Half-Blood Prince = Half-Good Movie
Posted by Andrew Zercie on July 20, 2009
When I first finished reading “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” years ago, I was taken aback by the death of Albus Dumbledore, and by the apparent treachery of Severus Snape who had, by all previous appearances, been the bad guy turned good.
Between Snape’s murderous spell and the discovery of a fake Horcrux at the end of the book, it left fans of the series wanting more, with a two-year wait until the last book in the series came out.
The movie version of the book left me only wanting to leave the theater.
I am not going to gripe about added scenes or deleted scenes, because the movies are adaptations of books, not blow-by-blow recapturings.
My main problem with the film was that it left the subtlety aside and instead assumed the audience was clueless.
I noticed this problem early on in the film, when Draco Malfoy entered Borgin and Burkes with his mother and a posse of Death Eaters, and the scene focused on Draco fingering an old-looking cabinet, while Harry Potter and Ron Weasley looked on from a neighboring roof-top. The scene seemed harmless at the time. To those who read the books, the early reference to the Vanishing Cabinet was not lost on us, but it was also not overdone.
However, as the Malfoy character, portrayed by Tom Felton, made numerous trips to the “Room of Requirement” in the film to test out a similar Vanishing Cabinet that linked up with the one in Borgin and Burkes, it became clear that one could view “Half-Blood Prince” without having to think. The writer, Steve Kloves, did all the thinking for us! Thanks, Steve!
Making matters worse, however, was the overdone “climax” that saw Professor Snape, played by Alan Rickman, kill Hogwarts’ Headmaster Dumbledore, played by Michael Gambon.
In the book, the intent behind Snape killing Dumbledore was ambiguous. Was he doing it because Dumbledore had asked him to? Was he doing it because he was betraying Dumbledore? In fact, when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was released in 2007, much of the promotional material for the book centered on whether or not Snape was bad.
If you watch the film and don’t read the book, you needn’t wonder about where Snape’s loyalties lie. Between the Snape character telling the Harry Potter character to stay down and be quiet, to the Snape and Dumbledore characters exchanging a knowing look, it was perfectly clear which side of the fight Snape was on.
I felt bad for those in the audience who hadn’t read the books and missed out on this being a mystery, because Kloves and director David Yates destroyed any chance of there being one. Dumbledore’s death was supposed to be like a cliffhanger. Instead, it happened on film in a matter-of-fact sort of way.
The other cliffhanger, centering on the identity of who R.A.B. was (the initials left in the note in the fake Horcrux), was treated like an afterthought, thrown in during the last scene, which was mostly about how Ron approved of Harry dating his sister, Ginny.
I enjoy the Potter series in print and on film, and I’m hopeful that the next two movies that will draw from “Deathly Hallows” are a nice rebound from “Half Blood Prince.”