Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

(in the spirit of reviews, I’ll try to dodge spoilers, even if the ending to this Harry Potter book was an internet frenzy)

It’s been awhile since I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but a quick refresher from my last review reminds me that I didn’t like it. The movie felt very angsty, and the somewhat serious tone it took made it largely unbearable. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the plot still revolves teenage wizards growing up and dealing with their issues, but a shift towards a funny awkward tone makes it bearable enough to be fun for 2 1/2 hours.

While thinking about what I would put in my review, I realized I couldn’t think of a one sentence plot summary. Actually, I don’t think the movie is about much at all, but that’s okay because the movie is really only meaningful within the context of Harry Potter movies that you should’ve seen. To make any sense of the movie, you likely need to have either read all of the previous books or watched all of the movies as this movie does pretty true to the book. That means the plot starts in the middle of this epic without any exposition and relies heavily on known character traits.

Granted, I read the book once when it came out, so the details are fuzzy, and maybe it isn’t so true to the book. Several of the Tom Riddle memories have been cut out, and the circumstances of the love story change. One quality I think the movie captured well is the lack of content until the final scenes. Part of the lack of plot is that there isn’t a lot of direction to many of the scenes. Potter is vaguely helping Dumbledore on his quest to defeat Voldemort, and it’s not clear how his interest in Ginny is related. Like the book, the movie meanders between characters and events, only trying to tie meanings together at the end.

The good news, though, is that even if nothing happens, it’s still a lot of fun. Just like the book, I always wanted to get to the next scene, and the two hours passed very quickly. When Ron sits down with a pie between Harry and Ginny just before they have a “moment”, there’s something familiar and funny about being somewhere you shouldn’t be. Perhaps it’s more fun for me because it genuinely sounds like a story my friend might tell me about last weekend, so I should warn that the movie might feel longer than the lines at the DMV if you don’t enjoy or appreciate the awkward moments, because that’s all it is.

The tone is particularly well-targeted, though. Looking around in the theater, I think almost everyone in the audience was somewhere between 15 and 25. Had I watched this movie when I was in 8th grade, I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much, but the humor feels like something that would happen in high school. Kids around my age are the ones who grew up reading these books, so it seems natural that each movie about a wizard boy growing up should change its tone as its audience grows up as well.

I was actually unsure whether I wanted to go to a midnight showing, but I think it was worth it just for the audience participation. Since the theater was probably half dormmates and half similarly aged students, we all had similar reactions, including roaring laughter at a particularly poorly worded sequence suggesting inappropriate relations between Snape and Draco. I probably could’ve done without the shrieking when the movie began, but a sarcastic and cruel “haw haw” (think Nelson from The Simpsons) legitimately made the movie better. Even if I missed some dialogue when everyone was laughing, I’m certain that the movie is better seen in a group.

Except for the lack of a plot and suspense (since it wasn’t clear what there was to be worried about), the movie was well-produced. The special effects were exactly what you would expect from a Harry Potter movie, so not revolutionary, but still pleasing. There wasn’t much quidditch, but the scenes looked great. The acting was solid, including some excellent background characters. For those who love the lore and world of Harry Potter, you’ll be disappointed to find out that the movie trivializes the presence of many characters, such as Hagrid and Neville. Those were the actors that did the best job, in my opinion. The young Tom Riddle was perfectly creepy, and Luna was just as much fun as in the last  movie.

So the bottom line is that you should continue to do what you’ve been doing. If you haven’t followed Harry Potter up until now, this movie isn’t amazing enough that you have to catch up. It may be the best Harry Potter movie, but it’s still just an okay movie on its own merits. Fortunately, it’s not only on its own merits, so if you’ve seen all the other movies, definitely make your way out to this one. And take a couple angst-ridden teenagers with you for laughs.

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