Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 
Release Date:  July 15, 2009
Director: David Yates
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures

The film adaptation of The Half-Blood Prince has a lot of the same qualities I liked in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban.  While necessarily abridging the source material, it stays true to the spirit of the novel with a quirky style.  And particularly the film captures the major characters as children dealing with problems both mundane and extraordinary rather than just magical beings in a story.  I like how Gryfindor celebrates their quidditch win with a wild party in their common room or Harry quipping “I am the chosen one” as self-deprecating joke, as a couple of examples.

Much like the book the transition from uneasy normality to the stark horror of conclusion is quite effective.  In fact, Dumbledore forcing himself to drink the water in the cave – and all those creepy Inferi bodies – is straight out of a horror movie.

Jim Broadbent is a good addition to the cast as Horace Slughorn.  The lighting and visual effects are also a strong point of this movie.  I do have a couple of quibbles with the movie.  Lavender Brown is played as a caricature which goes against the grain of the good character work we see with the other children.  The scene where Bellatrix and Greyback attack the Burrow was an unnecessary addition.  But by and large, this is probably now my second favorite of the movies.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Author: J.K. Rowling
Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Narrator: Jim Dale
Publication Info: Listening Library, 2005

Rereading The Half-Blood Prince made me realize that more than I any book in the series, I had plum forgotten what had happened in this book.  I remembered that Harry gets an old textbook that helps him succeed in class that turns out to have once been Snape’s.  I remembered Dumbledore spends much more time with Harry and they traveled together to hunt horcruxes (in fact they only travel once, although the due look at many memories in the pensieve).  And I remembered that Dumbledore dies, killed by Snape on the astronomy tower.

I had totally forgotten about Horace Slughorn and his importance not just in this novel, but to Voldemort and horcruxes.  I’d forgotten that Ron dates Lavender Brown.

So reading this again was full of personal discoveries.  The interesting aspect of this book is that after the oppressive nature of Hogwarts under Umbridge, it feels like a world that’s a bit more relaxed and cozy.  Harry and his friends have time to engage in typical teenage drama.  It’s all a feint, of course, and it heightens the feeling of horror when Dumbledore is murdered.

I remember the first time I read this, I was angry that Dumbledore was so foolish to recognize Snape as a threat.  As the weeks passed, I thought more on it, and wondered what if letting Snape kill him was all part of Dumbledore’s plan.  This proved to be correct, so at least my mind was good at some things, if not always at memory.

Here’s the “review” I wrote in 2005:

It’s predecessor kind of plodded along at points, but this book is more crisply written and has a good share of adventure and intrigue. I found the ending disappointing, not because a Dumbledore dies (I guessed correctly who would die), but because his death is futile and comes as a result of uncharacteristic stupidity. There are a lot of loose ends at the end of the book and it’s going to be a big challenge for Rowling to tie them up all satisfactorily in the final book (without the book being 2000 pages long).

On second thought, Dumbledore’s death makes more sense as a sacrifice to save both Malfoy and Snape, and possibly even arranged with Snape as a plot to fool Voldemort. I still find it hard to believe that Harry Potter can (convincingly) find all the Horcruxes and kill Voldemort in book 7 without Dumbledore and without the book being an endless tome.

Rating: ****