Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

"The boys pheromone levels suggest he wants to mate with the female."

In his sixth year at hogwarts Dumbledore pulls Harry aside yet again to see to a special task. This time he is to uncover the missing portion of a tampered with memory, and in doing so comes across a mysterious book belonging to someone who calls them self the half-blood prince.

I am not a Harry Potter fan. I tried to read the books when they were still new but they simply didn't draw me in. That said, having as many friends as I do that are avid followers, I've seen all of the movies thus far. I didn't mind Prisoner of Azkaban, but Order of the Phoenix was the first one I truly enjoyed (and yes, I have noticed that Gary Oldman is the common thread there). As number 5 of 8 movies, I was hoping that the series would be compelling from there on out. Then I saw The Half-Blood Prince...

There have been a few complaints on my part that have run the entire length of the Potter movie series. I guess that just makes it my good fortune that this, the first installment released since the birth of The Reel Deal, is still making the same mistakes. Would you like to here what they are? I thought so.

1.) Daniel Radcliffe is, at best, a mediocre actor. And seeing as he plays the main character, the entire movie suffers at his hand. I guess that's what you get when you choose a child actor for the lead in a decade long project based on how much he looks like an illustration.

2.) Dumbledore, played now by Michael Gambone, needs more screen time. I think how little of this character's personal story is shared is a squandered opportunity. Or maybe it's not even so much about amount as it is about focus. One of the strongest points of the original Star Wars episodes was the amount of interest generated in Obi-Wan, even as a character who doesn't see the three quarter mark of the first film (fourth episode). Dumbledore's wisdom should be more of a touchstone. He's one of few characters, if not the only character, who saw everything unfold- what happened before Harry, and what's happening now with Harry. He is the bridge that connects the lore to the ongoing story- and I think that his underdevelopment in the films shines through more than ever in this chapter.

3.) Steve Kloves, writer of all but one of the Potter screenplays, seems to have an affinity for including plot points from the book without including the story lines that support them. Now I'm all for putting in little gems for those who follow the source material to notice and smile at- such as the cameo of Jubilee in X-men, or the appearance of the news vendor and boy reading "Tales of the Black Freighter" in Watchmen, but what's important about these things is that they were not plot points in their respective movies. You didn't need to catch and understand them to follow what was being shown to you in the rest of the scene. There were moments where, had I not had my favorite Harry Potter fan with me to explain, I would have been lost to certain things happening on the screen. That goes beyond fan pleasing- that's just bad writing.

Hmmm, I've decided that other complaint shouldn't be listed as a chronic complaint because this is the first movie where it's bothered me. I know that the saga's heroes are getting older. It's their Jr. year in "High school" and hormones are racing- but the troubled young love angle, while interesting, ran annoyingly long for me. There's only so much weeping I can take over High school love, especially when most of us old enough to be done with High school know it doesn't matter in the end anyhow. And no it's not just jealousy as Emma Watson gets closer and closer to full fledged "hottie" status in real life.

But this shouldn't be a bash-fest. This time out we again have some very strong scenes mixed in to reinforce the weak. The scenes between Jim Broadbent as Slughorn and Frank Dillane as a teen-aged Tom Riddle were utterly enthralling to me. And of course, Dumbledore gets a huge boost in screen time this go-around, though I fear it may be too little too late.

You see, The Half-Blood Prince isn't a bad movie, I just found myself constantly wanting to turn and re-focus the camera throughout the scenes. The movies points of interests more often than not didn't mesh with my points of interests when it came to the characters and events, and it's the movies burden to make it's points of interest my points of interest. Instead, while being shown one thing I would find myself thinking: "I wonder what's going on over there..."

The Harry Potter films always have their high points. It's just that they are sprinkled in among films that tend to run at two hours and change. That's a long wait between interesting moments for your average uninvested movie goer. Though for true fans I'm sure it's barely a wait at all. I mean let's face it, they've already been waiting eight years for this series to finish. And from the looks of the opening weekend box office for their newest adventure, they'll have no problem waiting two more.

P.s. Do you know what screenplay was the only one Kloves didn't write? That's right dear reader, it was Order of the Phoenix, the only Potter movie I truly liked. Coincidence or lesson for the kiddies? You make the call...

Reel Deal Recommends:

Well if you saw this one you've probably already seen all the movies I could recommend for most of this cast.

Hot Fuzz: For a hilarious romp featuring Jim Broadbent.

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