out in the parking lot, thereby allowing them to sell an unlimited number of tickets.  Needless to say, Tony & I were not amused; I didn’t pay for full-price tickets to sit in a dirty, humid parking lot (we hadn’t known to bring chairs…) to watch the film with crummy outdoor speakers on a building wall.  So, it was with heavy hearts that we decided to bail out on the midnight showing and just catch another show the next day.  In the end, I’m glad we made the choice we did since the theater itself was really cool – it actually had a full service bar, and in the individual movie viewing rooms themselves you actually had a table in front of you and could order full meals (that someone delivered to you!).  It was definitely a new experience for us, and one I’m glad we got to have. So, onto the movie itself!  I don’t really know where to begin or how to break this all down.  I guess I’ll start by saying that this will obviously involve plot spoilers and discussion of the books and movies to-date, so if you don’t want to read that kind of stuff, you should probably not keep reading.  Also, I have A LOT of thoughts on the movie... With that out of the way, let’s get into it. I think I am of two minds with respect to this movie: overall I enjoyed it a good deal, but I also had a fair number of problems with it.  While HBP isn’t my favorite book in the series, I do like it a good deal and was really looking forward to seeing portions of it on screen.  I really loved the way Voldemort’s history was explored in the book, as well as the revelation about horcruxes (I think this book answers a lot of questions and sets a very clear path for what Harry must do and the huge challenge he faces in the final book), and I also thought it had some great action scenes as well.  All in all, I thought it would make a really good movie. I should say before we go any further that I pretty much despised the fifth film.  There are elements about it that are good (the casting of Imelda Staunton as Umbridge was great!), but by and large I found it to be pretty boring (true story: I saw it three days in a row with various different people, and I completely fell asleep the third time) and I was frustrated to find that the parts I enjoyed most about the book were cut from the film.  And I realize that every fan will have his or her own “favorite” parts, and obviously the filmmakers can’t include all of them in a movie (even if we wish they could), but I really stung how they dealt with all the stuff at the Ministry of Magic, namely how most of the big fight scenes were cut out and how they jumped right into the Hall of Prophecies and then into the room with the veil.  And the reason it sucked is because that stuff amounts to like 150 pages in the book and is pretty much the most exciting stuff to happen in the entire book, and also, that stuff seems like the natural stuff to include in a movie!  It’s all action and magic and fun!  Who doesn’t want to see that brought to life? (Another true story: when Tony and I saw Order of the Phoenix for the first time, he actually blurted out, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” when the film just cuts to the kids being in the Hall of Prophecies.  We had been gearing up for this part of the film and what a harsh letdown it was to find all the stuff we’d been anticipating had been cut out.) Now I’m sure at this point you’re thinking to yourself, “But Steph, we’re here to talk about HBP, not OotP!”  I assure you, that last paragraph was relevant, because I felt like once again the filmmakers cut out the stuff from HBP that would have translated best on film!  Sure we got the creepy cave scene (though I wish there had been some reference to Inferi at some point prior to their watery appearance), but what about the big battle at Hogwarts?  Dude!  That was a big knock-down drag-out fight!  And we got none of it!  So lame!  And so disappointing.   Once more, the huge action scene is cut from the film, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.  ESPECIALLY not in this movie when the filmmakers added in a scene that was not actually in the original books (the attack on the Burrow).  I mean, I get why they added the scene (to show that as the kids are at school, the wizarding world is falling to pieces, to show how the people near and dear to Harry are in constant danger), and I don’t really take issue with it, only don’t add shit that’s not in the books if it means cutting out awesome stuff that is!  I think seeing people get wounded in battle and see that Hogwarts is no longer safe also helps emphasize that (especially because Bill Weasely would have been attacked by Fenrir Greyback, which was so terrifying in the book).  I know some people have argued that the filmmakers needed to really think about the story and advancing the plot, but there were tons of places they could have clipped other things to make time for at least a 5-minute fight scene.  Did we really need to have 12 scenes of Hermione agonizing over Ron & Lavender?  Did we even really need to include
Is the Harry-Ginny storyline making Harry fall asleep too?

