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.

Third Times a Charm

(Brownie points if you know what I’m going to write about already, though it only gets second billing)

First, thanks tons to everyone who came to the surprise birthday party for me, but Willie in particular. While not mind-blowingly surprising, it was still more than just the moobie I was expecting, and a lot of fun overall. While not good as a habit, I’ve come to appreciate the birthday, an intrinsically worthless marker, but a good reason to appreciate or be appreciated for one day in a year. It’s a good boost for anyone. Thanks again. It was great.

So for the rest of you who want to get to the “juicy” part of this post, yes, it did take me less than 48 hours, but I am now in the honored group of people to have read all 7 Harry Potter books. The last one was okay.

**********AND YES, SPOILER ALERT***************

It was familiar. The plot was compelling, as I chomped through all 700ish pages in the equivalent of about three sittings. The writing style was plentiful, and it only felt like anything happened at the very end. All the details were cleaned up in what, in retrospect, seemed to be an obvious way (somewhat related article about psychology being “obvious”), and things seemed very convenient.

Perhaps I’m not in the series as deep as most, but I wasn’t affected by the story at all. When George got his ear blown off, it wasn’t a tragedy. Three minor characters die at the end, but even that felt meaningless. Perhaps it was relatively trivial in the scope of Harry’s plot, but I didn’t develop a strong connection to the characters. I’m not the sort who would cry over it or anything, but I like to be gripped by a story. I want to pull for the good guys, feel the injustice, hope for magical/plot intervention against death,
but I didn’t get any of that.

I guess if you were affected by the deaths, it wouldn’t feel this way, but I thought the end was very, very tidy. Which isn’t directly tied to Harry living or dying. I couldn’t care less if it was powerful, but I didn’t get even that. There was a message, and I thought the scene in his head with Dumbledore was clever, but it still felt gimmicky. But I wasn’t disgusted with the end, so I guess it was okay.

More than any other novel, though, it definitely felt kiddish to me. In theory, yes, it should be the darkest and most removed from that, and it likely was, but as I’m (also in theory; many of you would likely refute this) maturing at the same time, I recognize factors I guess I wouldn’t otherwise. And I’m viciously trying to think of an example, but like the other novels, the details of it have escaped me 24 hours after reading it. Or maybe that’s a cop-out by me. Your call.

I came across this on Digg or something, I think. It’s some web chat with Rowling about other details the community, so if you haven’t seen it and have read the book, it’s interesting. Of course, if anyone finds something better, I’d be curious enough to read more.

It feels like I’ve been doing a lot of literary/cinematic review, recently. Well, the next one, probably soon, is going to be on the Bourne Ultimatum, so it’s not stopping.

Harry Potter… again?

I guess I just kind of go with the flow.

No, I haven’t read it yet, so you don’t have to worry about spoilers in here. Surprisingly, people seem to be incredible respectful about this last Harry Potter book. Perhaps my memory has inflated my memory of flagrant spoilers for previous ones and “Revenge of the Sith” floating around the internet. Not so, this time. Of course, they’re there if you’re looking for them. I heard a .pdf is floating around, and I’m sure there are lots across the peer-to-peer networks of varying authenticity.

But no, I haven’t read it yet. My plan was to wait till the following Monday (today) and then start asking around for a copy. Most people who got it on opening day are done by now, right?

It’ll be interesting to see if this really is the end. Since I haven’t read the book, I’m uncertain as to whether more are possible, but I certainly hope that it is. I enjoy the books—though perhaps not to the same level as others—and would probably read the next one as well. Even so, planning ahead for the end seems best.

This summer started with many big sequels: Pirates 3, Shrek 3, Spiderman 3, Fantastic Four 2 (read below for my opinion on that one). It’s inevitable that with any series, it’s going to go down-hill at some point. After so many, the sequels just “go Rocky”, and in the end, are just a disappointment. The sequels are financially successful, but often, that’s about their only success.

Seven is a lot. Seven is having first heard about them in elementary school and now going to college. Seven is enough to carry kids through their childhood reading and, theoretically, slowing the domination of TV. Seven is a rich, developed universe with great depth. Seven is quitting while still ahead.

Order of the Phoenix Review

I got the most unusual call from a little Indian boy yesterday asking if I wanted to go see Harry Potter at the midnight release. I’m not really a Potter fan; I got the books from the library and watched the movies, but never really got into it. And I’ve managed to forget most of the details hours after reading the books. It seems that nothing of any importance happens until the last fifty pages of the book, filled with other anecdotes in a verbose style.

The movie was entertaining. I sat through it and enjoyed watching it. The two movies I had seen previously were “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Spiderman 3”, so I had lowered my expectations going into this movie. The dialogue wasn’t cheesy, and the acting felt authentic, mostly. I empathized with the soulless administration of Hogwarts and most of Harry’s troubles.

I wasn’t truly engrossed in it, though. I blame my companion for some of that, but I was never entirely transported to the movie’s magical realm. The Harry-Cho plot-line felt contrived. The writers did a great job of condensing a much longer book into a normal length film, but the romance didn’t feel right at all. It wasn’t important to the story, didn’t develop the characters, wasn’t itself fully developed, and wasn’t performed particularly well. It felt like it was added simply because it was in the book—which I already mentioned was scattered—and would make a great addition to the trailer to sucker people in.

Being at the premiere wasn’t as cool as I was hoping either. I didn’t see anyone dressed up, and it wasn’t as chaotic as I was hoping. Other than having a difficult time getting a seat, it wasn’t as exciting as Return of the Sith. Oh well; there are another 2 to go if I want to see that.

There are some movies that leave me sitting there, still, in awe, trying to comprehend the magnitude of the work. Then there are others, like FF2, that get a laugh. OotP was somewhere in the middle. It certainly wasn’t life-changing, though I did enjoy it. The credits started rolling, and I stood up, ready to go.