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Peter T Chattaway

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Bobbin Threadbare wrote:

: 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.

Yeah, that was pretty much the impression I got, too.

FWIW, re: the article I linked to, I am somewhat sympathetic to Smith's claims because I can remember being really agitated by the 4th book in particular, and how Harry was rarely ever "acting" but was always being "acted UPON". As late as the middle entry in the series, he still seemed like a very passive character, and the fact that he got as much done as he did because he was always breaking the rules (or his friends were always breaking the rules FOR him) just added to the agitation.

Consequences? Well, let's just say that I didn't think Dumbledore should have heaped so many extra points on Gryffindor at the end of the 1st book. I have always thought that Potter and his friends should have accepted a relatively meaningless defeat, knowing that they had achieved a deeper and much more meaningful victory. But the fact that they essentially got away with breaking the school rules -- and indeed, were practically rewarded for it -- set the pattern for much of what was to come.

FWIW, this was one of the few themes in Richard Abanes's anti-HP book that I found myself kind of nodding along to; he documents all these consequence-free rule-breakings quite exhaustively, and he even goes on to argue that the books kind of perversely show the NEGATIVE results that transpire whenever Harry DOES decide to do something virtuous. (If Harry hadn't let Peter Pettigrew get away in the 3rd book, would Voldemort have come back from the dead in the 4th book?)

But of course, as you point out, Harry's experience with the Half-Blood Prince's book isn't ENTIRELY consequence-free, so there's only so far that one can push that line of criticism. And I am reluctant to side too strongly with Abanes on ANYthing, since he misses the mark on so many other levels. (There are words like "damn" in the Harry Potter books! Oh no! Get your kids to read Narnia instead!... But, uh, there are words like "damn" in the Narnia books too, y'know...)

pilgrimscrybe wrote:

: 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.

Oh, which ones! :)

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BTW, correct me if I'm wrong, but... Now that Snape is finally TEACHING Defense Against the Dark Arts, do we ever actually SEE him teach the course, in this movie?

Part of the formula behind these books is that every book features a different DAtDA teacher, and sometimes they're Good Guys and sometimes they're Bad Guys, but by the end of the school year there is always some reason why the teacher in question can no longer continue with the job. Snape, of course, has been wanting this job from the very beginning -- I believe this point is made in the first film itself -- yet now that he finally GETS the job, I don't think the film spends any time on showing how Snape would have taught this class.

Instead, the film follows the formula that lies behind all these movies, and devotes a fair bit of screen time to the guest teacher. In the past, the guest teacher was always the DAtDA teacher -- but this time, because Snape is teaching DAtDA, the guest teacher (Horace Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent) must take over the class that Snape USED to teach, namely Potions. And so we spend a fair bit of time in the Potions class, but virtually none, as far as I can recall, in the Defense Against the Dark Arts class.

I could be wrong about that, though. Am I forgetting anything?

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Persiflage said

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.
Thanks for taking the time to read it. My default is to read up on these things a lot, so it was a bit of a new experience for me reviewing something that I knew so little about relative to those who read it. The thing is that I guess I came away feeling that this could have worked as a standalone film, but for poor execution. The time spent creating spectacle wrecked the pacing, the acting was poor etc., and I suspect it wasn't a brilliant job of adapting the novel. So I do felt I managed to asses it on it's filmic merits, or lack thereof.

Bobbin Threadbare said

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.
I didn't have space to go into this in my review, but it was definitely close to getting a mention. I'd have preferred it if they relied on the odd glance to communicate the whole tedious we're suddenly starting to fancy people thing, and fleshed this out a bit more. When Rickman says "I am the half blood prince" it just feels so ridiculously over the top. The only response II could only imagine Harry giving is a shrugged "oh right" as if Snape had told him the name of the books publisher by mistake.

