Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Re-reading and Re-watching: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Happy New Year, guys and gals!  I didn’t want to stop in my on-going series of re-reading and re-watching the Harry Potter series to do some sort of 2015 year in review.  Most of what happened you probably saw on my blog and to be honest, I wasn’t into reviewing the year, not just yet anyway.

So, to continue on, I have just finished the penultimate book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  I’m re-reading from a more adult perspective ten years and some months years later from the original summer release of Book Six back in 2005.  Initially I started this project as an attempt to pick out more details of Houses Ravenclaw and House Hufflepuff since Pottermore, would later sort me into Ravenclaw and my best friend into Hufflepuff.  Like almost everyone else I was convinced I would be in Gryffindor. 

Book Six is one of my favorite books in the series, along with Book Two.  As soon as I finished reading Book Six for the first time, my mind was ablaze with the possibilities of what kind of object the seventh Horcrux would turn out to be.  Like my pronunciation of Hermione, the actual pronunciation of Horcrux was, way, way off from my interpretation.  (Why can’t they be Hor-cruz/Hor-cruise?)  Book Six has one of the better endings being entirely open-ended and somewhat cliff-hanger like, leaving ALL Harry Potter fans salivating in anticipation for the final installment. 

As always, spoilers to follow.


Despite Book Five being a long, slow read in some spots, I dived immediately into Book Six and my experience could not have been anymore different.  Since I didn’t have to wait this time around between installments, I could instantly tell that Book Six flows much more swiftly and is a more enjoyable read.

Following the Prime Minister’s introduction to new Ministry of Magic head, Rufus Scrimgeour, and Narcissa Malfoy’s Unbreakable Vow with Snape, Dumbledore shows up at the Dursleys’ to pick Harry up, for the first time ever.  Gone is Dumbledore’s attempts to ignore Harry, gone is Harry’s building frustration, gone is the somber attitude that pervaded most of Book 5.  Dumbledore is in fighting shape, kindly staying by Harry’s side and delivering zinger after zinger, teaching the Dursleys about the finer points of manners and actually confronting them about how ill they’ve treated Harry.

Hell, yes!  Finally! This is the Dumbledore we know and love.  After Book Five, Book Six seems lighter, faster, funnier and all around more thrilling!

I mean look at all these freaking amazing covers!

Despite the growing dangers of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, the book mostly passes over Draco’s burdensome task for the majority of the book, only returning to the present dangers towards the very end.  Something the film does not overlook, to better dramatic effect, I feel.  However, Book Six sticks mainly to the Slug Club, Dumbledore’s activities seeking Riddle’s memories, Quidditch and the growing attractions between Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny.

And like peanut butter and chocolate, what could go better together than zombies (I mean Inferi) and Harry Potter?  When I first read about the Inferi, I was like, “no f#cking way, this is AMAZING” and I’m still pleased to admit that 33 year old me still feels the same way.  It’s too bad they aren’t really mentioned again but still the scene in the cave always give me chills.

Book Six and Book Two show many parallels, which may explain why they are my favorites in the series.  Both heavily feature flashbacks Tom Riddles’ and both feature physical tasks of some sort for the finale.  Both are quite cinematic, fighting the giant basilisk and obtaining the Horcrux from a zombie-infested cave.  Goblet of Fire also features quite cinematic scenes as well, but does not delve into Riddle’s past rather features Voldemort’s reveal in human form. Both Books Six and Two also give Ron, my favorite character in the films, still undecided in the books, more of a plot-line of his own.  In Book Two he helps Harry while Hermione is incapacitated and in Book Six has an expanded plot-line stemming from Book Five about being the Quidditch Keeper.

I’m not too much of fan of the books that feature Ron, Hermione and Harry constantly bickering, which is why I don’t rate Books Three, Four and Five any higher.  I get that the bickering is a sign of the three leads maturing but as an adult I just don’t care for it much.

There are some characters in the books I hate because of the way Rowling writes them.  Unless Harry is always biased and totally imagining it, Snape almost always acts with unabashed revulsion and fury.  He is supremely nasty to not only Harry but Ron, Hermione and Neville as well.  There is no reason for his hatred toward Neville who is pureblood.  None.  Ron is another that character that comes off cruel and somewhat idiotic in the books, once he becomes prefect he constantly talks down to the first years and is always trying to cheat by copying off Hermione and Harry's homework.  

Malfoy is pretty nasty as well.  Book Five sees him totally abusing his power as a prefect and the beginning of Book Six we see both he and his mother treating Hermione and Ron poorly at Madame Malkin’s.  Raising him up, the better to see him fall, I understand, but all three characters fare much better in the films, which is a rare argument.  To believe the films are better than the books in some way.


