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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


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Wow, according to FilmRatings.com (the official MPAA site), this movie is rated PG -- not PG-13! -- for "scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality."

The first three films were PG, which made sense, since Harry aged 10 to 13 over the course of those movies. But the fourth and fifth movies were PG-13, which also made sense, since Harry was getting older and the stories were getting darker. Indeed, the series continues to get darker... and darker... right up until the very end of the last book, so you would normally expect the movie series to stay at the PG-13 level as well. But for some reason this movie may have toned things down a little. Huh.

'Harry Potter' returns to PG territory

There's little question that some parents would feel more comfortable OK'ing a trip to see a film rated PG rather than PG-13.

But by this point, "Harry Potter" is a known commodity. Obviously, parents feel safe entrusting their kids to Hogwarts films, and the PG-13 has a bonus of indicating that a film is cool and slightly more grown-up. Sometimes, a studio prefers a PG-13 rating because it will draw teenagers. A PG rating can be viewed by teens as too juvenile. . . .

Neither the studio nor the filmmakers went into the ratings process with the intention of securing a PG rating for "Half-Blood Prince," insiders said. Rather, the ratings board determined that nothing depicted on the screen warranted the more restrictive PG-13 designation.

"Half-Blood Prince" is no lighter in tone than the previous two films, according to early reviews. . . .

Variety, July 8

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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No time to say much of anything, but for now, let's just say that my favorite Potters remain the 3rd and 4th films (Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire). The new one doesn't have much of the momentum, energy, or spectacle that I've come to associate with the franchise. In a strange way, it feels like a small British TV-movie -- a dialogue-driven Mike Leigh film, perhaps -- that just happens to have expensive special effects in the background.

That being said, this movie has the best take on Dumbledore of any of the movies so far. I always thought casting Richard Harris in the first two movies was a problem, since he simply didn't have the whimsy OR the authority that the role seemed to require (can you picture Harris spouting that string of nonsense-words at his opening speech to the students? or actively disarming and confronting evil wizards as Dumbledore has had to do in the last couple of films?), and I know many people were upset by the casting of Michael Gambon because he seemed to veer too far in the other direction, getting almost rough with Harry in Goblet of Fire for example. But in THIS film ... well, I chuckled when Dumbledore asked someone if he could use "the loo". Or when he expressed an interest in "knitting patterns". And there is a scene near the end -- in the cave, if you know what I mean -- that is quite heartbreaking, but perfectly captures where J.K. Rowling was going with this character.

And Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn is a delight, as always. So good to see him in one of these movies. Now, if we can only get him a part in one of the Hobbit movies, he will have been a part of all three major British-fantasy franchises. (He has already played the Professor in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Hmmm. Are there any Professors in The Hobbit?)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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That being said, this movie has the best take on Dumbledore of any of the movies so far. I always thought casting Richard Harris in the first two movies was a problem, since he simply didn't have the whimsy OR the authority that the role seemed to require (can you picture Harris spouting that string of nonsense-words at his opening speech to the students? or actively disarming and confronting evil wizards as Dumbledore has had to do in the last couple of films?), and I know many people were upset by the casting of Michael Gambon because he seemed to veer too far in the other direction, getting almost rough with Harry in Goblet of Fire for example. But in THIS film ... well, I chuckled when Dumbledore asked someone if he could use "the loo". Or when he expressed an interest in "knitting patterns". And there is a scene near the end -- in the cave, if you know what I mean -- that is quite heartbreaking, but perfectly captures where J.K. Rowling was going with this character.

Still haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm glad I've seen someone else say this. I really think Gambon has done an excellent job as Dumbledore, but most Potter fans I know like Harris better. I just think Gambon has the authority the role needs, not the sit-in-a-rocking-chair grandfatherness that Harris delivered.

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"Harry Potter 6 Gets Thumbs-Up From the Vatican"

Countdown to Steven Greydanus's cry of exasperation at this story's false assumptions in 10... 9... 8... 7...

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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'Harry Potter' pulls in $22.2 million

In a massive start, Warner Bros.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Harry Potter 6 Gets Thumbs-Up From the Vatican"

Countdown to Steven Greydanus's cry of exasperation at this story's false assumptions in 10... 9... 8... 7...

