Why don't they get Drew Struzan to do the posters anymore?

So after a much publicized delay to take advantage of the same summer blockbuster weekend as The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is finally out in theaters, and fans couldn’t be happier.  I attended the midnight screening of Half-Blood Prince at AMC 24 in Hampton, VA and, despite loving the movie, still have quite a few things on my mind about the experience.  See, watching a movie is something you can do at home.  Going to the movie theaters should be about more than just seeing a film – it should be about the sound quality, the picture, the ambience, enjoying it with a larger audience.  That being said ….

  • The planning on the part of AMC was atrocious.  There were 4 houses showing the midnight showing.  The house I was in had no less than 3 separate lines waiting to go into it, none of which knew about each other until they were pissed that people were being let in before them.  This is after we were told to go to a different house, then told to wait for the house that our ticket stated we should be in.
  • To the people playing Harry Potter movie quote trivia behind me in fake English accents, f*ck you.  “I’m Hermione Granger,” should hardly even count as a trivia-worthy quote.  Oh, and that movie you were talking about?  The Boondock Saints.  I knew it, but didn’t want to tell you because, in our short time spent together, you managed to make me hate you.
  • Hot girls in Hogwarts outfits = hotter.
  • Fat girls in Hogwarts outfits = not so much.
  • Rachel McAdams is officially in my “top five.”  That being said, I still probably won’t see The Time-Traveller’s Wife.
  • Arguably the biggest movie release of the year had some pretty lame trailers.  The teaser for Percy Jackson and the Olympians…eh.  Despicable Me…eh.  Felt kinda weird seeing all those people die in the 2012 trailer right before a Harry Potter movie.

And now the movie review!  Well, after the jump.

When it comes to Harry Potter films, it’s almost become like watching a TV show that happens to only have a new episode come on every two years.  You watch it for the familiar faces and to see how they grow and what happens next.  It’s pretty rare that the same cast stays on for a full six movies (or eight, if we’re talking about the next two).  In fact, I can’t think of any movie series that could claim the same distinction other than the Star Trek movies, which, in my mind, fall under the same category.  For fans of the Harry Potter series, watching the movies is like comfort food – you know you’re going to enjoy them, there’s never really been a BAD Harry Potter movie, and you always get that sense of familiarity in the sets and the cast.

It’s hard to venture out of the established formula.  Even a Quentin Tarantino-directed episode of CSI is pretty much another episode of CSI, and I’d imagine a Quentin Tarantino directed Potter movie would still have the same formula that we’ve come to expect in the series.  However, director David Yates has managed to bring an independent sensibility to the newest Potter film and, dare I say it, made it a bit edgy.  Even his last entry in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, started off unique and ended uniquely, but the middle bit felt like a typical Potter film.  This film doesn’t stray tremendously far from the formula, but it does enough to take you off balance.


And that’s a good thing.  Scenes of Harry forcefeeding Dumbledore poisonous water are that much more disturbing when the camera angles and cuts set you on edge.  The transition of that little bastard Malfoy from bully to full blown threat is expertly handled.  This is great filmmaking, and a true high point for the franchise.  Just a quick note on more spoilers ahead.  If you haven’t even read the book, DON’T READ ON!  The death of Dumbledore, I felt, was the one weak point in the film.  The way it was handled, mostly off screen, took a bit of the impact out of the scene.  I know some folks were crying, but I just didn’t feel the emotional gravitas of it.

The actors all put in excellent jobs, the high point for me being Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn, a teacher with something to hide.  His performance is both humorous and mysterious, and you see that, despite the misstep that helped make Valdemort the monster he is, he really just wasn’t thinking that he was doing wrong.  Great stuff.  The rest of the actors have spent so much time together that the chemistry works well.  Even the newkindled romance between Harry and Ginny Weasley is believable, primarily because the two work so well together.

The film clocks in at 2 1/2 hours and, while I know stuff has been excised from the novel, my one gripe is that it felt like scenes were missing from the movie as well.  Some of it seemed a little disjointed, and I can honestly say this isn’t the first time I’ve felt that way about the franchise.  Some scenes, or a general lack of urgency, just don’t make sense to me.  But I haven’t read the books.  Still, I feel that the movie series needs to stand on its own to be truly successful.

Still, if you’re a PotterHead (or whatever they’re called), you’re going to love it.  Is it the best in the series?  I don’t know.  It certainly felt like the one with the least amount of waste in it.  I mean, seriously, what the hell up with the giant in the last one? Nary a scene felt unimportant to the plot in this one and, despite a general lack of action throughout the film, it moved at a very quick pace.

For non-fans of Potter, while this film certainly has a lot to like (it’s definitely got some good scares), you’ll find yourself probably not caring unless you’ve been following the series.  I myself enjoyed the heck out of it.

Paul's Awesomeness Score - 8Paul’s Awesomeness Score – 8 out of 10!