Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

| July 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the enthralling account of Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts. It’s full of tension, pain, and horror… at least, the novel is. The film deviates a lot from the well-laid story it’s based on.

If you’re wondering whether or not I recommend Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the answer is of course I do. I suggest reading the book before seeing the film; it makes for a better movie experience.

The sets are beautiful as always, and the acting gets better with each film. Daniel Radcliffe delivers his humorous lines perfectly. Draco Malfoy finally becomes three-dimensional in this film, and Tom Felton really brings the new complexities of his character to life.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

The Victories of the Half-Blood Prince

There’s plenty to enjoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, though some scenes are more notable than others. The movie starts with the Death Eaters wreaking havoc on the Muggle world. Watching the destruction is quite a treat; in the novel, these events are only referred to in the past tense.

Later, Narcissa and Bellatrix sneak off to see Snape. In the book, it takes 3 pages for Narcissa and Bellatrix to reach Snape, 3 pages for ‘pleasantries,’ 7 pages for Snape to explain why he’s trustworthy, and 5 pages for Snape to vow to protect Draco, for a total of 18 pages. In the movie, everything is quicker, and Snape’s explanation is cut short. I was so grateful for this; I love Snape, but the scene in the book is too long and drawn out.

Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I really like the special effects used when Harry and Dumbledore visit memories of Tom Riddle. The surroundings form from smoke that falls like ink in water. It suits the dark tone of the film.

There are some great moments found only in the movie. I love when Harry and Hermione are arguing; Harry says he is “the Chosen One” and Hermione whacks him on the head for it. Ron talking about what great skin Hermione has is pretty brilliant, too. And it’s hilarious when Harry and Ron fight for the one pristine copy of Advanced Potion-Making.

Where Harry Potter Misses the Train

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we first see Harry sitting in a diner, flirting with a waitress. It feels out of place. In the novel, Harry is with the Dursleys. I was really looking forward to seeing Dumbledore give it to Harry’s ‘family’:

I left him upon your doorstep fifteen years ago, with a letter … expressing the hope that you would care for him as though he were your own… You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son.

Dumbledore; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling

Imagine my disappointment when it wasn’t in the film.

Throughout the novel, many of students at Hogwarts are curious about Harry Potter. Add to that the raging hormones and there are plenty of amusing situations. The film portrays little of this. It doesn’t show all the girls constantly staring at Harry, and the Quidditch tryouts are only a shadow of the humorous scene in the book.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron witness Katie Bell touch a cursed necklace. It is very creepy when Katie rises in the air, her dark hair whips around her face, and she screams like someone possessed. I love it, but the terror ends abruptly when she falls to the ground.

Katie Bell hanging in the air in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Katie should scream and writhe in agony, but instead she twitches silently. An innocent girl is in immense pain, but this display is far from the horrific scene it should be: It’s too short, and after the brief scream it’s far too quiet.

There are a lot of problems with the bathroom scuffle. After Harry and Draco duel, Harry doesn’t get in trouble. I understand cutting this for time, but it’s still unthinkable that Draco is bleeding profusely and Harry isn’t reprimanded in any way. Also, they don’t demonstrate just how awful Harry felt; he didn’t know what the spell would do and is horrified when he finds out.

The main plot of the novel involves Harry and Dumbledore visiting memories of Tom Riddle, trying to discover Voldemort’s weakness. This is extremely important… but most of it’s cut from the movie. We don’t see the memories of his family or the memories that take place after he leaves Hogwarts.

In the cave, Dumbledore never warns Harry not to touch the water; in the book, he cautions Harry about it more than once. When Harry must dip his cup into the lake to quench Dumbledore’s thirst, the feeling of dread is almost tangible. This is not the case in the movie.

At Dumbledore’s death scene, Harry hides and watches the events unfold. In the novel, he’s paralyzed, forced to watch his last protector die:

Harry struggled fruitlessly, mutely, against the enchantment binding him.

… Standing there, imprisoned by Dumbledore’s spell—if only he could move, he could aim a curse from under the cloak—

Harry’s scream of horror never left him; silent and unmoving, he was forced to watch as Dumbledore was blasted into the air.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,
J.K. Rowling

It’s not quite the same as standing by and doing nothing.

Anyone expecting to see the grand finale will be sorely let down. The Death Eaters are in, Dumbledore dies, and the Death Eaters are out. There’s no climactic battle. There aren’t even any speed-bumpy conflicts. Yes, Dumbledore died, but it’s still anticlimactic.

The Half-Blood Prince is Rated PG

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix are both rated PG-13. The stories only get darker as the series progresses, but Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is rated PG.

I’d call that a huge mistake on Yates’s part. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (in novel form) is by far more horrific and violent than any book that precedes it.

Sectumsempra is Dark Magic. It’s painful and bloody and leaves Harry horrified by what he did. It does not look like a few pin pricks, and blood does not flow back into wounds to leave a spotless floor.

Blood spurted from Malfoy’s face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backward and collapsed onto the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand.

“No—” gasped Harry.

Slipping and staggering, Harry got to his feet and plunged toward Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest.

