starlady: (always)
[personal profile] starlady
My dad and I went to see "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" last night--as far as we could work out, it was the exact same theatre in which we saw "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" lo these many years ago, which seemed fitting on multiple levels. "HBP" has to be the best Potter movie since "Prisoner of Azkaban" and is one of the two best movies overall, hands down.

I think Steve Kloves did an excellent job streamlining the book into a filmable (if long, though the movie doesn't drag) script; I really disliked most of his decisions in "Order of the Phoenix" and some in "Goblet of Fire," but there's very little in "HBP" that I would change--for my money, I would have liked very much to hear a bit about Snape's mother Eileen Prince, even Hermione just mentioning having seen her name on the student rolls or something (I haven't read the book since it was published, and can't remember how her name was revealed in there), since the parallels between Eileen and Lily, between Harry and Snape, are so obvious, and tragic, and cutting, in that respect; in my opinion it would have added an extra frisson to the Harry-Snape confrontation at the end of the movie. In fact, more Snape in general would have been great, but that's just because Snape may be the series' greatest character, and I love Alan Rickman, who does a bangup job every time, to death. That said, though, I wouldn't be surprised if we find out about Snape's childhood in one of the last two movies, just as I'd be comfortable betting a fiver that we won't see the Bill-Fleur nuptials, period, since they were completely absent from this movie and Kloves invented a scene in which Bellatrix and Fenrir Greyback (whose name is never spoken aloud, in a symptom of streamlining; the Potter flicks generally demand a high degree of reading on the audience's part) burn down the Burrow at Christmas.

I had a discussion with my friend Abel about that scene last night actually; he didn't like it, and I can very obviously see why (and I do think it creates problems for the last two movies that I'll be interested to see Kloves solve), but it did do a nice job of introducing Tonks/Lupin (sidenote: it is completely OOC for her to call him "sweetheart." terms of endearment, fine; sweetheart, hell no!), and of putting Harry in a position for some more subtextual interaction with Ginny (sidenote: was I the only one who thought of oral sex when she said "shoelace"? do I just have a dirty fannish mind?), and, probably most importantly, of pre-explaining the vanishing cabinets from a source who isn't Dumbledore or Hermione--and of course, of keeping the simmer on the menace.

The other truly major change (aside from cutting the Quidditch Cup, the denouement of which was obviously subsumed into Ron/Lavender--I wouldn't have minded seeing Harry and Ginny follow the same pattern, but one thing I like best is to see the same thing happen with different results) has to be that Harry isn't under any sort of curse when he witnesses Dumbledore's death, and that he lets Snape go past him up the stairs without a word, all out of his trust and love for Dumbledore. I actually think this makes the whole scene more powerful, and twists the knife a bit deeper into Harry in terms of his doubting Dumbledore in "Deathly Hallows." Augh, it's so heartbreaking! You just can't be a great wizard without falling from a great height as part of your death, it seems. Oh, Dumbledore. So wrong and so right all at the same time. I also didn't mind the lack of Order of the Phoenix versus Death Eaters at the end; I think the lack in this movie will give the Battle of Hogwarts more punch in the eighth movie, and to be honest when Harry and Dumbledore returned to the castle I did quail a bit at the thought of sitting through a couple of extended action sequences. Unlike my friend Abel, I found Bellatrix destroying the Great Hall to be a) perfectly in keeping with her character and b) a nice visual metaphor--so in other words, tolerably clever, and I liked it.

What really struck me about this movie was how political its story is--and on that level, I thought cutting down the violence made a good deal of thematic sense. Slughorn trying to collect Harry, Harry playing Slughorn at Dumbledore's behest (just as Riddle played Slughorn, and the whole school, for his own ends), Harry consciously letting Dumbledore play him, Riddle and Dumbledore, even at ages 11 and 100, trying to play each other in the scene in the orphanage, Voldemort playing Draco and Snape through Draco, Dumbledore playing Voldemort through Snape, Snape arguably playing both ends against the middle, to say nothing of the personal, romantic and sexual politics being played out amongst the students. Really, I thought just about every scene in the movie was brilliant, but I particularly liked the sequence with Draco, Harry and Luna on the Hogwarts Express (and hooray for Flitwick getting lines and screen time for the first time since "Chamber of Secrets"!), and found the Quidditch and Christmas party sequences just about equally brilliant. I also liked the jettisoning of the chest monster metaphor for the Harry-Hermione interactions, which I found generally brilliant; those scenes did a nice job of bringing out what they have in common, and I don't find Hermione and the birds to be out of character at all, all things considered. On one level the movie is almost a tragicomedy of manners.

