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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

July 18, 2009

I gave up on the Harry Potter books after the first chapter or so of The Half-Blood Prince, and I’ve never been back. It was the names that finally did it; Narcissa Malfoy, Horace Slughorn, Tonks. It’s all so ineffably twee and infuriating. And that nonsense with the ‘muggle’ Prime Minister. And the fact that I’m an adult, of course. So, after slogging manfully through the molasses-thick tedium of Order of the Phoenix (who would think silliness could be so boring?) it took just one look at the house-brick sized nonsense before me to realise that Ms Rowling and I had come to the end of our particular road.

And so, sitting down to Harry’s sixth cinematic adventure provided me with an odd sensation; an installment for which I was relatively unprepared. Was I, I wondered, about to pitch into a world of serious and needless confusion? Watching the first two movies with friends who had never picked up the books, I’d been concerned that they would simply not follow the necessarily concatenated, condensed, amalgamated and generally fecked-about-with plots and peripheral detail.

To start with, all was well. The movie slips into place immediately following the end of Phoenix and much of the meat of the story dovetails on from what we already know. This is good, and there is even development along the way. There is a lot of plot and for much of the time you can actually see the story properly unfolding at a decent pace. For the first two Acts, in fact, start cheering because we move from A to B to C to D without introducing anything that really makes you recoil in slack-jawed bewilderment. I was a little concerned by ugly giant Fenrir Greyback, because he was a new character, and we’re clearly expected to notice him, but we’re not told who he is. I only know the name because I just checked IMdB. Deep breath; move on…because for much of the time Prince delivers as it moves along, and this is only a small hiccough.

I was particularly impressed by the young cast who, for the first time, stand shoulder to shoulder with the Brit Thesp illuminati they’ve been competing against for the last decade. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and especially Tom Felton (excellent as a conflicted Draco, having to share scenes with the fabulous Alan Rickman and coming through brilliantly) all shine here, and you really do suddenly stop thinking how young and inexperienced they are. Also, it looks fantastic, the production values are all 5 Star; the Potters – love them or hate them – all own a terrific sense of their own universe, and this one has a welcome stylistic addition, shot through as it is with that washed-out horror cinematography feel du jour which really helps to give it a dark and crunchy serious feel.

But, as we move into the final Act, the cracks start to show and from cruising along happily and easily into place alongside Azkaban as easily one of the best Potters, it stutters and stalls into Goblet territory. I began to feel more and more confused (I really had no idea who the swarms of Gollum-y creatures were, for instance) and simply started to lose my foothold in the story. It was a bit like swimming in the sea for to long and then having that wobbly leg thing when you finally decide to come ashore.

This is a huge shame, because as I started to lose faith I saw a lot of problems where I hadn’t been looking before (Luna Lovegood is still awful, and there’s no Jason Isaacs, not even a second of him), but one thing that cannot be denied is the gobsmackingly underplayed Loss Of A Major Characterâ„¢. I’m not going to incur the wrath of the nearly 25 people who visit this blog every day by giving away who dies (although you know, right?), but it’s so underwhelming as to make at least this reviewer think he was going to open his eyes and jump up with a heart “Ta Daaaa!”) but it doesn’t work. The onlooking adolescent witches and wizards might all hold up their lit wands like middle-class kids at the Latitude festival, in an attempt at heart-tugging hippy-hugging togetherness, the music might swell and the camera might pan away respectfully, but there’s just no connection, and the harder they try to make you tear up, the more resistant you become. Go back and watch ET, guys.

And all of this is a shame, because I was on board for a very long time. Overall, Prince is super movie for a significant stretch of its two and a half hour run-time, but when a good 40 minutes or so leaves you feeling confused or shortchanged, it’s seriously disappointing. Still, better than the bloody books, so that’s something.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2009 5:20 am

    there are German TV series of Babylon5, Law and Order and many more and every day there are more, of course, all for free

  2. July 19, 2009 8:54 pm

    Ulrich, fascinating…utterly, utterly fascinating. Thank you so much for stopping by.

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