Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Directed by: David Yates
Writers: Steve Kloves (screenplay); J.K. Rowling (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Michael Gambon (Professor Albus Dumbledore); Dave Legeno (Fenrir Greyback), Elarica Gallagher (Waitress), Jim Broadbent (Professor Horace Slughorn), Geraldine Somerville (Lily Potter), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger); Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy), Timothy Spall (Wormtail), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape)

The first rule of a film, good, bad or otherwise: It must tell a story, or try to tell a story, at least. And, the film should have a climax (not necessarily an orgasm, but a climax nonetheless), before the end credits roll.
Things get little complicated while talking about the Harry Potter series, perhaps the most successful movie franchisee in the recent years. The sixth film in the series is out, and it’s already a blockbuster. Not very surprising. Looking closely, however, you don’t know what to do with the film. As it ends (spoiler: Dumbledore’s dead!!. That’s not really a spoiler for those who have read the book, and if you haven’t, you may not really understand and appreciate the movie.), nothing is really over. We have two more films to go till the Harry Potter saga comes to an end. That would be 2010 or something like that.
But, every movie must have a story. So, where’s the story in the latest Harry Potter? We are coming to that.
The mainstream press has lot of nice things to say about ‘Half-Blood Prince.’ That’s actually a news after how ‘The Goblet of Fire’ was penned by everyone, and how ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ received only left-handed complements. Director David Yates has come a long way (This is his third outing with the boy wizard, and is currently busy with the two-part ‘The Deathly Hallows'.)
But, is the story of the struggle between good and evil, and a quintessential children’s tale turning into a Hollywood teen romance, taking a leaf from last year’s super successful ‘Twilight’? Now, that a question worth all the gold at the Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
The first three books of J K Rowling’s seven-book saga had fairly independent storyline, in the lines of 'Famous Five' and 'Hardy Boys.' What was common were the characters and the school where they study. After the fourth book, where Harry’s nemesis, Voldermort, comes to life, the saga becomes a series, with all the stories linked together.
This is a blessing and a curse at the same time. On the plus side, you can play around in each movie, without worrying about everything leading to a cohesive end. On the flip side, you tend to lose focus, since the story isn’t ending in near future, how much climatic plot should the movie build up?
That’s why probably ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ remains the best film in the series, it had a neat beginning, middle and an end.
Rowling's books got bigger and bigger, fatter and fatter, with each passing year. There are so many things which a two-hour movie cannot include. The screen writer has to choose. Now, this is a problem, what to choose and how much. For example, in ‘The Goblet of Fire,’ the subplot of Hermione fighting for the rights of the house elves was totally ignored in the film. That’s okay. But are we leaving out only the excess fat or we are leaving out flesh and bone as well? That’s a question.
There are two major plot line in 'Half-Blood Prince': Voldermort’s past, and the Horcruxes, and the potion textbook of the mysterious half-blood prince. There are other subplots, including the task the Dark Lord has assigned to Draco Malfoy and the love stories between Ron-Hermione, Harry-Ginny...
The film is 153 minutes long, yet, what we see are the teen-age love stories. We also see a young Voldermort, played by Ralf Fiennes’ real life nephew Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, we meet the inferies, Harry learns a real bloody curse for his enemies, the Millennium bridge in London comes crashing down, and so on. But, what the film mostly deals with is the teenage hormones, which is not a bad thing, but at what expense: At the expense of an elaborate plotline. There is a major fight scene at the end of the novel, after Dumbledore dies. That track is missing in the film. That’s okay. But why then we had to witness all those scenes of Draco Malfoy mending the vanishing cabinet? And, no Bill in the film to be bitten by Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf. The point is, Billy is not marrying in the next film, then? We don’t know. Then how will 'Dealthly Hallows' begin?
For the fans, the film looks exquisite, the Hogwarts more detailed than ever, the magic more enchanting... And, for the others, I don’t think they would be interested, and they are a minority. The Half-Blood Prince elsewhere
The wikipedia entry
The Salon review
The Roger Ebert review

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