After two movies in which Ralph Fiennes got to steal the end of the show as Voldemort, it was kind of refreshing that all we saw of Voldemort in this movie was in the past tense, in other people's memories, as a child and a teenager, but clearly no less dangerous for all that--and instead of seeing lots of murders, we just heard about Voldemort's past and present plots for murder, which of course in some ways heightens the tension. I also thought the movie did a decent job at exploring Draco's moral conflict (though I could have done with more, of course); one has to wonder whether the thought ever crossed Snape's mind that Draco was walking the same path he did, or whether he ever looked at Harry and saw the boy who should have been his son--or does Harry look too much like James for that? Not in the eyes, of course. I thought the parallels between Harry and Dumbledore, and Draco and Snape, were nicely drawn without being too obvious, just as the Riddle and Slughorn comparison leads naturally to Harry and Slughorn, which leads to Voldemort and Harry, which is of course the center of the whole story. And of course the question of the Half-Blood Prince's identity leads to uncomfortable comparisons between Harry and Snape--I think that Snape had to have known, even before the Draco-Sectumsempra debacle, that Harry had gotten his hands on Snape's own old potions book. Why did he leave it in that cupboard in the first place, if not to be found and used? And given his evident hatred for Harry, why did he not do something about Harry possessing the book? He never does anything about Harry having his book; it's the Gryffindors who decide the book shouldn't be used (which seems dumb to me, but I have a lot of Ravenclaw in me). It's possible of course that Dumbledore told Snape not to do anything about the book, since it's thanks to the Half-Blood Prince that Harry was a star in Slugworth's Potions class, but I prefer to think that Snape was at least capable of not wanting Harry to fail at something besides defeating Voldemort. In general, Snape's entire life post-Hogwarts, and the scenes between Harry and Dumbledore at the end of this movie, are really a wrenching demonstration of the lengths to which love can drive people to do terrible things, even to the people we love.

Incidentally, I could totally see this movie being a slasher's delight, both on the teacher/student and Draco/Harry levels; on a final note, I also think the movies do a better job of not condescending to the characters than JKR herself does at times--the movies' treatment of Luna in particular stands out (and makes me more angry that she spends most of Deathly Hallows kidnapped or whatever), but I think the Slytherins are treated with more respect than JKR gives them, though in "HBP" this is arguably largely through the figure of Slughorn, who is self-centered but mostly harmless and does the right thing in the end. At the Battle of Hogwarts, though, when the whole House withdraws from the field...that really irks me, because I don't think it's realistic at all. Most of the Slytherins leaving? Probably. All? No, if only because Tom Riddle wouldn't have left the school to the other Houses' defense.

All that being said, though, I'd still totally rather have an eighth Potter book than a Potter encyclopedia. Are you listening, JKR?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-17 01:12 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I hadn't thought about the Slytherins quite like that before, but you're right.

Since their whole mantra involves doing things Their Way, it doesn't seem likely they'd be able to form a unified majority ever.

...though I could see them all agreeing the other houses need to be subjugated, and individually planning to take each other out at the first opportunity :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-17 01:18 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starlady38.livejournal.com
My take on the essence of Slytherin is that they always put self-interest first--but what JKR refuses to acknowledge is that some few people can define self-interest as something larger than just one's self, imo. So yeah, staying on to fight against Voldemort and company is not really a good choice in terms of looking out for number one, but at least one person would have to think that, "gee, the world would be safer for me without the Death Eaters and Voldemort in it." There has to be a Slytherin Cedric Diggory somewhere in that house. It certainly wasn't Draco Malfoy, but there is someone.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-17 01:44 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Or the Tiffany Aching brand of selfishness: "If all things are mine, I must protect everything"

They also seem smarter and more ambitious than to literally just stay hiding until it was all over. A really clever Slytherin would be following the Snape double/triple agent mold. People who stay neutral aren't highly regarded by either side.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-17 02:10 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starlady38.livejournal.com
Yeah, definitely on the smart/ambitious too. Snape is actually a really good example of someone whose self-interest is more than just himself, but whose self-preservation instinct and intelligence are not lacking, either. Which is more than could be said of some otherwise very admirable Gryffindors that I can think of.

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