FWIW, re: the article I linked to, I am somewhat sympathetic to Smith's claims because I can remember being really agitated by the 4th book in particular, and how Harry was rarely ever "acting" but was always being "acted UPON". As late as the middle entry in the series, he still seemed like a very passive character, and the fact that he got as much done as he did because he was always breaking the rules (or his friends were always breaking the rules FOR him) just added to the agitation.
Yeah I did talk about this. In the first film this was kind of acceptable, cos he was presumably still reeling from discovering he was the wizard son of famous wizards. But 6 years later he's still wandering around just observing the things other people are doing. Reading between the lines of what you say, in the previous books/movies he's mainly done stuff cos Hermione/Ron have told him to, whereas this time they were too busy getting it on to boss the chosen one about?

Matt

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Is there a Christ-figure in this story? Connie Neal explores whether it might be Harry. John Granger thinks it's pretty clearly Dumbledore.

MattPage wrote:

: Reading between the lines of what you say, in the previous books/movies he's mainly done stuff cos Hermione/Ron have told him to, whereas this time they were too busy getting it on to boss the chosen one about?

Heh, well, I didn't quite mean it like THAT.

I think the thing that agitated me in Goblet of Fire was that the ENTIRE story consisted of Harry being manipulated into becoming a key ingredient in Voldemort's bring-me-back-from-the-dead recipe. Harry doesn't WANT to compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, he's just FORCED to after his name is magically added to the list of contestants. And then, each step of the way, he wins (or at least passes to the next stage) because people (sometimes Ron/Hermione, sometimes other people) keep feeding him the answers, or helping him cheat. And then, finally, at the end, when he wins the tournament, he's zapped away to Voldemort's special hiding place, where a sample of his blood is taken to help bring Voldemort back to life. And then, when Voldemort tries to kill him, Harry zaps back at him with his wand because, well, Harry's just so good at using a wand, he doesn't even really have to think about it, it just comes to him as an instinctual thing.

And all along the way, Harry and his friends get into big shouting matches and go through phases where they aren't speaking to each other, etc. Endearing, these characters aren't, at times.

His passivity was okay in the first few stories because he was only a boy (his 11th birthday takes place within the first few chapters) and the world of wizardry was brand new to him; plus, he served as a sort of surrogate for the reader, as our window into this fantastical world, and surrogates-for-the-reader are often kind of blank, so that we the reader can see ourselves in their position (it's easier to see through a window when the window is absolutely clear and nothing is obscuring it, you might say). But eventually, well, you want to have an actual CHARACTER at the centre of your epic -- someone who actively defines himself in some sort of way.

Don't get me wrong, though. I AM a fan of these books, on some level. They certainly have led to some very fruitful discussions. I just dug up my review of the film version of Chamber of Secrets, which must have been written when the film was brand new, in November 2002 ... and I can see now, in hindsight, how that review captures "where I was" in the months immediately before I met my wife-to-be and began attending her Orthodox church (in the early months of 2003). (And at the time I wrote that review, I had already read the book version of Goblet of Fire, so I did know where the franchise was headed.)

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I enjoyed the film a lot. Of the David Yates-directed HP films, I thought the narrative in HBP flowed better than Order of the Phoenix, which was more of a collection of scenes. I lthink Yates has done a good job with the atmosphere and the feel of the latter Harry Potter films, capturing the darkness and tension while offering moments of lightness and humor (but not overdoing it). I am looking forward to seeing what Yates does with the two Deathly Hallows films.

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SDG, in reply to one paragraph of your review:

Why does Harry rush out of the Weasleys’ house and into the surrounding wetlands to battle at least three powerful servants of Voldemort in a grassy marsh at night? Is he trying to draw fire from the Weasleys? If so, it doesn’t work, since first Ginny and then the others follow him. Wouldn’t it be better to stay at the house? A wizard house must offer some defense against hostile forces — as the defenses around Hogwart’s suggests. Better than nothing, anyway.

