Anyone following the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince news for the past year knows that things have been rocky. Die-hard fans winced as reviews flooded in after the preliminary screenings (particularly one in Chicago), preaching mostly disappointment and negativity. Following the screenings, the November 21, 2008 release date was pushed back to July 17, 2009 and then eventually changed to July 15. With all the speculation and the date changes, fans around the globe have been, understandably, apprehensive.
Make no mistake: hard-core fans are still buying midnight tickets, still prickling with anticipation and excitement because at the end of the day, let’s face it, hard-core fans would stop at nothing to see this movie. And hopefully they won’t be disappointed: initial reviews to date have been overall very positive, the harshest of which came from Andrew Pulver of The Guardian who only gave the film three out of five stars. Consensus seems to be that David Yates, director Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, has created an exciting and well crafted film. Most of the critics are raving about Bruno Delbonnel’s amazing cinematography, Nicholas Hooper’s brilliantly crafted score, Stuart Craig’s imaginative designs, and the performances of Hollywood greats Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and somewhat surprisingly, youngster Daniel Radcliffe. Apparently Radcliffe has taken what could have been a frivolous family movie and made it into a respectable cinematic experience.
So why are fans – myself included – still nervous? As with all of the previous books, every detail can make or break the movie for an individual who’s entered Harry’s world as completely as most of us have. And despite this, any good filmmaker knows that every single detail simply cannot be included in a movie adaption of a book. Key plot points have been dropped every movie and there is always a contingent of fans who are appalled. This year will be no different. Horcruxes, Slughorn, romances, potions, Quidditch, and so much more must be included and clearly conveyed within the 153 minutes of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. How do you build all that up without letting fans down?
Warning: Spoilers to Follow
The first rumors to emerge claimed that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince focused too much on the romances between the characters. Although the romances are important, they pale in comparison to Dumbledore and Harry’s mission to destroy the Horcruxes. Given that Horcruxes are just as difficult to understand as their mission, the classic good vs. evil battle cannot be downplayed or cut off short. There’s a very dark tone in the Half-Blood Prince that’s only broken by the small moments of happiness shared between the characters.
That being said, although the relationships shouldn’t be the focus, they are very important. When Emma Watson was asked about kissing Rupert Grint while filming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows she said, “It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to do … it just felt like incest. That’s the only way I can describe it.” Although that’s a funny sentiment, it’s also a bit worrisome. The romance between the two actors is a very important plot point in the sixth and seventh books, and even ends up influencing a great deal of Ron’s decisions in the Deathly Hallows. Further, fans of Hermoine and Ron have been waiting to see them get together for ages. The buildup is crucial and if doesn’t come off as realistic, fans will be disappointed. We want to believe the romances of our favorite couples.
Which brings us to the most talked about girl of the moment, Bonnie Wright who plays Ginny Weasley. Although her romance with Harry Potter is short lived, it is in the sixth book that we will see its commencement and progression. Wright was cast when she was only 9 years old. Chances are at the time directors had no idea she would play such a major role later on. Now 19, she’s certainly old enough to kiss British teenage heartthrob Daniel Radcliffe, but people have questioned the chemistry between the two actors. Her acting in the past films has been adequate at best (what little we’ve seen) and the images and clips coming out have been lackluster at best.
Wright explained David Yates’ direction with Harry and Ginny in an interview earlier this year: “There’s lots of humor and dark moments this time, and I think he wanted the story of Ginny and Harry to weave between all of that to break it up a bit. He wanted their story and its atmosphere to stand out. He wanted it to be much quieter. People are eager for it too, when it finally comes.” Pulling off a successful romance between these two would truly make the film for many fans.
Finally, and most upsetting, is the absence of The Battle at Hogwarts and Dumbledore’s funeral. David Yates explains, “The reason why we left out the Battle at Hogwarts is because we have a battle at Hogwarts in the seventh film and we are avoiding repetition. Dumbledore’s funeral was something that I really loved and is a fantastic part of the book and part of me would have loved it in the film. But we decided that while we loved it that what we came up with was the right ending for the film that we had made.” Considering how fans have reacted to changed endings in the past, I’m guessing an alternate ending won’t go over well.
As a Potter fan myself, I think it’s preposterous to not include Dumbledore’s funeral. JK Rowling wrote a sweet send off for one of the most beloved Harry Potter characters of all time and to not include it is a slap in the face to the grand, albeit fictional legacy of the character. It is, however, helpful that Yates has been open about the missing plot points. I’ve known for months that these essential scenes would be missing. Those most disappointed will be individuals who are expecting to see the ending written in the book.
Either way, good or bad, Potter fans will flock to the film. Either way, they will have their critiques. Either way, Yates and crew will be satisfied with their final product. Until then, fans must sit back and wait with bated breath until they actually get to see whether or not their imaginations compare with David Yates’ interpretation of The Half-Blood Prince. Our fingers are crossed.
To be fair, this is the best trailer I’ve seen in a long time.
– Kim Wetter, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image Courtesy of Warner Brothers)
Sources: LA Times, The Guardian, Snitch Seeker, Access Hollywood