Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bad luck and a spoilery HBP review

It's funny how life happens. One minute I'm anxiously emailing out resumes because things had gotten THAT bad at my job, then I'm sitting across from my manager, hearing him say 'this is your last day.' I'm still not sure why I was let go. Maybe it was the recession. Maybe I didn't perform my duties properly. Maybe, and I think this is likely, my mind reading skills were not up to par. I don't think many are aware of this, but a uterus does not automatically equal 'mind reader.' Just an FYI.

Point is, I am no longer employed. That stings a bit, but pride is a funny thing and though mine has been bent, it certainly isn't irrevocably damaged. One of the many things I learned in my near decade in college was how to grow a thick skin and I can tell you all, mine is Teflon. I promise you.

So, in an effort to forget that I have much searching and resume sending yet to do, I diverted myself by seeing the new Potter film on Tuesday night. Now, I fully admit to being a Potter nerd. I adore the series and think Rowling deserves a chair on the Literary Lovers court and that she warrants the creation of a new, genius only, Super Secret Hand Shake. There is no shame in admitting that, is there? Well, even if there were, I would feel none.

The film, 'Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,' in case you've been living under a particularly soundproof rock, follows Harry and company in their sixth year at Hogwarts. Harry has come into possession of a Potions book that enables him to thrive in the class. The first possessor of said book was The Half Blood Prince.

Onto all things spoilery:

On the whole, I liked it. It wouldn’t rank as one of my personal favorite of all the Potter films, but it certainly is the funniest and the most visually appealing. As a die hard fan, I took issue with a few things. Namely:

1. Harry’s attraction to Ginny is discovered once he gets himself out of the Weasley’s pond and begins to, wow thank you wondrous puberty, gawk at Ginny like a mystical peeping Tom. This, I thought, marked the beginnings of the ‘we’re playing very little attention to the blossoming Harry/Ginny relationship’ dynamic in the film. In fact, I found this to be my least favorite bit in HBP. In Rowling’s version, we are allowed a very subtle view of Harry’s growing feelings for the younger Weasley. It builds over time until it combusts when Harry and Ron catch Ginny in mid snog fest with her boyfriend Dean Thomas. We get a very slight version of that, but Yates’ Harry seems more concerned with being complimentary and friendly with Slughorn than with the fact that his future wife is macking down on her boyfriend in a booth at The Three Boomsticks. Later, when the audience finally gets a little Potter/Weasley smooch, it’s Ginny who has taken the initiative when SHE hides his Potions books in the Room of Requirement. Very un-canon, that.

The relationship is hinted at being a little more of a mild flirtation to the point that when Harry is crying next to Dumbledore’s body, Ginny’s attempt at consoling him seems more to be brother/sisterly. The chemistry and whole of the character’s relationship in the book is exciting, thrilling and felt through Harry’s every mention or thought of Ginny. That is not, in my opinion, the case in the HBP film. The relationship was played down significantly. Ginny never mentions her break up with Dean and therefore creates a small eyebrow raise when she kisses Harry. This is, canonically, a passionate relationship. In the film, we get a vanilla version. No post Quidditch Cup common room kiss, no Ron giving Harry a ‘well if you must’ glance or Dean breaking a glass with his hand. And, no break up. At all. No, martyrish speech on Ginny’s part about Harry’s ‘stupid noble reasons.’ Fans, particularly Harry/Ginny fans, got cheated.

2. The White Tomb is completely missing. No funeral. Harry doesn’t tell the others in the hospital wing that Dumbledore has died. Bill Weasley wasn’t attack by Fenrir Greyback, (who doesn’t utter a sound in the whole film), because Bill has yet to appear on film, unless you count the very un-Bill version that was glanced at in PoA. No lamenting Fawkes, though there is a very brief glimpse of him at the end of the film. No mermaids and the whole of the wizarding community visiting the grounds for Dumbledore’s memorial.

