Monday, July 20, 2009

Half-Blood Prince Review: Meh

As a sign that I have grown since my last Harry Potter review I will admit that there is, as far as I can tell, no available rubric by which one can assess a Harry Potter film except to compare it to other Harry Potter films. And on that scale Half-Blood Prince deserves a resounding "It wasn't as bad as Order of the Phoenix." Truthfully, though, I have no idea how to review a Harry Potter movie, how to assess a Harry Potter movie.

The movies are not the books. Alright, we are clear on that. But then what are the movies understood to be? Are these companion pieces? Are these part of their own narrative? Or is each movie a stand-alone entity beholden to nothing but that which appears on the screen?

This is what Half-Blood Prince provides: teenage melodrama. I do not mean that to be pejorative; a significant chunk of the movie is primarily teenage melodrama. The majority of the subplots concerned the whole Ron / Heronme non-relationship drama with a pinch of Harry and Ginny thrown in. And this is the crux of my problem when trying to write this review.

The review I want to write focuses upon Half-Blood Prince as a waste of a movie. This movie could have been the Voldemort movie; a movie the majority of which was back story and trips into the pensive to view the historical progression from Tom Riddle to Voldemort. That would have been a kick-ass movie. We could have hit every scene with Dumbledore and Harry looking at memories. We could have had segments of exposition wherein Dumbledore explains to Harry and the audience what the fuck is going on. We could have cleared up all of the ignored subplots of past movies and explained how Harry's scar fits into the Voldemort plot which propels the entire series.

But then I look at what the movie actually was: teenage melodrama stilted on awkward psuedo-exposition trying to cobble together Draco's treachery, Voldemort's past, the Order of the Phoenix's consternation, and Slughorn's crazy-old-man eyes. There is enough melodrama to overshadow the plot undercurrents yet there is just enough exposition on the larger Harry / Voldemort conflict to make me wonder why it was not embellished.

I think the movie strives to be primarily stand-alone and so focuses upon teenage melodrama in order to both meet the expectations of its primary audience and not expect too much from them at the same time. We assume that people are familiar with the characters and so do not have to provide a wealth of introductions yet do not rely upon this supposed understanding on the part of the audience to build a strong narrative which drives the overall plot foreward. Yet I wonder if this construction is at all sensible. Do we suppose that what fans want is to see Ron and Heronme being awkward rather than memories related to Voldemort? If Half-Blood Prince is any indication then the reply is an overwhelming probably.

While this is not the movie I wanted it pissed me off less than Order of the Phoenix. But I have to wonder if my lack of anger is the result of the quality of the movie or my own numbness to the franchise. And at the moment my guess is that I just stopped expecting anything from these movies in terms of exposition, coherence, or storytelling and rather pay $7 to see gratuitous shots of Emma Watson's ass.


Caleb said...

I'm guessing less melodrama than Degrassi though?

_J_ said...

Yes, sadly.

kylebrown said...

I have to guess you have just grown numb, because I found this film to be almost unwatchable compared to the previous endeavors.

My guess is they went the teen melodrama route because OMG Twilight made a lot of money.

Caleb said...

Wouldn't OMG Twilight have been making money durning post production for this? Or is it time for me to recalibrate my sense of time again?

MA17 said...

Seems to me you lay out the movie like this:

A Story:

Harry and Dumbledore skip down Tom's memory lane and we learn a lot about who the hell Voldemort is. Climax is the watching of the unaltered memory and the claiming of the watery hoarcrux in the cave of wet horrors.

B Story:

Malfoy and Snape are up to no good! Are they going to kill Harry? Are they going to kill Dumbledore? Whose side is Snape on?! Clixmax is Dumbledore getting his shit ruined.

The A story justifies some Slughorn and of course the MAX LUCK potion since it's all necessary for the climax, and B story necessitates some sneaking on the part of Malfoy and some botched assassination attempts, which calls for some of the typical Hogwarts shit like going to get a beer in Christmastown or whatever the fuck they do over there. I would leave in all of the stuff they did with the bird/apple/Marla transporter. It worked pretty wellish.

In my mind, these arcs would take up like....all of the movie. None of this stupid bullshit about Ron's tryout, no fucking Quiddich (at all, ever), and certainly no sitting around in the hall crying over boys. We already did that in The Goblet of Fire, and it has not gotten less awful in the intervening years.

The way the movie is, they're chasing down so many loose threads and giving each either so little time, or focusing on the wrong things, that I wouldn't have been surprised if at the end Snape goes "I'm the Half Blood Prince!" and Harry says "Who?"

MA17 said...

Eh, on further reflection...

C Story

The boys and girls pair off in boy/girl pairs.

Some crying in the hall is allowed.

_J_ said...

I would have appreciated the teenage melodrama movie if it had been all teenage melodrama movie. Because then i could have hated it more.

2 memories? fuck that.
kinda draco sad? Fuck that.
1 scene in potions and another reference to 'harry is doing well'? Fuck that.

I mostly just watch these movies for emma watson anymore.