Hello. I saw an incredibly early test screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Saturday in Chicago. It was an event shrouded in secrecy, the audience only being told what film they had come to see seconds before the lights went down, and I was honestly excited. Like, five-year old boy excited.
My disappointment with what followed is endless.
Warning: this review contains many, many spoilers.
First, let's go with what was good if for no other reason than it will take less time. The opening, far different from the novel, was very strong. We see a bridge destroyed by Death Eaters, Diagon Alley blown to bits, Harry and Dumbledore mourning before an onslaught of Magical Press, and Snape making a very ominous, very Unbreakable Vow. I got a real sense of urgency, of darkly engrossing things to come. And they did. Just not in the sense that I had expected.
There was also the inspiring performance by Jim Broadbent as Prof. Horace Slughorn. Easily the most enjoyable character in the film, I found myself lolling away the scenes he was absent from anticipating the next one he was in. In fact, there was a lot of good humor, not only from Broadbent. There is a lot of teen drama in this film, most notably a love triangle between Harry, Ginnie Weasley, and Dean Thomas. A love potion gone awry adds a bit of welcomed lightness for Ron Weasley (who finally gets a crack at Quidditch, one of many points of anticipation hacked out of the last film).
And, well, that's about it.
The problem with all of this romance is All of This Romance. It dominates the movie, drawing our focus away not only from major plot points – which fall disastrously through the cracks – but also deters the mood, which, in a (nearly) penultimate film, should be at the forefront.
The title of this film is Harry Potter and the HALF-BLOOD PRINCE but the title character gets next to no screen time and even less explanation, save for a few asides that, if you haven't read the book, may as well have been cut. Better to call the movie Harry Potter and the Hormones from Hedes and save us our disillusionment.
Most of my issues with this film deal with deletions and alterations from the book, which would be okay if they were for the betterment of the movie-going experience, except that they're not. Gone are notable characters such as Rufus Schrimgouer, Fleur Delacour, and Bill and Charlie Weasley. Series regulars such as Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane are reduced two line cameos.
For a book based on Harry and Dumbledore's quest to find out more about Voldemort, and how to stop him, via his memories, all but three memories have been cut from the film. Why is it that the filmmakers decided it was more important to focus on teen-age love rather than what are inarguably critical plot points? It is aneurysm inducing logic that will surely leave me dead in my bathtub.
And the ending. Good God, the ending. Not only is the fight between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix completely removed, but so is Dumbledore's funeral. The last third of this movie is so incredibly mishandled that Dumbledore's death feels more like an unfortunate accident than genuine tragedy. No one in the film seems even remotely upset that he's gone and the Death Eaters who murdered him, including would-be-good-guy Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, the title-character in cameo form), walk out of Hogwarts unmolested.
Anyone who has read the book (an incredible sum of folk who Warner Bros. seem to have forgotten are the target audience – either that or they have some personal vendetta against them) will be severely, SEVERELY disappointed with this film. Let's just hope that in the ten intervening months between now and the film's release, Warner's will take the time and the money to fix this incredible mess.
Sadly, I'm not holding my breath.
Half Blood Prince Spoiled
Looks like the next Harry Pothead movie's gonna blow. SPOILERS AHEAD! Don't say I didn't warn ya. It's right there in the bloody title.