3. No real Tonks and Lupin relationship. What is included is a contradictory version of canon events. Lupin and Tonks are present at the Burrow during Christmas holidays, but other than Tonks calling Lupin ‘sweetheart’ we get no indication that they are a couple. And? She has brown hair in this scene. Nit picky, I know, but canon Tonks went all dowdy and depressed with brown hair because she didn’t know where Lupin was. Here, she went dowdy but she’s with Lupin? Consistency, Yates. Look it up.

4. Nameless Aurors are at Hogwarts, but are easily taken over by Death Eaters following Dumbledore’s murder. No Lupin, Tonks or Bill post battle.

5. Harry does nothing when Dumbledore is killed. He makes a small attempt but then is forestalled by Snape who shushes him before he climbs the steps to murder Dumbledore. Harry is not under his cloak or encumbered by the Headmaster’s binding spell. What is most annoying about this is that Harry can be perceived as a coward in this scene. The Harry we know and love in the books, had he been spell-free, would have never stood there while his mentor is murdered simply because Snape instructed him to stay put.

6. Snape’s exit was brief and unimpassioned. Utterly. He does not get angry with Harry when he calls Snape a coward. Very unlike canon Snape. He simply says ‘I’m the Half Blood Prince, mkaythnxbye.’ Rickman is a far, far better actor than this and it’s sad that he was given very little with this script to stretch those very beefy acting muscles.

7. Sadly, I hate to say this, but I felt bored in parts of this film. My children even commented on this. “Is it almost over?” That’s not good. Yates seems to be vying for the title of King of Awkward Silences and with HBP, he earns the crown. So much could have been eliminated that would have furthered the film along, so many things could have been added (canon details, for example), that would have made this a better film. Unfortunately, none of these were and we get a sometimes boring version of Rowling’s great plot.

Things that I simply adored:

1. Two words: Tom Felton. Let me correct myself. Four words: Tom M F Felton. Here Felton got, at long last, the opportunity to prove he knows what he’s doing in this little acting game. It is quite obvious that he’s been at it since he was a child. Felton was able to garner sympathy for Draco, able to put the audience in to Draco’s position and create some semblance of compassion for a usually uncompassionate character.

2. Won Won. The Ron/Lavender pairing was done nearly to canon and both Grint and Jessie Cave played well off one another. Cave especially showed us an obsessive, (I-Want-To-Wear-Your-Skin kind of obsessive) ridiculous, love struck Lavender. I adored them together and think that the display of ridiculous between Ron and Lavender was perfection. Many, many laughs thanks to Grint and Cave.

3. Felix Felicis. Hands down my favorite scene in the film. Radcliffe aced this one and had me, and my little ones, giggling for days afterward.

4. The Cave scene. Absolutely brilliant. I was not disappointed; I even jumped when that gnarled, decayed hand jutted out of the lake to latch onto Harry’s leg. Gambon was Dumbledore while drinking the poisoned drink, crying and wailing as canon Dumbledore did, ‘Kill me!’ and yes even ‘It’s all my fault. My fault.’ Kudos for this one because it was as close to what I imagined the scene to be while I read HBP.

5. Riddle’s past incarnations. A casting agent somewhere, out there, must have earned a significant bonus for casting absolute perfect versions of Ralph Fiennes/Tom Riddle’s childhood selves. Both, the youngest being Fiennes actual nephew, are all things creepy, eerie, disturbing and true incarnations of the boy version of the Dark Lord. The Pensieve scenes, though we are only treated to two, were brilliantly acted.

On the whole, I did enjoy the film. I wouldn’t claim it as ‘the best ever,’ and I have to admit to hearing many, many people bashing it as I left the theatre. However, I am aware that not all plot points can be included. Warner Brothers bought the rights to Rowling’s work and that means they have carte blanche with the characters and plot. I know this. I just happen to think that less foreshadowing, less brooding and more detail could have been included.