Heh. Well, it's a silly and misleading story, but at least it's self-consciously silly.*

At this point, my serious eye-rolling is reserved for the dopes at L'Osservatore Romano.

FWIW, my review.

----------------------

*The important stupid stuff is all in the first sentence. By the numbers: 1. Ratzinger wasn't pope in 2003. 2. It was a private letter, not a "review." 3. It's not clear exactly what "subtle seductions" Ratzinger was referring to (the sentence is terse and in English translation ungrammatical). 4. It isn't clear that Ratzinger has even read the HP books, let alone that he meant to offer an opinion on them. 5. Although L'OR is the Vatican's "semi-official" newspaper, editorial opinions cannot be ascribed to "the Vatican." Most content, like this review, isn't even vetted by anyone in a position to speak for the Vatican.

Beyond that, I don't think the author means to seriously say that L'OR's Angels & Demons review was a "huge rave," or that the pope had anything to do with writing it. I don't think.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Just saw it - I should have known that it was going to feel incomplete somehow. It also felt rather short like it was still leaving out a bunch of the story, but it is about 2 and half hours long so I'm not going to blame them for that. Come to think of it, the book itself felt pretty incomplete once it was over.

This film does get a whole bunch of things right. I love Richard Harris, but Gambon nails Dumbledore in this film - and makes him into the man who, in spite of everything, seems worthy of being trusted. All the humor is back in this one. And, in spite of others complaining about it, I found Ginny's relationship with Harry like I found it in the book - she's the angel that gives him a reason to resist the bad part of himself.

My favorite quote from the reviews I've read on the film has to come from Josh Tyler -

Half-Blood Prince may be the least action-heavy of all the Potter pictures. Even the movie

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'Harry Potter' pulls in $22.2 million

In a massive start, Warner Bros.

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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'Harry Potter' breaks midnight record

The midnight coin for "Prince" compares to a $12 million haul from similar showtimes for the last "Potter" pic, 2007's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." That was part of a first-day tally for "Phoenix" totaling $44.2 million.

Hollywood Reporter, July 15

I'm not at all surprised. I went to the midnight showing at AMC Loews in Boston downtown. They have 19 screens; for the first time in the history of the theater, every seat was sold out for every screen in the building. There were 4500 people there. I'm sure it was much the same in other theaters across the country.

Don't have time to give an expanded opinion, except to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought that Michael Gambon was spectacular. I've had my doubts about him in previous installments of the film saga, but he blew those away in this film. Also thought that the final act of the film was done pretty well, especially the cave scene. Really affecting. I have some small points of contention with the film, but nothing serious. I almost feel as if trying to compare this film as to ranking it in regard to the others is unfair; the fundamentals are the same, but the form is significantly different. Especially a stark contrast to Order of the Phoenix; whereas the the former film felt like a chain of detached events, and far more inclined towards action, the new film seems more subtle, progressive. The romance is cutesy, but still feels more genuine and nuanced in this film than in any of the others.

As for the moments when the action comes, it's understated and subtle; all too often it seems that each new film that comes out nowadays is an attempt to upstage whatever blockbuster came before it in regard to special effects and visuals (i.e., the new Transformers movie). In HBP on the other hand, the action scenes were appropriate, and mercifully non-gratuitous. There was a focus instead on the gravity of the characters in those scenes (the cave scene, and the scene involving The Burough), so that the effect was much stronger, the emotional consequence deeper.

My small objections are mostly to do with the story itself. First of all, can anybody tell me, as I can't remember, if the Burough was

set on fire by Belatrix Lestrange

in the book? This troubled me as it definitely

appears in the final book and is vital to the plot

. Also, I wish that the movie had included even a small scene regarding the Gaunt history, and some of that backstory. I know it makes things perhaps excessively complicated for a 2-hour film, but even a small nod to that element of the books would have been nice. Perhaps something will show up in an extended version. Also felt that the denouement could have used a little more heaviness; the actions which preceded the closing of the film are arguably the most important up to that point in the series. It felt a little too typical, not enough of a sense of

grief or pain that Harry experiences in the book over Dumbledore's death

.

Overall though, I thought it was definitely worth the money, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. Call me a satisfied fan.

Edited by Joel C

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Overall though, I thought it was definitely worth the money, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. Call me a satisfied fan.

