Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Film Reivew
I don't know if it was intentional, which would make Yates a genius, or by accident of my way of thinking but HBP could easily be summed up in the first 10 minutes of the film with 2 moments:
- The Death Eaters destroying the Millenium Bridge, a support structure which reflects some observations that this installment doesn't have a backbone both structurally and in maturity. Quite interesting since it shows no one dying as a result of the bridge collapsing which reflects a lot of real danger in the wizarding world at large, but also showing how flimsy a real life structure in a magical setting which also reflects the real lack of a backbone tying the entire film together.
- When the waitress says Harry could tell her about this "Tosser Harry Potter" after work, the audience doesn't realize that it's a subtle hint at Yates knowing how much of a "tosser" this film is and puts the audience in the role of the waitress for the next 2.5 hours. We becomes Harry's date as he trys to explain away the inadequacies of the film the best he can.
If these two sequences were filmed in post production after Yates realize some of the mistakes he made, then it's possibly the most brilliant film in terms of self awareness in the series. Yates is good at that, from the Draco apple PoA reference, the snake neck twitch from OoTP, Hungarian Horntail in GoF and other little easter eggs here and there. However he's not that good so it's highly unlikely but great to assume.
I think this might be the first review to address reviewing this film from all aspects of what this film represents. From it's place in the book series, it's place in the film franchise, it's ranking in the fans' hearts, what it means cinematically, how it stands up to previous entries and because of the exposure of DH, what we might stand to see in the next installments. Relative to the rest of the films, it stands as both a step backward and forward. It's as if with any HBP installment you have a finite amount of resources to distribute. You can have awesome dialogue, but horrid acting, or great acting but terribad content. Whereas Yates shows growth it's actually an illusion of redistributing resources from one aspect of the movie to another. The sum of HBP parts is probably equal to the sum of OoTP's parts.
For instance the acting makes you wonder how it was absent so dramatically from the previous film of which was a very emotional installment made corny through over the top emoting than the more subtle HBP. A growth yes but at the same time a lot of stuff stayed status quo. Rickman for the first half dialed in Snape with exception of showing the tiniest shred of animosity towards Potter during the Malfoy accusation sequence. Gambon was delightful but I felt not delightful enough. Slughorn felt far too feeble and nice a person who is capable of "collecting
" people like trophies however he does fit the role of a potions master much like a science lab tech. I do admit that when he finally confronted his shame with Potter, it fit only because he was so feeble in the first place. Grint used once again for his strengths but once again after the comedy is done, you might as well put him into the grave with Aragog because he's useless (and quite absent) soon after. Watson I applaud her strides in keeping her eyebrows in check.
And Harry...alas Radcliffe does an ok job as always but I definately felt a lack of cohesion between his character traits relating to other character traits in the film. Ron and Hermione's "depth
" I couldn't really care less but when Harry is supposed to be the most varied of character, I don't feel Harry all the way here. I don't feel his strength of defending those he love or fighting related to who he loves, who he cherishes, what he holds dear or who he's lost.
OoTP at least AT LEAST he was cohesively mediocre in his angst; but the whole Ginny love aspect was like watching 3 different alternative HBP timelines smashing together.
- The cute I step half way and you step halfway in which was decent in contrast to the hormone overflow of the rest of the romance.
- The zomg Harry feels so much pain like Hermione painfully shows in crying seems to be galaxies away from even relating to point 1.
- And the true love in the Room of Requirement moment seems far too fairytale romance in comparison to #2's "ZOMG I will die without you Notebook style".
Toss in his Felix Felicis moment which seemed more like his role from Extras and you have possibly the most incohesive Harry Potter yet.
However I do applaud his growth in getting better performances out of the trio, but I just find his timing to be off and he really misuses the characters in a glaring fashion. For one who people seem to say adheres to the novel so well (at least for this installment) he certainly seems to be following the movie established characters far more than the book counterparts. Nothing wrong with that but I wish there was more growth and variety in said movie versions; not in comparison to the book counterparts but in comparison to previous film installments. As said before some actors dial it in whereas the new actors (probably excited in a new role) bring fresh enthusiasm to their respective roles.
The only thing that was cohesive was how amazing it looked. The cinematography was such a high note, it's hard to imagine how anyone could give it a bad a score as I did, but really good cinematography could be just as bad as a cavalcade of special effects ala Transformers 2, if there is not context for it to be shown, it only looks
pretty. What I find striking is the complexity of details in each scene. It actually reminds me a lot of Wes Anderson films where you enter rooms and see all these knick knacks and little details here and there; HBP certainly shows the most "naturally lived in
" style of the series as opposed to caricatures of the person i.e. Umbridge's pink office or Moody's museum of huge magnifying lenses. However pretty the film could be though, instances of hamming up the screen or cinematic failures just break the magic of Delbonnel's work.
