Ahoy, C here! M, E and I went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince together the other night (their first viewing, my second) and since most people have had time to see the movie by now, we thought it would be fun to share our reactions and opinions in roundtable format.
So grab a butterbeer and a comfortable chair, and settle in for a new edition of The Quibbler! (We won’t be on guard for spoilers, so read at your own risk.)
C: Well first of all, I want to say how pleased I was to see certain minor characters stepping up their game in this installment. Particularly Draco Malfoy: he suited up!
M: I loved that he suited up even if it, combined with the sunken features of his face, made him look as old as Ralph Macchio in the first Karate Kid movie. That said, I’m not going to let you get by calling Draco Malfoy a “minor character.” Seriously, he’s Harry’s most immediate arch rival and nemesis for most of the series. Yes, he does become less important as it goes along, especially in the movies, but he is hardly “minor.” Before the whole Tom Riddle (I refuse to call him by the other name) thing really gets going at the end of Goblet, Draco is the bad guy. Well, him and Snape. Okay, I’m digressing, back to Harry Potter and the Title We Didn’t Spend Enough Time Explaining…
C: Fine, “secondary character,” does that work? Whatever you want to call him, and as old and skeletal as he looks, Draco rocks the emotions in the end of this film. However, as you say, the Half-Blood Prince is the real antagonist. I’ve heard some people say that they didn’t develop that thread enough — that by the time Snape reveals himself as the Prince we’ve practically forgotten who that is — but I don’t think that’s quite true, do you guys?
E: Tom Felton was made of awesome. Good to see child actors who can handle themselves as they get older. I don’t know about the Snape thing; I mean, I already know he’s the Half Blood Prince. It’s hard to judge what it would be like to see the movie not knowing that.
M: I don’t think that we’ve completely forgotten who he is, but I think it did slip from the consciousness of the movie for a while before that. More importantly, I don’t think we’ve been given enough of the relationship between Harry and his imagined version of the HBP. They mention at times in the movie that he always has the book with him, and that he practically sleeps with it, but even just one simple conversation after the Malfoy fight in which Harry irrationally defends the HBP, not the book, against the attacks of his closest friends would have gone a long way in my opinion.
E: Mmm, yes, very different from the book. Harry just folds. But can I gripe for a minute about my biggest beef with the film? I thought it was gorgeous, and loved the first half or so, but I was really disappointed in Harry’s ‘relationship’ with Ginny. Do you suppose they had a reason for failing to give her a personality? Or for having Harry already crushing on her when the movie opens?
C: Well, I read somewhere that they wanted to contrast Harry’s sweet and tender budding relationship with Ginny to Ron’s wacky, hormone-driven relationship with Lavender (who, by the way, was hilarious in her nonverbal obsessiveness). But I question the wisdom of this decision, since all they succeed in giving us was Cho 2.0: a few dopey lines and one awkward kiss in the Room of Requirement. With Ginny largely absent from the next film, I wanted to see her and Harry develop something real in this one — something to convince us they’re meant to be. A little chemistry and passion wouldn’t have made them comparable to Ron and Lav-Lav, if we also saw they were good friends who got along great and could laugh together. We didn’t get that sense in this movie, let alone any sparkling romance.
Hmm, “sparkling”… is this a post-Twilight romance? Is gazing and mumbling the next big thing in teen love?
E: Now, see, I think that this is totally where they fail. (Have I stressed enough that I really did like the movie in general?) The whole point of book Ginny/Harry is that they’re friends first; he thinks she’s funny and smart as well as pretty, and admires her bravery, her toughness, and her compassion. Ron ends up with Lavender (good heavens, Jessie Cave was awesome, wasn’t she?) because she likes him and is willing to snog him, and because he’s got something to prove. It’s not about Lavender herself. Why would H & G having a real relationship not be MORE of a contrast to WonWon and LavLav? Grrrrr. I’d have really enjoyed seeing Harry as happy as he’s supposed to be while they’re together. Or just seeing them together. Of course, they could have helped themselves by writing her character into the last film. There’d be less work to do.
