Monday, July 20, 2009


“Shut up.”

I’ve posted on the Harry Potter Phenomenon (Here: )and I’ll have to say that the latest film doesn’t do much to change my opinion of the films. The latest film continues the Weirdly Uneven quality that has characterized the series as a whole. The last film ORDER OF THE PHOENIX was made with some energy, as opposed to the film before it, GOBLET OF FIRE, which is a major snooze, as opposed to the film before it, PRISONER OF AZKABAN, which is by the far the finest film of the series so far, as opposed to the film before it, CHAMBER OF SECRETS, which is by far the weakest film of the series so far, as opposed to the film before it, SORCERER’S STONE, which was a good solid kickoff to the series.

Anyway. HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is kind of a letdown, and kind of not a letdown. The biggest problem is that there’s just not a lot of urgency to the movie, it just dawdles along at its own very very slow pace, which is a big surprise considering that the last film ended with the official recognition that the Dark Lord Voldemort has in fact come back from oblivion and is up to No Good. I’d have expected some kind of uproar about this in the magical world of the film, but no, there isn’t any onscreen. It is just business as usual for the gang at Hogwarts, the kids are having their growing pains and we get to watch some mostly amusing games of the he-loves-her-he-loves-her-not variety, along with the inevitable rumblings from the bad guys and a big climactic showdown. Somehow, though, the movie doesn’t feel like a total disappointment, as there’s enough good stuff to keep interest up. My favorite scene in the film takes place on an island in the middle of an underground lake, and is almost impossible to watch without extreme discomfort, not least because it all takes place in near total silence. So gripping was this sequence that it managed to hold a NYC multiplex audience spellbound: there was none of the usual audience noise that makes summer blockbusters such agony to sit through. The film is deliberately deliberate, in other words, despite the couple of big set pieces which almost serve to remind you that this is after all an adventure story.

This slow pacing is a marked change from the book, which I’ve just started and which is written in J.K. Rowling’s characteristically energetic prose. The book begins with a marvelously conceived chapter that didn’t make it into the film, which very cleverly manages to deliver a good deal of What Has Gone Before In Vols I-V while setting up a good deal of What Is To Come In Vol VI. Rowling is able to keep the proceedings consistently lively in a way that director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves never quite manage.

The film isn’t a total bore, of course. The story is engaging, to be sure, and the acting is of a very high standard. The great Jim Broadbent makes a long overdue appearance in the Potter Universe, and the three kids (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) all get their own little moments to shine in ways that they’ve only hinted at in the past. Radcliffe in particular gets a glorious little scene where Harry’s usual solemnity gives way to a chemically-induced cheer that is a joy to behold. Side note: they’re going to have to do something to explain Watson’s Hermione being so much in love with Grint’s Ron Weasley: her devotion to the character they’ve made into such a boob is increasingly unconvincing.

It looks like I really disliked the film, when I didn’t. Bottom Line: a deliberately told adventure story isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a bit more consistent energy in the storytelling and filmmaking is definitely in order for the next two installments. I’ll go see them of course. I do wish they’d get Alfonso Cuaron back to tighten things up.


Pooji said...

You have captured my feelings about this movie. It just moves along at its own pace and not much happens. But, to be fair to the film, I don't remember much happening in the book. What I did remember from the book was in the movie: Slughorn, the journey for the horcrux, the big shock at the end, and Ron Weasley playing quidditch. Ron was bad at quidditch at first (in the book); thankfully they cut that out because I just don't find quidditch scenes that exciting.

Of course, we also get more Snape than the prior couple of films, which is a good thing.

I am curious as to how they will split the last book into two films. There are some exciting scenes in the book which could be good "set pieces" on film, but I worry that the first film will be a snooze-fest and all the action will be crammed into the final film. We shall see what comes to pass.

If the pattern continues, the next film will be wonderful but the final film will not.

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