Not half bad

Tonight I went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. My daughter was with me. She’s only nine, so I thought it was OK as the latest rating I had seen of this movie is 9+. Apparently, it was re-rated recently, and now it is 12+.  However, I think the film is fine for a child of her age to watch, as long as there is a parent present.

In the following, I have avoided spoilers as much as possible.

What did I think of the movie? I liked it. For me, it is probably the best movie of the bunch. It is no Lord of the Rings or anything, but it is definitely a fine movie.

Personally, I do not like the Potter books very much. They are OK for some light reading, but that’s where it ends for me. I loathe Rowling’s writing style: people constantly finishing each others’ sentences, leaving sentences dangling, excessive use of onomatopeas, brutal disregard of the “show don’t tell” principle, and the ever-present need to add a chapter at the end in which someone explains everything that happened in the book. Of course, her financial success shows that she must be doing something right…

I have read each of the books three times: once for myself, twice to my daughter. So I know them pretty well. When I had read the sixth book, I pitied the director who had to turn it into a movie. Apart from the last 50 pages or so, the book is boring as hell. It consists of flashback after flashback after flashback, intertwined with some awkward romance stories. This book was written as a setup for book seven, and it is little more than that.

But the director of the movie managed to do quite a good job. And the reason that he did a good job, is that he decided to diverge heavily from the book. The main storyline is still there, but the flashbacks are mostly gone. Focus is on the three main characters of this particular storyline, namely Harry, Dumbledore, and Draco. Ron and Hermione share the spotlight a little, as do Slughorn, Snape, Ginny, and Bellatrix. All the other characters are just background noise.

The script-writer added one big new event to the storyline, probably to get some action going in the middle of a long, on-droning storyline. That is a good choice for a movie. This will probably go into history as Harry Potter’s “Aragorn falling off a cliff” moment, but it makes much more sense here than its counterpart in The Two Towers.

The movie is quite long, but almost always interesting. There are nice effects, Hogwarts looks great, there is some excitement and suspense, and the director made the most of the really interesting scenes in the back of the book.

Unfortunately, some of the romance storylines are still present. These should have been exchanged for a bit more insight in Voldemort’s background. Yes, I am voting for more flashbacks here, but only in place of the boring romance stuff. Maybe this was kept in to give Ron and Hermione something to do: scrap the romance and they could have been written out of the movie entirely.

If I am certain of something, it is that the avid fans of the books will cry out in anguish, and will condemn this movie as the worst of the whole series. It blatantly disregards many important characters, events, and lore.

Important in the books, that is. Movies are a different world, and the Harry Potter story is a different one on the silver screen. Chris Columbus did not understand that when he turned the first book into a movie, but David Yates got the message loud and clear.

If you are wondering how they are going to solve the omission of all those things when they are filming the seventh movie (or movies, because I understand it will be a two-parter), then I can give the answer now: by simply continuing to disregard them. All the characters who are left out now, can easily be left out later. That was a good choice for this movie, and it will be a good choice for later ones.

I have to say that I am a bit surprised about the financial success of this movie. In my view, the whole story it tells hinges on one event, that should come as a harsh surprise. Everybody in the movie theater knows about that event. The “shock ending” of this movie is no shock ending, because everybody in the audience expects it. So why are people flocking into theaters to watch it?

I am especially wondering why hardcore Potter-fans are standing in line for this movie. They should know that they will be disappointed. As such, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince delivers.

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