Harry rushes out of the Burrow for

Show hidden text
revenge. He's chasing Bellatrix Lestrange, who killed Sirius Black. She's taunting him about it as she runs away, so you can tell that she knows what she's doing, she luring him out.
Edited by David Smedberg

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David S: Yes, someone emailed me at Decent Films with the same comment. Here's my reply (copied and pasted from my sent mail using my iPhone GS3, because I can! :) ):

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David S: Yes, someone emailed me at Decent Films with the same comment. Here's my reply (copied and pasted from my sent mail using my iPhone GS3, because I can! :) ):

There is no such thing as an iPhone GS3. Surely you mean the iPhone 3GS. If you suspect that my rather pathetic pettiness in making this correction is due to jealousy, you could be on to something there...

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FWIW, Wikipedia and the Harry Potter WIki indicate that the scene with the Burrow was added to the film and is not in the book. Indeed, the next book in the series, Deathly Hallows,

begins with a wedding at the Burrow; presumably they will have to change that bit somewhat when they make the next film

.

(Wikipedia also confirms what I had been wondering re: the opening attack on the Millennium Bridge: the book takes place about two years before construction began on the bridge in real life, so it would seem the movies have updated the events of the books to "today".)

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FWIW, Wikipedia and the Harry Potter WIki indicate that the scene with the Burrow was added to the film and is not in the book. Indeed, the next book in the series, Deathly Hallows,

begins with a wedding at the Burrow; presumably they will have to change that bit somewhat when they make the next film

.

(Wikipedia also confirms what I had been wondering re: the opening attack on the Millennium Bridge: the book takes place about two years before construction began on the bridge in real life, so it would seem the movies have updated the events of the books to "today".)

FWIW, in the book, the new Minister of Magic comes calling on Harry when he's at the Burrow. The minister wants Harry to be a sort of poster boy for his efforts. Harry shows a lot of maturity and refuses. I'm not at all convinced that Harry in the books, at this stage, would have acted the way he does in the film.

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There is no such thing as an iPhone GS3. Surely you mean the iPhone 3GS. If you suspect that my rather pathetic pettiness in making this correction is due to jealousy, you could be on to something there...

Heh. I should have left it at G3 rather than going back to add the s and fat fingering the cursor placement. Still don't always remember to use the magnifier. (I had an iMac G3 for at least five years, so I do know that those two characters go together!)

(Still typing on my new iPhone... whatever it's called. :) )

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I think the thing that agitated me in Goblet of Fire was that the ENTIRE story consisted of Harry being manipulated into becoming a key ingredient in Voldemort's bring-me-back-from-the-dead recipe. Harry doesn't WANT to compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, he's just FORCED to after his name is magically added to the list of contestants. And then, each step of the way, he wins (or at least passes to the next stage) because people (sometimes Ron/Hermione, sometimes other people) keep feeding him the answers, or helping him cheat. And then, finally, at the end, when he wins the tournament, he's zapped away to Voldemort's special hiding place, where a sample of his blood is taken to help bring Voldemort back to life.

Speaking of which, have we ever talked about how stupid all that is as a plot? For Voldemort, that is.

I mean, you've got a confederate inside Hogwarts, you have the ability to make a Portkey and transport Harry anywhere you want. Who says the Portkey has to be an object that Harry will only touch (if at all) after an incredibly complex gauntlet with any number of opportunities for things to go wrong (and even if they go right the whole wizarding world is onto you instantly)?

Why don't we have Harry walking down the corridor in, like, chapter three or so, and

Professor Moody

sticks his head out of his office door and says, "Harry, can you come here a second? I want to show you something?" And Harry picks up a quill pen or something and boom, no more Harry, and it's hours or days before anyone suspects foul play.

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Speaking of which, have we ever talked about how stupid all that is as a plot? For Voldemort, that is.

I mean, you've got a confederate inside Hogwarts, you have the ability to make a Portkey and transport Harry anywhere you want. Who says the Portkey has to be an object that Harry will only touch (if at all) after an incredibly complex gauntlet with any number of opportunities for things to go wrong (and even if they go right the whole wizarding world is onto you instantly)?