Is the Harry-Ginny storyline making Harry fall asleep too?

the Quidditch stuff?  I get that the films like to play up the relationship stuff, but we really didn’t need all of those scenes to understand that Hermione has a thing for Ron, any one of them would have sufficed.  Also, the Harry/Ginny stuff was pretty pathetic in my point.  Were it not for Hermione repeatedly mentioning that Harry is apparently in love with Ginny, we might never have picked up on this.  Why was his crush on Cho Chang so much more palpable?  Booooo! OK, so I didn’t agree with not including a great battle at the end of the book, and clearly I have an issue with the way the movies are paced (so much build-up and then the endings are ALWAYS anti-climactic… because they take out the fighting!), but I think my big issue with HBP is that there were things that were changed that just didn’t make sense to me.  I loved the scene in Hagrid’s cabin where Slughorn is telling Harry about the lovely bit of magic Lily performed in making him his fish Frances.  And that the day that Frances disappeared from his bowl is the day Harry’s mother died…. The idea being that when a wizard dies, all of his spells are broken, all his magic undone.  I thought this was a brilliant (and touching) way of setting up the tower scene when Harry is petrified by Dumbledore and is only able to break free when Dumbledore is killed…  Only the filmmakers change this, and I don’t understand why given how beautifully they set it up!  Instead they have Harry stand there and watch as Dumbledore is menaced by Death Eaters, and worse still (because it’s so grossly out of character) trust Snape when he appears and ultimately carries out the deed.  Are we really meant to believe Harry would simply stand idly by?  It makes it all lackluster, because in the book Harry wants to act but can’t, whereas here he could but doesn’t… it’s really confusing and out of character and lessened the tension that would have otherwise been there.  I also liked how in the book the idea was that Dumbledore sacrifices himself in order to save Harry – rather than disarming Draco, he petrifies Harry.  There is none of that weight in the movie. I suppose the other thing I found somewhat bemusing was the whole half-blood prince storyline.  I realize that in the grand scheme of things, that storyline isn’t really the most important one or the one that catapults us into the final leg of the series, but it was still pretty pathetic how little attention that story got.  I don’t think the film accurately captures Harry’s obsession with the Prince, and when he’s finally forced to get rid of the book, it didn’t feel like such a big deal because you never got the sense of how much the book had come to mean to him.  Moreover, the revelation at the end where Snape reveals himself to be the HBP was pretty laughable.  It almost came from nowhere!  All of sudden he’s like, “Oh, by the way, I’m the HBP so don’t use my spells against me!  Gotta go!”  Talk about poor plotting.
"I know you don't really care, but I just thought I'd give the film title some relevance!  Gotta jet!"

Snape's reveal to Harry could have just been done by text message: "BTW I M HBP. GTG!"

