A Viewer’s Guide to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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I don’t really review movies here at Nerd World. We have an actual critic who does that. I more barf out a series of thoughts that occur to me while I watch them, which form an MST3K-like running commentary. I tend to post them relatively late, since they’re only fun if you have just seen, or are just about to see, the movie in question. And sometimes not even then!

So if you haven’t seen Half-Blood Prince yet, come back to this post. There are major spoilers in it. Or you could print it out and take it with you, to refer to during the course of the movie. It’s hours of fun for the whole family. Just tear along the dotted line at the edge of your screen.

A Viewer’s Guide to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

1. The first frames of a Harry Potter movie are always tense, since you’re kind of wondering what weird post-pubescent form Daniel Radcliffe et al will have morphed into next. (I remember the beginning of Order of the Phoenix as the first time I noticed he had stubble.) Here he just seems to have morphed into a good actor. All the heavy stuff that went down at the end of Phoenix is just hanging off his face here. You can see it all. Beautiful sequence.

2. First shot of Ginny. My goodness, she’s gotten winsome. Makes you wonder what would have happened if she’d been cast as Hermione: she’s more sweet and real-looking than the waspish, glacially pretty Emma Watson.

3. Now whenever I see Hogsmeade I think of that Remus Lupins song “Loosen Your Tie.” They should have licensed it for the soundtrack.

4. I wonder what the actors are really drinking when they drink butterbeer. It does look authentically butterscotchy.

5. Oh no! The cursing of Katie Bell in Hogsmeade, which looked so creepy in the trailer, turns out to be sorta unintentionally funny.

6. Man, Jim Broadbent is working hard to make Slughorn funny. You want to tell him to calm down a bit. Take it down a notch. He’s not a young man anymore.

7. Tonks can metamorph to look however she wants, right? So why did she morph into Pat Benatar?

8. Holy Crow, that kid who plays Tom Riddle is creepy. That’s nice work there, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin. Even creepier than the Tom Riddle of Chamber of Secrets. Yes, I went there! (And yes, Ralph Fiennes is his uncle.)

9. Hang on — Death Eaters attacking the Weasley house? (Flips frantically through copy of Half-Blood Prince)

10. Also, does nobody know a spell for putting out fires? Snuffiarmus or some such?

11. You know who else is working hard? Jessie Cave, aka Lavender Brown. And I’m kind of loving it. That’s a tough role, since it’s not written especially wittily, but she’s killing it. Forget Ron! Snog me, Lavender! Snog me!

12. The Quidditch stuff is just so, so great. Though now it’s as if I hear Brad Neely’s voice faintly in the background — “Harry throws his leg over his steed, and rips the air a new one … “ [scroll to 2:15 or so … ]

13. Warner Brothers had good luck with Draco. That kid just looked averagely creepy eight years ago, when he was, what, 14? But now he looks interesting too, which is exactly the arc of the character. So that all worked out. You really get this sense of him and Harry as being two kids who aren’t that different at heart, but who got caught up in this massive conflict which is using them for its own ends, and in the process tearing them both to pieces in different ways.

14. Wait, Felix Felicis is clear? No! It’s supposed to be gold-colored! (Takes off hat, stamps on it.)

15. I just realized something: this movie is hilarious. Same actors, same director, same screenwriter, but the comic timing is suddenly killer. My fave is Harry’s randomly peppy “hi!” after he drinks the Felix Felicis. He is so high right now!

16. And there’s something generally very confident and assured about this movie, too. The pacing is very steady and measured, in a good way.

17. Wait, Hagrid is in this movie? Oh, OK. Bye again.

18. The Big Cave Scene. Here I just have to recuse myself from thinking or feeling anything, because I never quite believed in this scene in the book. I don’t know why. I just find something slightly funny about Harry helping Dumbledore chug the evil potion. It’s like that scene in The Sure Thing where John Cusack teaches his girlfriend to shotgun a beer. It’s just hard for me to get into. Next slide.

19. Hm. I was a little jarred that Harry isn’t invisible and paralyzed like he is in the book, when Snape does the deed. It puts a slightly different spin on Harry’s reluctance to act in Dumbledore’s defense. Not that it’s not believable. Just different.

20. I can’t believe they soft-pedaled the bad-ass running battle that’s supposed to be going on between the Death Eaters and the Hogwarts students! I wanted to see some heavy duty charmage! Instead Bellatrix just kicks over some glasses. At least Helena Bonham Carter’s having a good time.

21. OK, now I’m a little peeved. I really can’t believe they didn’t give Snape a big speech at the end. He didn’t even explain why he called himself the Half-Blood Prince! If there’s one thing I learned from all my years as a famous film director in Hollywood, it’s that when you get the chance to add more Alan Rickman to a movie, you add it.

All in all: much to enjoy. Great performances all round. I just had a bit of a problem with some of the liberties the screenwriter took towards the end. They didn’t bother me — as they did a lot of people — in Order of the Phoenix. But they bothered me here.

And IMDB lists Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright (Ginny) both at 5’6”. Not sure I buy that. I think he’s standing on something.