Yeah...I am sure there are small things I could pick up on...and probably will as time goes by. Some of the things they left out pleased me (Book Spoiler:

Harry basically telling Jenny, "I am Spider-Man, I cannot date you because it will put you in danger"-really, I am pretty tired of that Hero trope

).

One of the things I thought was nicely handled was Tom Felton's portrayal of Draco. In both the books and the films, Draco was merely a bully and foil for Harry. In this film and the final two books, he becomes far more a tragic victim of him family. And I thought Felton did a terrific job conveying a young man with a heavy burden of a mission that deep down, he knows he has neither the skill nor will to carry out. Going from bravado in the beginning of the film to very haunted and broken by the end, I found the performance quite convincing.

A question for folks who saw the film but have not read the sixth or seventh books in the series.

In the

final scenes with Snape

, how did that read to you?

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Nezpop wrote:

: A question for folks who saw the film but have not read the sixth or seventh books in the series.

: In the

final scenes with Snape

, how did that read to you?

And for those who HAVE read the books, how does the film's change to the book read to you? Is it better or worse than what the book had? (I'm thinking of

the scene in the astronomy tower

.) I have heard at least one person say that the film made an improvement, here, and I am, shall we say, not unconvinced.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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And for those who HAVE read the books, how does the film's change to the book read to you? Is it better or worse than what the book had? (I'm thinking of

the scene in the astronomy tower

.) I have heard at least one person say that the film made an improvement, here, and I am, shall we say, not unconvinced.

Overall, I thought

The movie tilts the audience towards the impression that Snape is operating covertly.

Which is not an improvement, but probable unavoidable.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Finally put up my review on this one. I don't often write actual movie reviews, but after seeing this, I then read way too many other reviews I didn't agree with. I've been loathe to call myself a Harry Potter "fan" even though I've read the books. But after this film, I suppose you can chalk me up in the fan column now.

MattPage - I read your review, and I just can't help thinking that watching this after (a) not having read ANY of the books, and (B) only have seen the first movie - was a bad idea. It'd be pretty close to the same if you had only read the first book, and then skipped over the next four to read the 6th book. Can the Half-Blood Prince be watched as a stand-alone film? Probably, but only if you're crazy fantasy fan. I can guarantee that it wasn't meant to be seen as a stand alone story - particularly for normal people who don't have a fantasy/sci-fi library in their homes.

and oh yeah, what's Overstreet doing, doesn't he usually review these things too?

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Wow. The Washington Post discovers that, gasp... Christians like Harry Potter! Even though the Pope condemned Potter! And they're defying Dobson too!

The article's annoying, but the comments are a circus! Look for [the link to] Jimmy Akin. Go, Jimmy!

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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As much as I like this franchise, I have to say that the Rowling quote from nine years ago misses the point. The question isn't whether the books are "moral". The question on many arch-conservative Christians' minds is whether the books are occultic. There are people who hate stories about witches, period, and telling them that the stories differentiate between "good witches" and "wicked witches" won't sway them one bit. (I am actually thinking of discussions that I had with people about The Wizard of Oz when I was growing up, and NOT about Harry Potter, as I write that sentence.)

That being said, oh man does this Washington Post blog post look way, way behind the times. Christianity Today ran an editorial on 'Why We Like Harry Potter' back in January 2000 -- when there were only three books, and no movies -- and every single book or film review the magazine/website has run SINCE then has been generally appreciative, even if there have been quibbles with the books or films on points of style. If David Waters is "surprised" by how positive the Christian response has been to the newest Harry Potter film, it's because Waters doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. (And hey, since Waters has a picture of Rick Warren at the top of his blog, is he aware that Warren himself has endorsed Harry Potter?)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Can I be really frank?

Jeffrey, I know those kinds of stories are out there, but I wonder if there's any point in getting snarky and/or outraged about them? No offense, but this kind of reminds me of your posts about the person behind Movieguide.

I'm certainly not outraged. Amused? Yes. Bad journalism is bad journalism. When people make ridiculous claims about the Pope or the church like this, I don't see anything wrong with a little snark. It's better than outrage or contempt. Call it eye-rolling or head-shaking.

Can I be really frank? Just as you went ahead and included "[sigh]" as some kind of expression of exasperation or something, well... that's what I was doing.

