Until a little over a week ago I had never seen any of the Harry Potter movies. I decided that I would give them a try just in time to see the 6th one on opening weekend. I went through the stack of DVDs, in order of course, absorbing the world of academic wizardry and CGI spectacle film by film. After the Spielbergian sunniness of the first couple Chris Columbus helmed Potters, the films got darker and better crafted. The 3rd: Alfonso Cuaron's HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN may be my favorite of the lot. I watched the 4th on Friday night, then woke up early Saturday morning and watched the 5th so I was up to date and ready to go to the 6th one - that is if I wasn't getting Harry Pottered out. Was I? Let's see:
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE (Dir. David Yates, 2009)
A major issue with hardcore Harry Potter fans is the differences between the books and the movies. Now, I haven't read the books so I obviously can't comment there, but I can say that this is the first time that I felt like there was something vital missing. I mean, all the basic beloved elements were present - the great ensemble cast, the flawless effects, the affable spirit, etc. - yet it felt strained and it dragged whereas the others were tightly plotted and breezed along. Was it insights from the book that I was missing? That's what I'm getting from fans who despite the large grosses and overall positive reviews, are crying that this Potter isn't up to par.
In the trailer for the new Adam Sandler flick FUNNY PEOPLE Jonah Hill jokes about Harry Potter: "He's getting pretty old, is he getting a PHD in wizardry?" Yeah, I'm wondering how many years the guy has to go to Hogwarts myself. After seeing all the films in quick succession, the formula is well embedded - we catch up with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) in the world of the Muggles (non-magic folk) as some ginormous supernatural occurrence shakes the earth. A new character is introduced (this time the lively yet underwritten for Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn - gotta love those names) and Harry is once again transported with his close friends (Rupert Grimm and Emma Watson) to Hogwarts where things are in turmoil as always - i.e. involving conflict with the battling surrounding Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) army against long time evil entity Voldermort and the Death Eaters.
That's as purposely vague as I'll get here. In the subplot dept. there are the blooming romances among the kids which unfortunately don't add up to much drama. It may have been a bad idea for me to watch 5 lengthy films in a layered series in which there's a lot more than, at first, meets the eye. "Oh, but you need to read the books" is something I've heard so often and I fully plan to (I have a stack of them next to my desk) but I can only judge them as movies separate from their literary counterparts for now. As such, #6, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE is a competent entry in the series but an underwhelming movie all the same.