“No—I didn’t—”

Harry did not know what he was saying; he fell to his knees beside Malfoy, who was shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,
J.K. Rowling

Nothing from that excerpt is portrayed in the movie.

Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I expected Dumbledore’s hand to look almost frightening. I pictured blackened skin, shriveled and clinging to the bones of his fingers. In the novel, it says “it looked as though his flesh had been burned away.” In the movie, it looks like his fingers got a little sooty; nothing some SOAP won’t cure.

What I find the most distressing, however, is the cave scene. If you haven’t read the book, you won’t realize what’s happening to Dumbledore as he’s drinking the potion. Dumbledore is hallucinating, seeing terrible things happening to people he loves, and he begs to be killed in their place. With every sip of the potion the torture gets worse. Harry is torn, force-feeding his last remaining father-figure this poison; he’s repulsed by what he’s doing, but he promised Dumbledore he’d do it.

In the film, Dumbledore just seems a little distressed, like the vile potion induces a mean hangover. Meanwhile, Harry almost makes poisoning a loved one look easy.

My last complaint of missing violence is a silly one, but it’s even sillier that it was cut. Hermione is so upset with Ron she sends her conjured birds to attack him. The flock claws and pecks at him, chasing him away. The film just shows the birds fly at Ron like bullets and slam into the wall behind him, turning into little clouds of dust.

Why, when we’re supposed to be seeing how violent and painful Harry’s world is becoming, does this movie work so hard to be PG?

So Many Revelations Remain Unrevealed

So, what are you missing if you didn’t read the book?

  • While hiding his copy of Advanced Potion-Making, Harry comes in contact with a very important item
  • The Horcruxes include
    • Hufflepuff’s cup
    • something of Gryffindor’s or Ravenclaw’s
    • Nagini the snake
  • The memories of Tom Riddle include
    • the Gaunt house (the ring, the locket, who Tom’s mother was)
    • Tom’s mother sells the locket
    • Morfin Gaunt (Tom’s first murders, steals back the ring)
    • Hepzibah (Tom murders again, steals Hufflepuff’s cup and Slytherin’s locket)
    • Voldemort applies for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position
  • The meaning of the movie’s title, the Half-Blood Prince, is never explained
    • In the book, Hermione discovers the meaning behind Severus Snape’s moniker:

      • his father was a Muggle
      • his mother was a witch
      • his mother’s last name was Prince
      • Snape was proud of being ‘half a Prince’
        (it emphasizes his pure-blood side)
    • In the movie, Snape says “I am the Half-Blood Prince”—that’s it, it’s not brought up again

The first four omissions are the ones I wonder about most. In the last movie, how will Harry know how to find an item he’s never seen before? And how will he figure out what the last three Horcruxes are? Tom Riddle’s memories and Dumbledore’s deductions are where the identities of the Horcruxes come from, neither of which can be expanded upon after Dumbledore dies.

What in the world took up two and a half hours if so many significant plot points were left out? Hmmm… that’s actually a really good question.

Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter steal a kiss in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Here Are My Demands

I hope for (but don’t expect) an uncut DVD release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that restores the growing horror of Harry’s world, a version that does the book justice.

I want the uncut DVD to include the fear, violence, and pain that punctuate the novel. I want to see Dumbledore’s hand look like a burnt ruin. I want to see blood spurt from Draco’s face and chest while Harry kneels next to him, scrambling in panic. I want the cave scene to give me goosebumps as Harry trembles and Dumbledore cries and shakes in fear. I want Katie Bell to hang in the air longer, then scream and writhe in agony when she hits the ground. And I want Hermione’s birds to attack Ron.

The uncut Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince DVD should contain scenes so chilling I come down with pneumonia.

After seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, my friend (who doesn’t read the books) turned to me and said,
“I’m disappointed. After the previous two movies, I was expecting this one to be a lot darker.”

I’d also like to see Harry paralyzed under the invisibility cloak while he watches Dumbledore die, the climactic battle between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters, and Dumbledore’s funeral. But that would be rewriting the screenplay’s ending, not extending a few scenes here and there.

How best to sum up my feelings? Well, this movie contains only two of the seven memories of Tom Riddle, identifies only three of the six Horcruxes, but keeps in the bit where Ron accidentally makes it snow. Oh yes, what would the audience do without that pivotal scene?

At least we learn that Harry needs to find the real locket and Snape killed Dumbledore. I guess that’s all two and a half hours could hold.

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2 Comments Leave a Comment


    [...] Virus Volume 1 & Volume 2 and Public Enemies, I suggest you wander over to see rycz’s recent review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. rycz breaks down David Yates’ [...]


    I’ve just seen the film for the third time. I really enjoyed it but I so agree with your review about the missing information. How on earth is Harry EVER going to guess about the snake being a Horcrux? How is he going to recognise what the horcruxes MIGHT be, without knowing their background.

    I’m just hoping that the fact they have five hours to tell the final book (in two movies) means a whole heap of explanation coming in.

    Despite the quibbles, though, I enjoyed this film a lot. Could have done with another half an hour and a few of those missing scenes you mentioned.

    July 31, 2009 | Link

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