Steve Kloves returns as screenwriter for the remainder of the film series.  I’m appreciative of the way he skillfully condenses the plot and combines characters.  We still see George and Fred’s shop open up and Quidditch makes a triumphant return but Bill is absent and different Death Eaters take the place of the ones in the book.  Also left out is the final fight between members of Dumbledore’s Army and said Death Eaters.  The Slug Club visits and Riddle’s memories are also quite condensed.  

Kloves adds a scene at the train station,  the scene where the Burrow is set on fire, and adds more to the tension to the cave scene, Harry being actually pulled into the water by the Inferi.  There is also a stunning sequence that shows not just any "Muggle bridge" as described in the book being destroyed by Death Eaters but THE. ACTUAL. MILLENNIUM.  BRIDGE. One of the most famous bridges in London.

Luna rescues Harry on the train instead of Tonks, and appears in her signature outfits from Book Five, having been previously cut out in the prior movie.  I just love Luna so much in both the book and film versions. 

 A part of my adult side wasn’t really feeling the budding romance between Harry and Ginny in the books.  Yeah Ginny is sassy af.  And pretty.  And popular… just felt to me she was a prize to be won, for Harry.  She has more in common with Cho Chang than she does with say, Luna and she doesn’t understand Harry the way both Luna and Hermione do.

She is the most eye-rolling obvious choice that it wasn’t all that inspiring and a bit of a letdown.    I don’t understand why Hermione would ever be attracted to the book-version of Ron, when Harry is the only one that can even remotely rise to her level.  However in the film, Ginny is a bit more of a quiet, wiser soul that does prove that she does indeed understand Harry but again Luna and Hermione fare just as well, and I still believe would make inspired matches for Harry.

The film also allows Draco more of a dramatic arc than the book.  It’s curious that in the previous film Draco acted as comedic foil with Filch, instead of being viciously nasty as in the book.  

This film we see Draco looking like a Bond villain, constantly dressed in a black suit.  He goes from comedic sidekick to tortured soul without stopping to show himself as a character who almost deserves the fate he gets, as in the books.  I like the film’s version of events better, allowing us to sympathize with Draco.

As I’ve mentioned, both Snape and Ron fare much better in the films.  Alan Rickman’s Snape is a bit softer, a bit gentler and truly begins to look out for the well-being of all his students starting in the third film, he even drops a line in front of Harry in the fifth movie explaining that Cho Chang revealed the D.A. against her will.  Rickman’s Snape kills Dumbledore with a soft look, and heavy heart not with a face of full of anger as in the book.

His hair is also much fluffier for some reason.  True heroes always have great hair.
Ron too, is less obnoxious than in the books.  Ron has always been my favorite in the films because of Rupert Grint’s amazing acting ability.  He nails the ability to act and re-act even when he is not speaking his own lines from the beginning of the series.  

God, I loved his funny looking Keeper helmet.
It took five films but in the sixth movie, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have finally caught up to Rupert.  Whereas before, Daniel would not react enough and Emma would tend to over-act both have matched Rupert’s ability in this film, now able to play off one another and demonstrate their strong comedic timing.  Despite the heavy subject matter, the film does not get too dramatic, having wonderful comedic moments between the three young leads.

The cinematography in the sixth film is noticeably darker, at times it felt as though I was watching a James Bond film with Harry taking instructions from Dumbledore to use Slughorn’s party as a way to get closer to him.  Incidentally Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the only film in the series to get nominated for cinematography.

The name is Potter....Harry Potter...
My favorite shots include the wonderfully framed symmetry of Narcissa and Snape performing the Unbreakable Vow.

Any shots featuring the Great Hall.

The Quidditch game was also wonderfully shot, using the red of the Gryffindor uniforms against the white snow.

I also loved the interior shots of both Hermione and Draco seeking refuge around the Hogwarts castle.

I also loved the beautiful composition and use of colors in Katie's attack and Harry's attack on Draco.

Also any time we saw Dumbledore's mind vault or to borrow a term from Sherlock, mind palace, or the use of the pensieve.

And lastly the entire sequence in the eerie, creepy cave which featured one of the scariest moments in the entire series, as the music completely cuts out as Harry kneels before the cursed lake.

If Book 2 and Book 6 are neck and neck as my favorite book in the series, Film Six wins over Film Two by a landslide.  The actors have maturely nicely, the subject matter is darker yet still enjoyable and Dumbledore gets a Gandolf-worthy moment that is absolutely awe-inspiring.  

Dumbledore. BAMF!
Up next is the very last book, which I will review in two parts since Book 7 was adapted into two films.


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