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Capt. Sage's Review of the Movie:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This movie, although in some ways it stuck less closely to the book than the previous movie, I found more enjoyable. Perhaps it was because the deviations from the book made more cinematic and thematic sense than they did in the previous movie (although sometimes in common sense they were still wanting. 1) The technical aspects of the movie, were, as usual, excellent, but this movie gained most of its appeal from the excellent acting and the relationships between the characters.

The cast also turns in excellent performances. Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) have some of their best lines and scenes in the series during this movie, thoroughly enjoyable though some, perhaps many, were not strictly from the book. Evanna Lynch returns as Luna Lovegood, still keeping her character hilarious, but someone the audience laughs with, not at. Professor Horace Slughorn is perfectly portrayed by Jim Broadbent, who has every nuance of this character right. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) assume new prominence in this movie, and they ably carry this new weight.2

An emphasis is on the personal and on relationships in this movie, such as we haven't had in the series for some time. It felt good, because the characters actually are enjoyable, and it was engaging to see them having a bit of a respite from the harrowing events that are surrounding them. The movie, however, does a good job of injecting suspense and furthering the plot even as this is going on.

This movie's plot is more tightly focused to a few key themes. Although I missed many of the parts of the book that were left out or modified, I found the tight focus to be helpful for the movie for two reasons. First, it made the whole film make more sense, as we weren't diverted onto various subtopics without much context, which the movie series has been guilty of from time to time. Secondly, the tight focus allowed the movie to do well the final scenes. Everything was leading up to them, and plenty of time was allotted for them.

This movie is one of the better Harry Potter movies, with an excellent emphasis on the characters and their relationships, some of the best lines and acting of the series, and excellent dramatic sequences.

SPOILERS

I personally would've preferred an opening sequence of giants wrecking a bridge rather than Death Eaters mysteriously wrecking it. The giants were from the book, and it would've been just as cool to see, I think - and also, perhaps, a bit more immediately understandable. Although it probably would've required a scene or two showing that such otherworldly events are covered up from Muggles, it would've been neat.

The movie barely mentioned the source of its title, and didn't ever explain what it meant. Overall, really, it was highly odd. Suppose you'd never read the books and went to the movie. You knew that its subtitle had something to do with a "Half-Blood Prince." About a quarter or a third of the way through the movie, you get the first mention of him in the Potions book Harry gets. His identity is kept up with intrigue throughout the movie, and then, finally, you learn who he is. But you still have no idea why, or what it means. Doesn't it feel like something is missing? It was really too bad, because the scene in which Ron and Harry fight for the book was very well done!

It was rather nonsensical for Prof. Dumbledore and Harry to Apparate to a rock in the middle of the sea when they really needed to get inside the sea cave. It was rather obviously for a dramatic establishing shot. It was a dramatic establishing shot, but I was distracted by wondering when they were going to go inside the cave and wondering if they'd get washed off that rock! Perhaps the movie should've had a dramatic establishing shot, then a zoom inside the cave. Since the movies have insisted on portraying Apparition with smoke trails, perhaps they could've zoomed following the smoke trail of Harry and Prof. Dumbledore.

The action was overall was more low-key than I was expecting, although probably that's a good thing. I expected, this being a movie, that they wouldn't be able to resist flinging hordes of disgusting Inferi (in a word, zombies) at the good guys as often as possible. Thankfully, we were not subjected to that. In the sea cave, the hand coming out of the water, although you could tell something scary was going to happen, still made me jump, but possibly because of the loud blast of music at that point. That's just as well, because I don't enjoy being frightened at movies. So I was really rather glad the Inferi weren't overdone.

As was pointed out to me, one of the unfortunate results of removing the battle of the teachers and students against the Death Eaters invading Hogwarts was that it made no sense, especially given that the movie had established already that there was extra security and teachers patrolling the grounds.

Also, the movie made Harry reckless - which after the last movie you'd think he would not be. He ends up, in the Burrow attack scene (which was not in the book) looking like a total idiot, as runs into an obvious trap, and ends up surrounded, without cover, by opponents with cover. Also, I had to wonder in that scene why the fire broke for some people and not for others?

As annoying as that was, it was not the most annoying part of the movie. The most annoying part of the movie was waiting for Ron to say something in the final scene! I know he got a lot of screen time in this movie, but at least one line in the final scene of the movie with the Big Three would not be remiss!

Speaking of things that would not be remiss, I think that Draco would've been served rather better if the movie had cared to mention that if Draco failed, Voldemort would kill not only him, but his family as well. His conflict as he tries save his own life by harming schoolmates and killing one of his teachers is understandable, but knowing that his family is in danger, too, would've helped make everything more understandable. In addition, the movie might've spent a second or two in an extreme closeup showing Draco deliberately lowering his wand at the end of the movie. Harry and Hermione's lines pointing this out could've been kept in case it was missed, but I think it would've been more helpful for the viewers to have had more immediate feedback. Or perhaps I missed whatever the movie meant to show that he was lowering his wand - perhaps the movie actually did implement what I just suggested!

I would've liked to have seen more of Neville, though I was glad he got as much screen time as he did.

There are hard tasks ahead for the movie series. I've spoken with people who like the movie series but haven't read the book, who have forgotten that a character died in the previous film. Unfortunately, I found that all too understandable, especially given that there is only about one line in this film that even mentions that character's name (Bellatrix's line in the aforementioned Burrow attack sequence.) Now consider that the movie based on the seventh book needs to integrate the entire series, as well as the backstory, in addition to the relationships between the characters and huge fight scenes. I'm glad that the current plan is to split the seventh book into two movies, because that honestly is a big task for any single movie. Still, I'm worried that even so, it won't be able to be intelligible to people who have never read the books. Perhaps I shouldn't be so worried, though. The movies have in many ways done better than one would've expected, so I hope I will be pleasantly surprised.