Friday, July 17, 2009

The Half-Blood Prince: Half the book made into a Whole Movie

The latest Harry Potter movie opened Wednesday night at midnight and yes, I was excited. Since I no longer have to worry about being at work at a certain point each day, I decided this was an occasion to stay out late and have some alone time. At least, alone being without my kids or the husband. I couldn't help all the other people who wanted to see the movie straightaway also.

I caught on to the book series the summer I graduated from high school, through a friend who was also recommended the book by a friend. The first chapter of the first book was a bit of a slog, but after that, I was hooked. For the end of the series in 2007, I re-read the entire series. My favorites in particular are Prisoner of Azkaban, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. They all have their charms, but Azkaban I can read stand-alone and be satisfied and the final two books are just an amazing contrast from how they all started, with Sorcerer's Stone.

Like any book person I know, it's tough to watch the film adaptation and be satisfied. The only one that immediately comes to mind is Silence of the Lambs - the movie is exactly the same as the book. But that's an entirely separate argument.

I wanted to enjoy HBP - I did enjoy it. Just not as much as I would have if they hadn't left half the book out. Yes, I realize they have to cut a lot - it's a long book and the average movie-goer doesn't want to sit in a theater for 4 hours watching a sentence-by-sentence copy of the book. But there were also scenes added to the movie that were not in the book at all. If they had room to add crap that they made up or took from a future book, then they had room to get in the important stuff.

Spoilers ahead, if you haven't read the book or seen the movie.

The movie opens with an entirely new scene - No Dursleys, just Harry in a coffee shop getting hit on by a hot chick. Nothing wrong with that in terms of plot - except in the book, Harry is visited by Dumbledore while still at the Dursleys and he gives them the talking-to that I've been waiting for since book one. For saving time within the movie, it's ok to be cut, but in terms of enjoyment - I really wanted to see that scene on the big screen.

The movie progresses nicely and we get to Harry's first "lesson" with Dumbledore, where we see Dumbledore visiting Tom Riddle in his orphanage. No earlier memory of his mother, grandfather and uncle in the shack - something that is definitely necessary in the next book. In the book, Harry's lessons with Dumbledore are to help him learn about Voldemort and how to defeat him. In the movie, these moments are glossed over, showing only 2 memories in the entire movie and no discussion of additional Horcruxes beyond the one they seek out at the end of the movie.

Harry and Ginny's relationship was also pared down to tension-filled encounters and a tiny kiss in the Room of Requirement. This was also a necessary plot device - the small amount of time he had with her in the book, being happy, confiding in her - it gives Harry more reason to continue on after Dumbledore's death, it gives him motivation to try to get rid of Voldemorte, so he can be free and normal after Voldemorte's gone. Not to mention that Harry thinks Ginny's hot and he's a boy, after all. :)

The scene where Ginny and Harry kiss is also a disappointment for another reason - in the movie, Ginny is helping Harry hide his Potions book in the Room of Requirement so no one will ever find it. In the book, Harry is hiding this book alone and he hides it in a cabinet, covering it up with a bust of an old wizard and puts a tiara on his head, so he can find it later. This scene is crucial in Deathly Hallows because the tiara turns out to be a Horcrux. How is Harry supposed to know where to find it if he's busy snogging Ginny? It's only going to make for awkward re-telling in Deathly Hallows' movie version.

No Tonks and Lupin - an unnecessary attack/ambush at the Wesley's house - no Ginny/Harry breakup at the end - NO FUNERAL/REMEMBRANCE FOR DUMBLEDORE - no stalking of Harry by the new Minister of Magic - no Order of the Phoenix - no attack of Bill by Fenrir Greyback - and the final scene of the movie had Harry and Hermione talking in a tower of the castle with Ron just off to the side. Not a single line from him. What the hell?? I admit, in the movies previous, there's has been a bit of shunting to the side for Ron's character. But it was blatant at the end - the core of the HP series is Harry, Ron and Hermione's friendship. I felt this scene was really unjust to Ron's character.

Everything that I loved about this book was snipped and resized to be bits and pieces of a movie. If I had never read the books, I probably would have liked it a lot. I won't deny that it was good and I did enjoy it. It just wasn't what it should have been. HBP was so different from the books before it - except for the fact that it was a book about wizards, it was very real. A book about kids at school, going about their normal routines, liking boys/girls, complaining about schoolwork and teachers, playing sports - intermixed with very real and scary things. Terrorist attacks on their friends' family's, government reports and safety warnings, being searched at school for dangerous items. In the middle just happened to be a story about a boy who is the only one who can save them.

Yes, it's not the greatest book that was ever written and it's pure fairy tale with real-life reflections - but aside from all the escapist fun, it was a fairy tale that made me believe, maybe, just maybe, if this were real, there would be a majority of people who would sacrifice their lives in the same way, for the good of everyone. This movie did not make me feel that - I merely wished for more popcorn.

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