I can’t even work out who film Ginny is supposed to be; book Ginny would NEVER have a secret relationship, just so that what, Ron wouldn’t get mad at Harry? She’s extremely clear on the subject of Ron having a say in her love life. And don’t even get me started on the fact that we don’t see her breaking up with Dean. Ginny is not a ho, people!
M: Hey hey hey hey… you cannot complain about the Harry and Ginny relationship in the movie! I mean, that scene with the shoe laces?
C: …which made me throw up a little…
M: That happened right before Bellatrix and Fenrir showed up (and also, I believe, right before Faramir decided the One Ring would go to Gondor). Remember, if Harry and Ginny hadn’t been pining for each other (not the Fjords) she wouldn’t have tied his shoe, he probably would have tripped, and Bellatrix would have gotten both Godfather and Godson. There’s be no Deathly Hallows without their secret relationship!
C: Guys, does one long, awkward nonevent even deserve the title “secret relationship”? I do not think that means what you think it means. And I’m sorry to say it, but I have to wonder how much the lack of Harry/Ginny oomph has to do with Bonnie Wright’s acting. The girl was cast at 10 years old to play “shy.” This book hadn’t even been published. Could she do the part with verve and expression if the screenwriter wrote it that way? We don’t know.
E: That could be true, but I’d like to have seen her get a chance to try. If she were really that dreadful, couldn’t they have had her in intensive acting classes for years?
C: I suppose they could. It just points to the fact that the filmmakers, even more than Rowling, are more interested in the Trio’s friendship than Harry/Ginny — in fact, I’d go so far as to say the filmmakers are all about Harry and Hermione. Watching the final scene a second time made me even more angry on Ron’s behalf, the way the movie makes him nothing but comic relief. Compare his sulky silence in the tower, while H/Hr do all the talking, to the final scene of the book:
“We’ll be there, Harry,” said Ron.
“At your aunt and uncle’s house,” said Ron. “And then we’ll go with you wherever you’re going.”
“No–” said Harry quickly; he had not counted on this, he had counted on them to understand that he was undertaking this most dangerous journey alone.
“You said to us once before,” said Hermione quietly, “that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?”
“We’re with you whatever happens,” said Ron.
This scene in the book made me cry like the big old sap I pretend not to be. Why mess with that?
M: This is something that routinely bothers me when lengthy books are transitioned into film. There is far too much content in a book like HBP to be able to put it into one movie. When the makers of the movie then decide to add things that aren’t in the book, and when they decided to change the nature of characters, it bothers me. They should be refining, not redefining. Personally, I think that they have still done a decent overall job with Ron, considering the restrictions they have with time there is only so much, but I agree that they need to play up his strength and heroic aspects in the last two films.
C: “Refining, not redefining” — I like that. Yes.
E: Maybe this is a weird thing to say, but the movies increasingly feel like fanfiction to me : Rowling-sanctioned fanfiction. They’ve changed so much — not just things like burning down the Burrow (sob! I kept stage-whispering “augamenti” at the screen), not just events or subplots essential to character development (e.g. SPEW) or explanations of vital items (the ring, etc.), but the whole feeling of this book as it involves the love story. And then mucking about with the natures of major characters like Ron and Ginny. Not to mention making Hermione crazy pretty from the very start (though I loved the touch of her hair getting frizzy in the cauldron steam). Really weird. You kind of have to look at it as an alternative universe, I think, but this one got a little more alternative than I wanted.
C: Well, from a certain point of view, isn’t that all a film adaptation is? One long sanctioned fanvid? The movie isn’t a vision of the book, it’s a revision. As fans and critics it may not be worth our time to list the differences, but it is interesting to consider the value of the changes and what they suggest. Emma Watson’s gorgeousness may suggest our culture’s obsession with beauty, but her snuggles with Harry may hint at the director’s shipping preferences!
