Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

The release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was an eagerly awaited event among the members of my family. Yesterday was the day, so we trotted down to Vue Cinema in Braunstone, Leicester and enjoyed a couple of hours of easy escapism in the company of wizards and witches conjured from J.K.Rowling's immense imagination.

The Half Blood Prince was the book that got me reading the series. Until then, I'd been alone in the family in resisting Potter mania. But bored one day, and with that book the only reading matter available, I caved in. And yes, the story was good. From there I read the final episode - the Deathly Hallows, then worked my way backwards through the series to the beginning. (In a kind of Harry Potter meets Memento style reading experience.)

I don't wade through that many words easily. Dyslexia keeps me back from many of the longer classics. So I have to say that, however ropey the prose may be in parts, the Harry Potter series is a triumph of sustained story telling.

What about this film? As with the others in the series, it contained some very fine acting performances. Alan Rickman is never less than scintillating. Jim Broadbent's quality shines through. And the once child actors have grown into their roles beautifully. The visual effects were fine. The production values everything one would expect. It was, in short, a very successful depiction of an episode in this long saga.

But that is also it's limitation. It felt like an episode rather than having the shape of a feature film. I enjoyed it all the way through, but ultimately didn't feel as if I had been taken on a journey. Perhaps that was just the nature of the book - which leaves readers waiting for the final instalment. Or perhaps opportunities were missed in the way the the book was interpreted for the screen.

Once the final films have been made, I will doubtless go back to this one and watch it as a prelude to those. In that, I suspect it will have reached its highest point. But as a stand-alone it will always be limited. The only film in the series that stands alone as a great movie in its own right is the Prisoner of Azkaban. But that won't stop me and vast hoards of Harry Potter fans enjoying the Half Blood Prince and looking forward to the next one.

Now, how long do we have to wait?


Anonymous said...

we probably have to wait another few years! hahaha, i agree with what you've written. a solid film but you have to read the books to know what's coming next and how great it will be :) hope alls well, leila f

Mary McCallum said...

great post thanks - felt the same - having not read the book [have only read the first one to placate my household Potter fans]I enjoyed the return to the emphasis of the 'ordinary' school stuff [plus magic] of the first movie

Rod Duncan said...

Hi Leila,

Thanks for the comment. It was good to see you at the cinema yesterday. I'd assumed you'd have gone just after midnight for the very first showing. Call yourself a fan? :-)

Hi Mary,

I do remember that build-up of pressure to be part of the Potter movement. I resisted too. But the later books are worth dipping into if you have one of them lying around. Thanks for the comment.

Paul Lamb said...

I saw the film today, and I have to say I found it kind of boring. Of course I knew the plot, but I didn't find the other installments boring. Something about this one just felt deflated.

Rod Duncan said...

Hi Paul,

This movie seems to be dividing people. I heard Mark Kermode reviewing it on the radio on Friday. He really rated it highly. Said it was the second best in the series (after the Prisoner of Azkaban).

Yes, he admitted the ending was odd and anti-climactic and didn't follow the book and didn't really work as an ending of a movie. But he trusts that this is for some very good reason that will be revealed in the next film (or the next but one).

Perhaps he isn't so far from my view that this movie will only really find it's true place as preamble for the Deathly Hallows.

Mosher said...

I caught it the other night. In IMAX. With the first 15 minutes in 3D.


Overall I really enjoyed it. Moreso than I enjoyed the book which I found the weakest of the series. Bloated, over-hyped and actually irritating in places. The more streamlined version presented on screen was actually better, IMHO.

My main issue with the book was the hype when it came out - the "leak" (my a**e - that was publicity on purpose) that a major character dies. Then during the book you "see" no fewer than three characters "dying", only to have a very poor "oh no they're not!" right afterwards.

If one book in the series need re-edited, that's the one.

I found the film's ending about right for a "come back in 12 months time" thing but you're right. More of a set-up to the final one than an ending in itself.

Mosher said...

Just so's you know... I was at the cinema today and they have a big poster up advertising all the forthcoming IMAX films.

"Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows Part 1" (sic) is due out on IMAX 3D on November 19th 2010.

Rod Duncan said...

I went to see the film again last night and had a somewhat different opinion of it the second time around. In between times I also re-read the book, so that may be part of the reason for the change.

This time I liked it much more. But I am still not sure about the reason for the change in the very ending.