We saw the latest Harry Potter installment yesterday. It’s been getting rave reviews from critics and regular movie-goers alike. Here’s my take:
For a Harry Potter movie, this one seemed painfully slow and halting. Long moments of inane teen angst dialogue filled several scenes. The interplay of the nascent love lives of the characters was interesting and entertaining on occasion, but I don’t go to see a Harry Potter movie to agonize over who’s going to end up in whose arms. Most of the interaction seemed clumsy and unrealistic anyway, including the bumbling towards intimacy of Harry Potter and his new love interest, Ron’s little sister Ginny Weasley.
Interspersed with this ongoing middle-school soap opera were moments of darkness that had the classic Harry Potter lack of believability. The special effects were excellent, as usual, but some of the filming was, to me, downright irritating. One of the key scenes in the movie, of Harry confronting Bellatrix and her Deatheater cronies in a corn field, was filmed at waist level to minimize the visibility of the scene. I couldn’t help but have a “Blair Witch Project” flashback. I find that technique of filming to be perhaps the most annoying thing to have been “added” to a director’s toolkit in the past decade or so. It is supposed to add immediacy and bring the observer in, but it has the exact opposite effect on me, I mostly just turn it off and wait until the scene returns to something halfway understandable.
The “half-blood prince” is the unknown author of a ratty old textbook on potions that Harry ends up with after taking the potions class given by new Hogwarts teacher Horace Slughorn. Essentially the book is presented as a sort of classroom cheat sheet which has all the right answers for how to make potions penciled in because the actual published recipes in the book are all wrong. Since Hogwarts has been teaching potion making for hundreds of years, you would think that a potions textbook which had a dozen errors in one recipe might have been replaced in the time between the half-blood prince taking the classes and Harry’s turn. Especially since the eventual revelation of who the half-blood prince was makes it far more unlikely that the class textbooks would have remained riddled (heh… I made a pun) with errors. But this is the essence of Harry Potter, to make the story interesting Rowlings routinely throws logic, common sense and any sort of believability to the winds… and I guess that’s OK, people love her for it.
I could go on with other similar things, and the use of magic in Harry Potter, especially in the battle scenes, still just makes me shake my head, but my main problem with this movie is that it is just so painfully slow and boring in places. It’s LONG, and you feel every minute of it. When Harry and Ginny finally do manage to steal their first kiss it’s in the process of one of the least comprehensible acts in the movie, but again, who cares? It’s Harry Potter! One thing that did surprise me was how plain the movie made Ginny Weasley appear. In scene after scene she appears frumpy, dumpy or just plain …. plain. Camera angles are poor, makeup is lackluster, her clothes are frumpy… In the book, as I recall (it’s been years) Ginny essentially blossomed from a tomboyish little sister into a stunning young woman. In the movie she just gets taller. Hermione, in comparison, has moments of stunning beauty. I’ve always liked Hermione and I think Emma Watson portrays her nearly flawlessly. Bonnie Wright, as Ginny Weasley, always seems to have just bitten into something unpleasant.
It’s not all bad though, the pursuit of Voldemort seems to have gone into stealth mode, with Dumbledore disappearing mysteriously on occasion, and with him dragging Harry on life-and-death missions on other occasions.
Overall I enjoyed about half of it, and felt more than a bit bored and confused during the other half. But you can’t really miss this movie if you’ve been watching the franchise, so if you have, then get there and watch it.