I could see Delbonnel rolling his eyes as Yates tells him "Ok I see this scene happening and then we pan over to Draco standing/sitting/eating/on the loo brooding menancingly but deep in thought.
" Bruno, you make it look awesome, but that's like asking a master painter to do a real life painting of a garden gnome. I mean seriously brooding
? There are complaints about the whomping willow in PoA and showing Malfoy brood is acceptable? How about showing Malfoy fixing the cupboard one in lieu of him bookending a fairly decent scene. Yet apparently "fixing
" the cupboard means unveiling it 3 times.. I seriously actually thought the second time he did that, it was a reused shot.
I'm sure upon a second viewing I'm able to be more attentive, but there were instances were the editing was just as bad as OoTP's. The first trio discussion around the newspaper campfire was painful
to watch. The cuts were far too jarring for the backdrop they had. Whatever shortcomings Yates has in doing the right thing at the right time, at least he's good at mimicry. The "horror
" sequences were done competently enough that it felt plucked out of another film which only continues Yates' constant introduction of other genres and movie devices into the film. Sequences like the Burrow attack and the Cave benefitted from the jarring editing and the near black and white colour scheme on the island basically screamed an homage to Romero.
Not all his genre injections work well though. Although I find JKR's idea of rom-com tolerable at best, Yates both succeeds and fails with it. A little over raging in hormones for my taste in the sense that it has the same tact as "Date Movie" or any other teen rom-com that came out in the past few years and yet because of this slightly more lewd twist it makes it hilariously defiant against the boring comedy shown in the novel counterpart. However there will always be a footnote related to the quality of the comedy of the film. It's funny....for a Harry Potter film
which goes to show this compliment is more out of pity than praise. The easiest way to gauge the comedy in this film is how often are we going to see this film solely for the comedy? For me it's a resounding zero unless it's in a so bad it's good context of which much of it exists.
This leads into a huge complaint about the inclusion of a Aragog funeral and the lack of a Dumbledore one. Those who complain over it are totally missing the point. Aragog's funeral isn't showing the death of the huge pinchered spider. That whole comedic bit was to symbolically put into the comedy of this installment into the grave. Think about it, aside from the small discussion between Slughorn and Dumbledore aftewards which had comedy, was superceded by incredible seriousness of Lily's death and Dumbledore's orders to Harry respectively. This was probably more intentional than what I said at the beginning of this review which shows that Yates is still competent if barely so.
So does it do the book justice? I'm not really interested in such things but it's installments like these that sorta of show that perhaps he's not just trying to ape Newall's documentary feeling, Cuaron's style but also Columbus' plain presentation style. I thought it was just a quirk from OoTP but it shows that he more Columbus in him than I'm comfortable with. It's funny because for me HBP basically solidified OoTP's role in the book series by reconfirming the tone and style for the rest of the series (post-Graveyard GoF so to speak). Filmwise it's interesting to reaffirm Yates's style despite him trying to make this installment more polished and different than before.
I think the most important thing to determine the quality of this film is for me to watch it again, which is unlikely until after the DVD release. So I base it on whether it's rewatchable which is a hallmark of whether this film could be considered a classic. The resounding answer is that it's more rewatchable than OoTP. Whereas OoTP was Yates attempt to create a blockbuster out of an overinflated nothing of a novel installment; HBP put his cinematic chameleon skills to the test to make the most dramatically full installment yet. Oscar worthy? Far from it. Drama doesn't turn me off and perhaps it's because of Yates ability to cater to the film geek for the series (Delbonnel FTW), the tolerable rom-com (for a HP film remember :) ) it balances well enough that it's worth a revisit without having to get into a "Oh I'm watching a dramatic film
" state of mind. It's in the strength of his growth and advances that outweighs the weakness and mediocrity of the film but barely. I'm sure my opinion will change as I analyze it more but might as well put it in list form for easier viewing.
3.0) GoF = PS
HBP is a solid 2.5/5.0 stars. That's 5/10 for you keeping a 10 point ranking.
I'm even tempted to divy it up with PoA then everything else, but I don't think anyone needs that right now. How I could most easily sum up my words is in this line.
HBP is like the uncanny valley. As we come closer to perfection* the imperfections become far more noticeable than before.
David Yates better step up his game for Deathly Hallows.
*It's FAR FAR from perfection mind you.