After getting back from seeing this film (twice), I felt it needed some discussion. So, let’s go. Note, this may contain Harry Potter spoilers.. so do not continue if you haven’t seen or read. You have been warned.
The book to movie conversion was done reasonably well. This movie, like most that have preceded it, have missed the mark on certain aspects. What makes a Harry Potter book good is all of the nuances that J.K. Rowling includes. Most of these nuances and subtleties just can’t be placed into the films and Half-Blood Prince (HBP) is no exception. You would think that by 6 films into this series that the die-hard critics would understand and be used to all of the missing things. Unfortunately, they aren’t and they are still complaining about this same aspect. Critics, get over it. If you want an exact conversion, do it yourself or wait for a TV series version.
Yes, there were a lot of small subtleties that were left out of the movie. Some of them can’t easily be filmed and others just don’t work for the story. However, there were some things that were left out of the films that I felt were important to understand. Like, for example, the apparation classes in Order of the Phoenix (OOTP) that were completely left out of that film. By leaving it out of OOTP, it means that this can’t be easily taken advantage of in HBP. So, when Harry apparates with Dumbledore, it’s a surprise to everyone. Yet, we would have already seen this in OOTP if it had been in the film.
The one thing that is noticeably absent from HBP is the Dursley family. Gone is Little Whinging. Other than cursory mention of it and a background street scene, there is nothing in the film. Granted, I haven’t read the HBP novel since it came out, so I don’t even really recall how much of the Dursley’s were in the novel. Note that I haven’t re-read the novel because I wanted to go into the film without having recently read the book. I find that I enjoy the films more this way. I will now re-read the novel having seen the film.
While I generally liked HBP, I felt that the movie wasn’t as thrilling or as much a rollercoaster as OOTP. The Order of the Phoenix was one of my least favorite books in the series, yet it turned out to be one of my top favorites in HP films. Why? Because they were able to turn the lackluster pacing of the book into a spectacularly paced film. Half-Blood Prince’s pacing is a bit too even and, frankly, slow. There was not enough going on in most of the scenes, even when there was something going on. Instead, HBP relies more on cinematography to pull off the slow paced scenes. In most cases, it does so quite well. This film was beautifully filmed for the most part. For the same reason that many critics filmatically liked Prisoner of Azkaban, I’d say those cinematography critiques also fit with Half-Blood Prince.
Unfortunately, the pacing was far too lackluster throughout most of the film to give the necessary emotional power needed after Snape does his deed in the Astronomy tower. So, you really don’t feel emotional at a time when you need to. The whole thing feels very detached. I think part of the problem is that Dumbledore wasn’t given enough character build-up throughout the films to provide the necessary emotional attachment in this film. In other words, we really needed to see just how dear Dumbledore was to everyone to really get the sense of loss. Even still, this film should have been able to set it up enough to give that emotional punch at the end even when the previous films failed in character building. I also believe that this is part of the reason so many people weren’t completely convinced of the death at the end of the HBP novel.
Because of the lack of the emotional ending and the lack of the necessary rollercoaster ride needed for this film, it leaves the experience a bit on the flat side. There was plenty of teen angst moments throughout much of the film and that is probably the thing that carries this film. We definitely needed to see that part of the story to fully understand what is about to happen in films 7 and 8 (assuming book 7 is still planned as a two-part film), but we also needed the emotional impact to feel for the character we’ve just lost (and that didn’t happen).
I liked Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince, but not as much as the Order of the Phoenix. OOTP is better primarily because the intensity level was much higher than HBP. There were a few tense moments in HBP, but nowhere close to OOTP or even Goblet of Fire. I also felt that for what’s about to happen in Deathly Hallows that this film needed to ratchet up the intensity and failed to do so. Whomever is directing Deathly Hallows will have to ratchet up the intensity in that film rather than relying on HBP to do it.