So obviously there were things that bugged me about the movie, but there were things I liked a good deal.  I mentioned that the movie focuses on the relationships between the characters quite a lot comparatively speaking, and I actually tend to enjoy that because I think the actors have great chemistry and I think it helps emphasize the progression through adolescence.  After all, even with all the magic and other-worldly that abounds in the books, the parts about growing up are universal even for us muggles.  Ever since the fourth film it seems there’s been a harder push for the films to be more like teen romantic comedies, and I’m ok with that for the most part.  If we can’t have all the action I’d like, at least give us the laughs.  And HBP is certainly funny.  I loved the stuff with Lavender (that girl was great), and Slughorn’s Christmas party was fabulous as well.  And let’s not forget the sleazy Cormac!  And Dan Radcliffe really shone during the Felix Felices scene, while Rupert did a great job during the love potion scene.  Overall, this is probably the funniest HP movie, and was definitely a welcome relief compared to the last one.  In a way, this is somewhat of a disservice since the tone of this book is supposed to be very dark, especially at the end when it is finally clear to Harry what he must now do, and I think that is lost in the film.  Perhaps it is because the horcruxes are largely glossed over (for all the jabbering about how this might be the most important memory of all, Dumbledore doesn’t go into much detail about his encounters with the ring horcrux or even what the other ones might be… information Harry desperately needs!), but I felt that because so much was left unsaid on that front, it was hard for the audience to appreciate what Harry must do and what his goals are.  We know that locket’s a fake, but how will he know what else to look for?  Ending the sixth book, Harry is supposed to have his mantra of the locket, the cup, the snake, something of Ravenclaw’s (maybe?)… it’s like this ominous checklist he needs to start ticking off the boxes on.  I suppose that in the movie now, even more than in the books, Harry is really lucky he’s friends with Hermione, because prospects don’t look so good for the Chosen One at the end of HBP on that front. As always, the casting was spot on (I think they do such a good job, especially when it comes to casting the professors and adult parts).  I loved Jim Broadbent as Slughorn, and the flashbacks with Voldemort were wonderful as well (of course I wanted more!).  However, the real standout this time round was certainly the cinematography.  The movie is absolutely gorgeous, leaps and bounds ahead of the first two, and I can’t wait to watch this one on blu-ray once it’s out (as much as OotP is a stinker, it looks fantastic on our tv).  The filming and production of the film feels magical and for a blockbuster smash, a lot of time and effort has obviously gone into having fun with the world and giving it an artistic flare (how fun must it be to be a set designer?).  Simply put, this is a good-looking movie. In the end, it’s hard to put aside one’s own vision of the book, to not be outraged by the things you feel were handled badly.  HBP doesn’t go into as much depth as I would have hoped – almost every storyline is glossed over to varying degrees of detriment – nor does it have the emotional impact of the book, and that’s a real shame.  Movie 5 was on thin ice, in my opinion, when it came to keeping non-readers of the series up to speed with the rest of us, and I can’t help that Movie 6 simply continued that trend.  For all I feel was left out, I can only think how confused some moviegoers must have been about what the hell was going on and what the big deal was.  If you didn’t know what a horcrux was going in, would you really get it now?  Probably not, and I think that’s a shame.  But I guess in the end, I was able to sit back and enjoy the exploits of Harry and Ron and Hermione and I was glad to be back in their company, even if things didn’t unfold exactly as I would have liked.  I laughed a good deal and I was diverted throughout the film, and having seen it now twice, I possibly liked it more the second time round because I was better able to appreciate it for what was there in front of me rather than what I hoped it would be.  I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone other than myself but as an extension and progression of the series I find HBP a letdown, but as a movie that just happens to be about Harry Potter, I liked it.  I’m happy to hear that the filmmakers are already slotting in the battle of Hogwarts to be about 30 minutes in the 2nd film, because otherwise I’d be pretty nervous they were just going to cut all the good action-y stuff out of the seventh film too.  I hope they can do those last two films justice because I really feel the series deserves to end on a high note… and hopefully with a bang!  I haven’t cried while watching the last two films, so I hope those reserved tears get used up with Deathly Hallows.  Don’t let me down guys! Rating: 4 out of 5

2 Comments

  1. 08/05/2009

    I’m so glad you posted this entry. I agree with a lot of what you said, but I think I liked the movie less than you. There was a point that I actually checked my watch while at the theater during this movie because I was so ready for it to be over. I knew I’d hate HP5 (because it’s my least favorite book) but I had much higher hopes for this movie. I was so upset that the battle was cut out. I felt like so much was cut out that is important to the development of the series.

    On a good note, I thought Tom Felton was incredible. Everyone else was great, too, except I was underwhelmed by Bonnie Wright. All in all, I’m sure I’ll see it again, but no time soon.

  2. 08/05/2009

    @ Chavonne: Book 5 was my least favourite of the series, too, so yes, it wasn’t really a surprise when I didn’t dig the film that much… if only they hadn’t taken out the one good part though! 😉
    Maybe the movie makers are banking on the fact that even if fans are disappointed by what they take out, we’ll still know what is going on, so they don’t have to work as heard to develop the series on screen? I really do feel that without having read the books the whole horcrux storyline might be pretty confusing.
    I think I want to see this one in 3D IMAX, and then I’ll be good until it comes out on DVD.

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