I’m of the mindset that Yates and Kloves— whose penchant for Hermione love and lack of canon detail annoys me endlessly— will have quite a lot of explaining to do in the final two films. What is Kreacher’s importance? Who is RAB? What’s the big deal with the horcruxes? Who is Prongs and Padfoot? Why is Harry’s Patronus a stag? Why is Snape’s Patronus important? And many, many more important— necessary plot points— will have to be explained since they were omitted from the past films. I certainly wouldn’t want that job. The problem is that Kloves and Yates did this film assuming that everyone has read Potter. That, unfortunately, isn’t the case. And, I swear, if Matt Lewis is barred from showing the world what a badass Neville Longbottom becomes in the final book, I will boycott every Yates/Kloves/Warner Brothers films ever after.

I did enjoy HBP, loved the humor, felt my heart breaking at the tragic ending. I do, however, hope when we see films seven and eight, the director and screenwriter would have learned the importance of bringing their A game. After all, Potter fans expect nothing less. It’s what we got from Mrs. Rowling with every single book.


Sara said...

I agree with about 99% of your review! I did think the H/G was better done in the books because it was subtle.

Tom Felton was amazing in this. He's grown so much as an actor. The look on his face when Bellatrix began destroying the Great Hall. Gah. I never thought I would feel so bad for Malfoy.

The Lady with the Dragon Tattoo said...

I completely agree! I tried talking to Raven about it because she has read the books about 7 times or something like that. I was so disappointed with the ending and no memorial which is important to the last book too. I was disappointed because at the memorial is where Ginny is told by Harry that they can't be together because she will get hurt and where he is going is dangerous. I was actually angry with the lack of a fight with Dumbledore's death. I kept thinking they left out some important stuff that needs to be in there because otherwise the last movies aren't going to tie together so well. I hated the fact that Ginny hid the book becuase it was necessary for Harry to hide the book in order to find the horcrux in the last book. I needed house elves, wearwolves, and Bill, and Fleur. I needed Tonks to be punky and Harry to be the tormented, brave, chosen one that he is in the books. I didn't get that.

I did love the Felix potion scene and I did feel compassion for Draco, which is also important for the last book. I also jumped when the decayed hand grapped Harry. I knew it was coming, but still jumped.

Good review.

TS Tate said...

Thanks, Sara and Jess, I appreciate your comments. I agree with you both. The film makers are going to have a lot of explaining to do in the final two films. I don't envy them that job! Still I did like the movie and will likely see it again.

Christi said...

I did like the movie, but it wasn't my favorite. Chamber of Secrets is still tops for me. Except for a couple scenes there was almost no reason for Rupert Grint to be in the movie as far as I am concerned. His lines were cut or cut short, and mostly he just stood around doing nothing. It was almost as if he was just an extra that was put in the spotlight. Tom Felton was great, played a fantastic Draco Malfoy. Alan Rickman was great, but again his reigns were pulled in. It seems he was being treated the same as Rupert. Rupert really has not been given any slack to be "Ron Weasley" since the 2nd movie. And that is such a shame because he is so good at it. Yates, Kloves and Heyman are not on my favorites list right now.

TS Tate said...

I agree. I used to adore Heyman, though I was never a Kloves cheerleader. Now, Heyman and Kloves together, IMHO, have destroyed a great franchise. Very annoying and now I hear there won't even be that much in the way of deleted scenes. Very frustrating.

Katherine C. Teel said...

Hey, hon! Sorry I'm just now reading this--I still have to write mine, but I think I'm going to wait until I see it again. Anyway, very insightful thoughts,and I totally agree with you, even though I really liked the movie. I have been so frustrated that NONE of the movies have seemed to acknowledge that the larger story exists at all. And the things they left out or did wrong in this film could just as easily have been done differently, with no extra cost.

Gah...why don't they have some of us on the production staff? They'd be better off, and so would the movies.