M: You will find that many of the truths we cling to are only true… from a certain point of view. Like the truth that, despite being overall a really good and well made movie, the ending was a letdown.
C: Very deep, Obi Wan. So, the ending: I know some people disagreed with my criticism of the cave scene, but I’ve since seen comments all over the net about its visual resemblance to Lord of the Rings — most notably over at Movies in Fifteen Minutes. The parody author, Cleolinda, also makes a good point about why taking out the final battle is a let-down: it makes it seem like the Death Eaters are only there to give Malfoy moral support. Why are the Death Eaters in this film so careful not to hurt anybody?
E: Great question. Don’t have an answer for you, though.
M: While watching the cave scene, without having read your criticism yet, I leaned over to J (E’s husband) during the scene and said “YOU… SHALL NOT… PASS!”, so I don’t think you were off base. It was the lack of hat. Without the hat, and with his hair out and wild, Dumbledore looked too Gandalfian. Other than that, and the fortress of solitude crystal stalagmites, that scene was killer.
As for the final battle, I’m not sure what the reasoning was. If it was that they ran out of time or money, well, those both just seem like a cop out. If its because they feel like it would be anti-climactic to have a battle at Hogwarts before the climactic battle at the end of the last film, well, that would at least be a somewhat defensible. It doesn’t make it okay, but its more understandable.
E: Yeah, that’s what they said — they didn’t want to compete with the Battle of Hogwarts. Making this the unbattle? “Let’s make this ending bland so the last movie will be even more exciting!” Good call!
C: You’ve hit the nail on the head. This is a slick, stylish, darn cool movie, but the climax doesn’t live up to the build-up. We needed the violation of Hogwarts through the fixed Vanishing Cabinet to have some significance, we needed the Death Eaters to pose an actual threat, we needed the Trio to make a mutual decision to venture forth bravely in search of Horcruxes, and — though I feel mean saying it — we needed to care more about Dumbledore’s death. Why was Harry crying while everyone else looked on like it was a vaguely moving concert performance? This death impacted all of them, and all of them bloody well ought to have been wailing. I know I’d have been more emotional, if they had been.
E: You know they’re doing something wrong if they can’t get ME to cry.
M: I have to say, knowing it was coming took the shock of it away. That removed a lot of the emotion for me, and probably for many other people watching it, too.
C: I thought that at first too, but really, if that were always the case then one would never be moved by an adaptation of a familiar book. But Return of the King still makes me cry. And, love it or hate it, no one can say Titanic didn’t have an emotional impact on a big audience who knew the ending. Maybe the problem is that they tried for shock when they should have been making us grieve.
M: I agree the scene could have been done so much better. Raising the wands like lighters? I was REALLY tempted to yell out “PLAY FREEBIRD!” right in the middle of the hushed theater. Seemed like an insensitive thing to do, so I didn’t, but that was what was going through my mind, not the emotion of the event and the characters’ reaction to it. Well, that and wondering why they were dropping, or perhaps moving to the next movie, Dumbledore’s funeral.
E: How are they going to start the next movie, I wonder? Since we don’t have Bill and Fleur’s wedding (or even the Burrow) for them to leave from?
C: I’ve seen set photos online from the Deathly Hallows filming which show the Trio running through London in formalwear, as if after the interrupted wedding. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how they get us to that point.
E: Well, that makes me happy, anyway – I love that sequence! Must troll for photos immediately. I hope Harry won’t be wearing a suit with a toggle, though..
M: That actually leads into the thought of it starting with Dumbledore’s funeral, since the whole Bill and Fleur plot has been omitted. Plus, we need for the ending to know that he’s entombed with his wand.
C: Yeah, this movie left out a lot of things that lead up to the next one (including the identity of the Horcruxes), so I guess it’s a good thing that with #7 they’ve got twice the running time to fill in the gaps they’ve created. I may not always love the filmmakers’ decisions, but I’m curious and excited to see what they do next.
M: Me too!