Why don't we have Harry walking down the corridor in, like, chapter three or so, and

Professor Moody

sticks his head out of his office door and says, "Harry, can you come here a second? I want to show you something?" And Harry picks up a quill pen or something and boom, no more Harry, and it's hours or days before anyone suspects foul play.

Heh, that's kinda like the way that Gandlof didn't just use the eagles and fly to Mt. Doom, drop the ring, and be done with it. (For what it's worth, I still love both stories.)

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There is no such thing as an iPhone GS3. Surely you mean the iPhone 3GS. If you suspect that my rather pathetic pettiness in making this correction is due to jealousy, you could be on to something there...

Heh. I should have left it at G3 rather than going back to add the s and fat fingering the cursor placement. Still don't always remember to use the magnifier. (I had an iMac G3 for at least five years, so I do know that those two characters go together!)

(Still typing on my new iPhone... whatever it's called. :) )

See, now if you had just called it a new iPhone 3G, you would not have inflamed me to heights of irrational and stupid gadget jealousy, because I have a 3G, which I bought about 30 days before Apple introduced the 3GS. Woody's feelings about Buzz in Toy Story make so much sense to me. (See? A movie reference! A religion reference would make this completely compatible with Arts & Faith, although many would argue that people who own Apple products automatically have the religion angle covered and need add nothing more.) The time we have on the cutting edge of adult toydom is so short...

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Heh, that's kinda like the way that Gandlof didn't just use the eagles and fly to Mt. Doom, drop the ring, and be done with it. (For what it's worth, I still love both stories.)

And really, couldn't you play this game pretty successfully with any book or film? I think it just is a matter at where one draws the line of suspension of disbelief... man is Batsuit fights crime-okay. Invinicble man from another planet who can fly and punch stuff really hard-a little tougher for some... and so on. :)

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Nezpop wrote:

: And really, couldn't you play this game pretty successfully with any book or film? I think it just is a matter at where one draws the line of suspension of disbelief... man is Batsuit fights crime-okay. Invinicble man from another planet who can fly and punch stuff really hard-a little tougher for some... and so on. :)

Not the same thing at all. It's perfectly all right to create worlds in which the laws of physics are somewhat different from what they are in our world; as Tolkien pointed out, we "create belief" when we enter into such stories, and we only "suspend disbelief" when something about that world doesn't add up even on its own internal terms. Characters having the ability to fly on broomsticks falls into the "create belief" category. Characters failing to think and act in a world with such powers like real people would think and act in a world with such powers falls into the "suspend disbelief" category.

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Characters having the ability to fly on broomsticks falls into the "create belief" category. Characters failing to think and act in a world with such powers like real people would think and act in a world with such powers falls into the "suspend disbelief" category.

Good point. But I think pilgrimscrybe asks a good question. And I am pretty sure we could take almost any book or movie and ask, "Well, why didn't they just do this?" and have the story completed in 50 words or less.

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Characters having the ability to fly on broomsticks falls into the "create belief" category. Characters failing to think and act in a world with such powers like real people would think and act in a world with such powers falls into the "suspend disbelief" category.

Good point. But I think pilgrimscrybe asks a good question. And I am pretty sure we could take almost any book or movie and ask, "Well, why didn't they just do this?" and have the story completed in 50 words or less.

Well, as an aspiring fiction writer myself, let me say writers do THINK about such things and usually there answers. Whether those will satisfy everyone...well no, but:

1. For Gandalf, the temptation of the ring was too much. He couldn't be the Ring bearer so he couldn't just fly to Mount Doom. Also, those eagles weren't stealth eagles. He would be dealing with a head on, mental and spritual fight with Sauron, WHILE all 9 Nazgul tried to take him and his eagles out, WHILE an army of orcs rushed the enterance to the shaft. Without surprise, it would not have worked.

