Originally slated to be released in November of 2008, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was pushed back eight months. Why? Maybe Warner Brothers felt that Harry and Company could contend to be a summer blockbuster. Another answer is that Warner Brothers was afraid of a different book to movie adaptation featuring a hunky vampire and the girl who falls in love with him. Either way, fans of the film were forced to endure close to a year’s wait to see the sixth film in the series. Was the wait worth it? Depends on who you ask.
I’ll admit, I was a little excited to see Half-Blood Prince. I was never a big Harry Potter fan when the books came out. I didn’t really get into it even when the movies started being made. But right after the last book was released, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and I read the entire series. I read all seven books in the span of three weeks, and I found I enjoyed them. Not so much the first few, but the later stories were very exciting. They had a darkness that I didn’t expect, and the characterization was so deep that it became apparent to me that Harry Potter deserved the adoration that he received.
Which is why I’m a little sad to say that the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince didn’t tickle my fancy as I hoped it would.
The movie clocked in at around two and a half hours. Most of that was spent on silly teen love stories. The relationship between Harry and Ginny Weasley begins to blossom in the film, but doesn’t really come to a head. There is a brief moment of tenderness, some assumptions made on Harry part, but most of the time they spend pining for each other. The real let down, however, is the Ron/Hermione/Crazy Girl love triangle. Anyone who has read the books knows the fate of Ron and Hermione. But the build up of that romance is so drawn out that it just becomes repetitive. I felt the time in the film would have been better spent concentrating on the perceived resentment toward Ron that Harry feels, with Ron being put in a position of power as a prefect. But that aspect of the book never sees the light of day in the film. The writer and director chose to concentrate solely on Ron and Hermione, which should have been given some screen time, but not as much as it did. My girlfriend and I actually discussed this point during the final credits, with her argument being that it was necessary to include all of this so that the characters can arrive at the point they need to be by the end of the series. But my point is that by doing this, there is no further characterization with Ron. Granted, we see Hermione’s emotions from the get-go, but Ron is so oblivious to her feelings that he comes off like a stooge, and this is not how I remember him from the book.
The last hour of the movie was as good as the later chapters of the book. Harry and Dumbledore set out on a quest to find Voldemort’s weakness, which ends in tragedy. Though I began to nod off in the earlier parts of the movie, I was wide awake toward the end. The film translation is almost exactly as it was in the book, and I loved it. From the creepy sea of skeletons to the trap hiding the horcrux to the final fate of Dumbledore. Just about perfect.
What I enjoyed the most about the movie was the way Draco Malfoy was portrayed. In the first five films, Draco is, for lack of a better word, a dick. He is a rich, arrogant kid whose father is a very powerful man, and he makes sure everyone knows this. He strives to follow in his father’s footsteps, despite knowing that his father may have a few evil tendencies. In Half-Blood Prince, Draco is charged with a very important task by Voldemort himself. But he has difficulty fulfilling that task. Given everything we know about the character from before, it is strange to see him struggle so much. Though his hesitance is faithful to the character from the book, Tom Felton plays the boy with such emotion and power that it becomes a sight to see on screen.
I was also greatly disappointed by the underuse of Neville Longbottom. I know I’m strange for saying this, but Neville is my favorite character in the series. Every since he won the House Cup for Gryffindor in the first film, I have been a fan of the gangly, goofy, ne’er-do-well. And to see him relegated to the status of cater waiter was an insult to his true inner strength. They better, better, give him the screen time and proper history in Deathly Hollows. His story is so emotion and powerful that it needs to be told.
I feel my opinion on the film is irrelevant. If you like Harry Potter, you will enjoy this movie. If you don’t then, honestly, it could go either way. The film was well made, and the effects were certainly top-notch. Maybe I am alone in my opinion that it should have taken a different direction for the first half. But I felt that the faithful translation of the final events more than makes up for the earlier deviations. And as long as Book 7 is translated as loyally, then at least I won’t be let down then.