Film adaptations always walk on a tight rope when avid fans of either books, comics, or television shows come out in flocks to see the final result on film. Such is the case with the Harry Potter franchise and its billion dollar fan base . Extreme fans have probably seen all of the movies in protest to the original artistic vision that J.K. Rowling had, complaining that the films lack the detail and the magic experienced in the books. However, as any film scholar will tell you, it is a difficult task to be completely loyal to material previously published used to make a film. In fact, even in the great Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson, who remained extremely diligent in telling the Tolkien story, had to leave out certain scenes or details, or risk an already three hour film turning into a five-hour plus movie experience. It is a daunting and challenging task indeed!
Such is the case with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the darkest yet in the Harry Potter series, continuing the developing tale of Harry, Hermoine, Ron, Dumbledore and the rest as they get set to face off in the ultimate battle against the Dark Lord Voldemort and his pack of Death Eater followers. Danger is constantly lurking behind every corner, as dark magic has not only confronted Hogwarts and the magical community, but entered the muggle realm as well. For those unclear, Muggle is the term for a person who does not use magic nor believe in it. This example is but one problem concerning non-Harry Potter followers.
In any case, darkness is looming over every environment of the film representing how close Harry is to fulfilling his destiny of facing Voldemort in the end. In fact, the color palet in this film is darker and greyer than previous films, but the scenes are still fun to watch and admire, as the cinematography once again, proves to be one of the best qualities of the film. Yet, it is the story of Harry, the boy wonder, the chosen one, proves to be the centerpiece of the film, and this presents a problem for those that have not read the book or followed the films. They will have no clue what is going on.
But these films are not intended for viewers to just jump in right at the end. These films, like the books are intended to be seen or read by the masses who are Harry fans, those that have grown to see Harry and his friends grow up, those that have spent countless hours devoted to finishing the seven hundred page book in less than two hours after it is released. These films are intended to be viewed by those that follow the story and the story of this book, this film, proves to be the darkest chapter of Harry’s life and the best of all the films.
We pick up where we left off with the wizarding world realizing that all is not well in magic land, as the Dark Lord is alive and doing evil very well, everywhere including being seen and out in the open destroying public bridges in London. This is a cool scene that opens the film, but presents yet another problem that I will explain at the end. Nevertheless, we see that no one is safe from Voldemort’s terror.
We find Harry played by Danielle Radcliffe, in a coffee shop at a train station reading the Daily Prophet, a magic publication, when he encounters a visit from Dumbledore, played once again by the great Micheal Gambon, who in this film is a greater presence throughout. Dumbledore and Harry decide to teleport together to a qauint village to recruit a new professor for Hogwarts, Professor Horace Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent. This provides the key plot element as Dumbledore explains that Slughorn provides the key, a memory that will explain the secret to destroying Voldemort. Other character’s destinies come to fruition as well, as the young Draco Malfoy has been recruited to do a dark task for Voldemort. We do not find out what this is until the ending of the film. This task none the less, enlists the slick, slimy Severus Snape as he promises to protect Malfoy from any danger including fulfilling the dark task himself. The rest of the gang is back at Hogwarts as well, as the school is the central base of interaction and adolesence providing the realistic and comical element of the story. Hormones are flying as Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are all dealing with relationships, love, and growing up in a turbulent time both in their lives and in the world.
This movie is all about choices and conflict, as characters are constantly faced with dilemas that present dire consequences. Snape, played deliciously by Alan Rickman, steals the show as he is faced with difficult decisions throughout the film. He speaks his lines in snake-like rhythm giving the audience constant misdirection. If you have read the books, then you understand what I mean when I say that. Harry is faced with his destiny and dating at the same time, not a small task. Dumbledore is faced with using Harry for a means and taking on the task of destroying the Dark Lord. Malfoy is faced with the toughest decision of all, as it is constantly plaguing and transforming him throughout the film. Choices that present inward and outward conflict are the undertone theme of the film, which is why it is so dark. Which side would you choose if faced with a tough decision?
Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, and David Yates, the director do a good job of protraying the teenage experience in school and presenting the daunting task of turning a six hundred page book into a two and half hour movie. However, as I said there are some problems throughout all resting in the hands of these two individuals. If you have read the books, and I have you would know that additional scenes were added to the film, one being the bridge attack scene. Other scenes were extracted, particularly concerning the end of the film. As I said, adapting a book is difficult but I would like to ask why scenes were added while others were not considered. The scene that I am referring to would have provided a climatic experience at the end versus the one leaving the viewer unsatisfied and disappointed with the final result. The additional scenes in the film although fun to look did not enhance the story, and the story in this film is the best part to watch unfold.
Nevertheless, this Harry Potter film is good and worth seeing. It is not the best of the films but a good film none the less. It provides the best story so far and sets up the next two films nicely. Here’s hoping they take the Peter Jackson approach and pull out all of the stops for the final two chapters.