2. In Harry Potter, Harry is being watched more closely than the reader...who is viewing everything through Harry's mind...might realize. If the

fake Moody

tried to kidnap Harry that way, I suspect BOTH Dumbledore and Snape would have been on him like a bat out of hell. Magic leaves traces and can be detected. It's just not that easy. And Voldemort doesn't initiate the whole Triwizard tournament. Like the Joker in Batman he just "spins" it to his advantage, using it to misdirect those guarding Harry so they aren't looking the right way when the attack comes. So to me anyway, it remains very plausable within the context of the world that's built.

I agree that one can play "what if.." with most stories, and that also that this is fair game, especially as Peter points out, where suspension of disbelief is concerned.

Edited by Harris-Stone

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I've started a new thread called Idiot Plots for discussing the sort of plot-level objections raised in this thread regarding Goblet of Fire -- and Lord of the Rings -- as well as rebuttals to such objections, suspension of disbelief, and related issues.

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I note that Jim Broadbent has now appeared in three different blockbuster* film series

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Surprisingly, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was only #3 yesterday, its second Friday -- behind G-Force and The Ugly Truth. And while it soared ahead of the previous Harry Potter movies in its first few days, it is now tracking behind them on a day-by-day basis. (If you discount their Wednesday-Thursday lead-ins, Half-Blood Prince actually made slightly less money in its first week than Order of the Phoenix did.)

But as of yesterday, Half-Blood Prince is now only the 12th film ever to gross $200 million in 10 days or less. So it's all good, I guess. (But will it gross $300 million? None of the Harry Potter sequels have managed this to date; only Philosopher's Stone has crossed that milestone, way back in 2001.)

mrmando wrote:

: I note that Jim Broadbent has now appeared in three different blockbuster* film series

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Surprisingly, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was only #3 yesterday, its second Friday -- behind G-Force and The Ugly Truth. And while it soared ahead of the previous Harry Potter movies in its first few days, it is now tracking behind them on a day-by-day basis

The Harry Potter films have always been notoriously front-loaded; only the various X-Men films are in their class when it comes to opening huge and then dying fast. Also, there is a general industry-wide trend for all movies (even during the relatively few years since the first movie in the series) towards larger openings and shorter legs. That this movie is following that trend should not come as a surprise.

There has been one wildcard in this comparison: this is the first HP movie since the book series finished, and nobody was sure how much of an effect it would have. The answer appears to be not much. At over $200M already, it is pretty much of a lock to finish in the same range as its predecessors, neither above them nor below.

Of course, HP has always been much more of an international series than a domestic one. Of the top 10 all-time international grossers, 4 of them have been Harry Potter movies. Only one HP movie (the third) finished out of the top 10. The newest Harry Potter movie has a good chance to join them, grossing $236M in its opening weekend internationally.

Edited by bowen

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bowen wrote:

: Of course, HP has always been much more of an international series than a domestic one.

Very true. Proportionally, though, every movie has performed about as well overseas as it has in North America, compared to the other movies in the series.

The 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th movies have all made between 31.1% and 32.6% of their money in North America; and the 2nd one made only 29.8% of its money in North America, which is still more or less on-par with the other films in this series. So the international trend has so far been pretty much identical to the North American trend: a huge opening for Philosopher's Stone (which remains the top-grossing Harry Potter film both here and abroad), a decline over the course of Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, and then a rebound and a steady rise over the course of Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, the last of which came closest to matching Philosopher's Stone both here and abroad.

It will be interesting to see if Half-Blood Prince can keep the rise going, or if it marks the beginning of another decline, as it were.

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Why does Dumbledore act as though it's crucial that

Harry convince Slughorn to divulge his unedited memory about Horcruxes

, when Dumbledore has in fact already

guessed about the Horcruxes

and

tracked down two of them

?

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FWIW, I like the way John Williams' Harry Potter theme, once so bright and sparkly, has turned so deep and serious, like the theme to a war movie:

Did anyone besides me think he was copping from the Barber Adagio for Strings in the latter part of the film?

(There's a bit in the original theme cribbed from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet ...)

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