Saturday, July 18, 2009


To sum it up succintly, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince was a hot mess: Alan Rickman was hot, the rest was a mess.

It's not so much because the 6th installment in the Harry Potter movie franchise sucked any more than the 5 that came before it (The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix were worse). The problem is with the whole movie franchise itself: it might have been a mistake to begin with. J.K. Rowling's beloved book series, one of the most sensational pop culture phenomena of our time, is simply too unwieldy for film adaptation. The magic of Rowling's fictional universe lies in the careful, creative, curious, and cute details, and none of the movies have been able to capture and contain them to satisfy any self-respecting Potterphile. The producers who bought the film rights to the HP books definitely made a sound financial decision; however, from an artistic and logistical standpoint, they did not think it through.

By the time Half-Blood Prince rolled into theaters, one now gets the sense that the HP movies are like a speeding train that's lost its brakes. It started slow, gained momentum (gracias, Alfonso Cuaron), and is now careening wildly toward derailment or a spectacular crash. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the crash will be more of finishing with a bang, if only to do justice to the final book in the HP series (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), which I truly loved. The film adaptation of HBP just felt too all over the place: hardly any context for even HP fans to follow the complicated storyline; abrupt shifts from scene to scene and mood to mood; and characters popping up for what first seems like a significant moment, only to disappear for the rest of the movie (and what, only 2 scenes with the Weasley twins?? outrageous!!). It pained me to see such eminent English acting talents like Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, and David Thewlis get so little screen time. Indeed, the saving grace of this mess of a movie was the superb acting from Michael Gambon as the awesome, adorable Albus Dumbledore, Jim Broadbent as the grubby but good-hearted Horace Slughorn, Helena Bonham-Carter as the malevolent, barking mad Bellatrix LeStrange, and Alan Rickman as the sinister, sexy-in-a-sleazy-way Severus Snape (every word, look, pause and movement from Rickman screamed TARAY, it was brilliant to behold).

I wish I could rave similarly about the performances of the younger actors, but I was disappointed with the lot. Even after 6 movies, Daniel Radcliffe still fails to impress me with his lukewarm delivery of emotions, particularly rage and grief; Rupert Grint still tends to overact when he's called to be comic, and comes off as a ham (and the kid can do SO much better, as I've seen in the delightful Driving Lessons); and Emma Watson, while still outacting her 2 male co-stars, seems to have lost the spunk she had as a child and has settled into the role of pretty, skinny female lead with not much personality. Of all the younger cast members, the ones who gave more convincing performances were actually the girl who played the irritating, infatuated Lavender Brown, and the guy who played the cute but cocky Cormac McLaggen. Tom Felton was pretty good too as Draco Malfoy, but dude looks like crap with his sunken, almost skeletal face-- put some meat on those bones man!

HBP did have some entertaining bits (mostly the light-hearted parts involving teenage romance), and it did have me welling up at the end because of its tragic ending, but ultimately the tragedy is that for all the wizardry going on within it, the movie sorely lacked the magic Rowling's books have. I'm certainly not harboring any high hopes for films #7 and #8, but at this point, I've traveled too far on the speeding train to jump off. Might as well see it through to the bitter(sweet?) end.


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