So I saw “Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince” (the movie) just now and I liked it. Yes, they cut out about 2/3 of the book but I think that was to be expected. After all, the story is rather long and convoluted and there are many details the reader is expected to keep track of.
Most of those details, by the way, appear to have been left out of the movie, which runs for about 2-1/2 hours. I’m not sure of why the writers chose to focus so much on the kids’ relationships and leave out so many important points, such as the memories Dumbledore showed Harry about Tom Riddle’s family and valuable items associated with Hogwarts. Dumbledore’s exposition about Riddle’s psyche added a great deal to the written story but it is nowhere to be found in the movie.
This is, of course, a classic example of how difficult it can be to bring a complex story to the silver screen. Because there was so much angst and drama going on with the kids (Draco struggling to complete his mission, the conflict between Draco and Harry, Harry and Ginny getting together, Ron and Hermione getting together, etc.) the writers seem to feel the story would move forward better by following their sub-plots than by hanging on Dumbledore’s every word.
And perhaps the special effects budget just did not allow for all the time traveling memory mining.
I think they gave Horace Slughorn sufficient screen time to show that he was important to the story but his character has a little more depth than the movie was able to convey. By the same token, the kids in the Slug Club came across as little more than scene dressing. I think the intention was to elevate Harry above all the interesting family connections that Slughorn’s kids could bring to the table, but in doing so one of the more convoluted (and, in my opinion, interesting) clues about the whole mystery behind Voldemort’s power was sacrificed.
But then the needs of a screenwriter are different from the needs of a novelist. People generally watch a movie all the way through, once they start watching it. They may not get everything the first time through, but the story has to make sense. In a book you have to assume the reader will put it down for a few hours, perhaps a few days or even weeks at a time. The author is expected to subtly (or blatantly) remind the reader of significant points. I’ve read some books that rushed through a story so much they lost me when reintroducing characters or subplots that had received relatively little attention.
This is why we feel so much loss when we see a good book translated into a movie. The movie just does not need all that exposition, and “Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince” follows the rule of thumb that less is better. It’s also extremely long for a movie.
All that said, some of my favorite points were touched upon briefly: we got to see Ollivander’s shop again — I missed seeing him return in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, as I thought he was a really interesting character. We also got to see George and Fred Weasley’s magic shop in Diagon Alley, and that was really only because Harry’s trick on the train needed some explaining. Perhaps that part of the story was altered to ensure that George and Fred were included in the movie.
I was also pleased to see Remus and Tonks together, but that was one relationship that needed more exposition in the books and didn’t receive any in the movies — poof! They’re a couple and be sure not to miss the line where she says, “Sweety”.
One thing we noticed was that everyone looked older except Dumbledore. The kids looked older, McGonagall looked older, the Weasley parents looked older — the story is taking its toll on the characters. Frankly, this is something you really don’t see in most movie franchises. Time is marching on. You almost get a sense of that in “Star Wars” but the problem with the Star Wars franchise is that it picks up in the middle of the story, reaches the end, and then backs up to show you the beginning. That’s just really odd.
So, to sum up, I’ll be sure to see this movie in the theaters again. Oh yeah, the special effects were pretty good. They definitely put some thought into all the Gollum clones — I mean, the Inferi guarding Voldemort’s cave. Okay, I let the Peter Jackson reference out of the bag. I’m not sure of why they felt compelled to make their Inferi look like Gollum, but there you have it.
More discussion in SF-Fandom’s Harry Potter Forum.