Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

[Screenshot]Harry Potter is one of those dues most geeks have to pay just to keep up with trends. I’m on record as detesting the last two books, and steadily becoming less thrilled by the film franchise as it rumbles forwards as well. So nobody is more surprised by me to find that the film of the penultimate novel is actually pretty good.

One of the biggest problems with the franchise, in its final phases, was the increasing dichotomy between the essentially inane boys-own-story worldbuilding where school is the most important place and untrained teenagers regularly defeat the forces of evil and the attempted tonal shift to gritty realism in which J.K. Rowling periodically kills secondary characters to remind us that she is writing Adult Themes.

OK, that may have been harsh, but the point is that Rowling’s a bit clumsy at managing tone and film is a better medium for that sort of thing. Where the book was unable to take itself terribly seriously for more than 3 pages at a time, the film of HBP cleates a claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere. There amy be a bit too much of Draco being moody, but overall it sets an atmosphere in which the dire predicitons about the gathering storm fit. It’s stuck with the plot of the book, unfortunately, which means that we still get occasional unfortunate inanities, most prominently the whole awful Ron-Lavender-Hermione love triangle, which is delivered in as unsubtle and cutesy a manner as possible. By way of contrast, Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright have a good screen chemistry, which is actually more believable than in the book, which swept aside the baggage of book 2’s awkward crush leaving nothing to replace it (it helps that movie actors grow up. Ginny shows no real character development in books 2­–5; in the movie we have physcial maturation as a shorthand for emotional maturation).

I’d put this in the short list of films which are actually better than their source material: it takes all the things J.K. Rowling can’t actually write too well and makes them shine. The parts which were stupid even before they were set down in prose are still stupid, but there’s more good than bad here.

It would be interesting to see if Yates can salvage the dreadful mess that is Book 7. Maybe we’ll get a movie about Voldemort’s coup and/or the student resistance force, both of which are far more interesting subplots than the extended camping trip that makes up most of the main plot of Deathly Hallows.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

One Response to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  1. grysar says:

    I’m not sure how good a film about the coup would be, I’m not sure the upper echelons of the wizarding Britain are really well enough developed to sustain the intrigue. On the other hand, I completely agree about the student resistance force, that’d be a great story and also one with well established characters and settings.

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