Anyway, I linked to it primarily because of the link to Jimmy Akin, which I was very glad to see.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Edited to add: I just read the piece itself, and I don't see anything wrong with it, or intentionally sarcastic about it - quite the opposite, in fact.

Well, for one thing, the writer couldn't be bothered to verify the name of the Vatican's semi-official paper, L'Osservatore Romano (not just "L'Osservatore").

More subtly but substantially, it is not true that that Ratzinger "warned that Harry Potter books and movies 'are subtle seductions'" (the sentence in question mentions neither the books nor the films, even in the dubious English translation provided by LifeSiteNews ... and he wasn't "warning" anyone, merely making a comment in a private letter).

More substantially still, if also more nebulously, Jeff is right to point out that the piece lazily frames positive "conservative Christian" attitudes toward HP as "conservative Christians" belatedly coming around and having some kind of HP awakening, rather than something that's been there all along.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Link to the three-year-old thread on 'Harry Potter...condemned?', which gets into the Ratzinger letter. I wouldn't be surprised if we had already dealt with this in other threads, too; I do know that I linked to several Jimmy Akin items on this subject when I reviewed the book version of Half-Blood Prince FOUR years ago.

e2c wrote:

: The bottom line probably has a *lot* to do with the allotted word count for the writer's blog entries, I'm thinking.

Bloggers have "allotted word counts"?

: Besides, "conservative Christians" *do* tend to sound like Johnny One-Note a lot of the time.

Them, and a lot of other people.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY

Is there any children's writer more dismissive of morals? A Rowling kid starts learning at an early age that principles are adjustable depending on convenience.

Rowling ignores ethics to the point of encouraging dishonorable behavior. Harry spends "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" -- the film version of which is raking it in this weekend -- cheating out of a textbook that has all the answers written in the margins, causing him to fraudulently win a luck potion that he uses to solve the central mystery. And his punishment for this is . . . nothing. Harry's taking advantage of the annotated textbook is depicted as simple resourcefulness, and Hermione's protests seem mere whining. Rowling's readers will conclude it's OK to go on eBay and buy a teacher's edition of a textbook.

Kyle Smith, New York Post, July 19

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Saw the movie last night, and after 2 HP movies that I could take or leave, I'm now genuinely excited for the final movie(s) in the series.

HP6 was my least favorite HP book, mainly because I felt that Rowling's depiction of teen angst was just boring. The film improves on the book in this aspect quite a bit, making it more fun, more realistically moving than anything the book could come up with. Something about the change helped bridge the high school aspects with the magical mystery elements as well, tying it all together in a bow of "sometimes we must sacrifice our happiness."

The final 30 minutes or so had a strong Fellowship of the Ring vibe for me, with lots of bad things happening, a resolution to continue in the face of tragedy, and a strong setup for the final film.

One thing I felt was that the filmmakers would have really liked to eliminate the MacGuffin of the "Half-Blood Prince." It was minimized to such a point in the film that the final reveal felt jammed in at the last moment and meant next to nothing. Hard to get rid of the title element of the movie though, so I guess they were stuck with it.

Oh, and re: "The Trouble with Harry article Peter linked to, in the book, and to a less emphasized extant in the movie, Harry

eventually abandons the annotated textbook because it contains dangerous spells he doesn't understand, and he badly injures someone by accident.

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Oh, and re: "The Trouble with Harry article Peter linked to, in the book, and to a less emphasized extant in the movie, Harry

eventually abandons the annotated textbook because it contains dangerous spells he doesn't understand, and he badly injures someone by accident.

Really good point--thanks for pointing it out. I think there is a consistant act/consequence presence in the HP universe, and by allowing the characters to make choices like these we get to explore how the choices we make can cause far more damage (and, conversely with sacrificial or loving choices, healing/goodness) than we initially imagine.

By the way, I saw and blogged the film yesterday and thought it one of the best of the HP films of the franchise. It definately had its faults, but it was far more thoughtful than the previous films and I really appreciated both the time the filmmakers took in telling the story and on the characters and their relationships as well as the visual beauty of the film. It felt gentle and yet at the same time dealt with the darker tide pulling at these characters. I'm not sure how folks experienced it who haven't read the book (I've only read one or two reviews of that nature), but for me it only enriched the text. I can say that about only one or two of the other films.

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