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Compare and Contrast Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

July 21, 2009

A spoiler-laden, simplified discussion of the movie in a list format.  (I love lists.)

When I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I thought I was going to need therapy (turns out – I did, but years later and for different reasons) and possibly a vat of anti-depressants. (As you no doubt are aware, a very significant character perishes in the end and his name rhymes with “Mumblecore”.)  I was distraught by this for several reasons, two of which are worth mentioning:    1. I loved this character, and 2. If J.K. Rowling was willing to off this guy, then no one in the Potterverse was safe.  In lieu of visiting a psychiatrist, I decided to turn to the internets for comfort and spent many an hour during the summer of 2005 trolling websites and discussion boards.  It is for this reason that I am writing this post, for those of you who wish to discuss Harry Potter a bit more.  For the sake of brevity (and our eyes) I shall refer to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as HP6 – M stands for movie, B for book.  Simple!

  • Obviously, a lot was left out of HP6B in making HP6M.  We knew it would be so, we expected it, and at nearly three hours of running time, I don’t really think we would want it any other way.  They are two different things and as such, bring different things to the table.  The storyline which introduces Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister of Magic was a casualty, as was most of Tom Riddle’s back story – revealed in the chapter, The House of Gaunt.  For my money, the greatest loss of all was the chapter, An Excess of Phlegm , I love me some Bill and Fleur and was very sad that the story of their time at the Burrow failed to make the cut.  Fleur has some of the best lines.
  • I hate to rely on cliche, but one of the reasons that reading is such a tremendous delight is that it fans the flames of one’s imagination.  This is the very reason why so many film adaptations suffer and are reviled by the viewer – how can a movie compete with the rich tapestry of your creative mind?  The caveat to this argument is that you aren’t the only one at the rodeo with an awesome imagination and sometimes a movie is made that can blow your mind right out of the water.    For example, in HP6M, the liquid memories in pen sieve were so beautiful – somehow smoky and liquid at the same time – an artistic detail far more lovely than what I had imagined.  Also, the scene in which Katie Bell is possessed after touching a cursed necklace is so much scarier and unsettling than the scene I had stored away in my head.  Her body is abruptly snapped up into the air, is suspended for a moment, before being violently flung around like a rag doll to the ground.  The moment when Katie is frozen motionless -with her eyes and mouth open wide with terror – was in stark contrast with the snowy backdrop (to my eyes, this image was reminiscent of J Horror) that bit gave me chills.
  • Also scary?  An added scene in which Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback (batshit witch and werewolf, respectively) attack the burrow during Christmas time is scary.  After Bellatrix and Fenrir set fire to the Weasley family home, they flee into the surrounding cornfields and Harry gives chase with Ginny following behind him.  I may be dating myself here, but I saw Children of the Corn as a youngster and it is burned into my memory as a terrifying film – running through tall corn at night with werewolves is a fucking bad idea people.  I don’t recall this happening in HP6B, and I suspect it was added to give the Weasley family a personal reason to detest and fear Fenrir Greyback – since the epic fight at Hogwarts was cut from the film and since it is during that fight that Bill Weasley is bitten by Greyback.  (It is also a plot point that endears Fleur to Molly Weasley, who in spite of her dislike of Fleur, fears that the wedding between she and her son will be called off.  Fleur insists that her beauty is great enough for the both of them and that his scars belie his bravery.  Also, she is nonplussed by his werewolf bites because the British tend to overcook their meat and a part-werewolf husband will appreciate her French culinary skills.  Fleur is awesome.)
  • I was a tad disappointed in the first kiss shared between Ginny and Harry during HP6M.  In HP6B, Ginny jumps Harry on the Quidditch pitch after a match and I really missed that, even if it would have been cheesy.  Ginny and Harry deserved more than their hasty peck in the Room of Requirement – boo.
  • The actors playing the students have really come into their own.  The scene in which the students compete to win a vial of Felix Felicis or Liquid Luck was wonderfully played.  Harry, assisted by Snape’s old potions textbook was the only one able to successfully make the Daught of Living Death and I was charmed by both Hermione and her hair, which grew bigger and increasingly more disheveled as the class wore on.  Also?  I was delighted by the Quidditch try-outs, we finally got to see Ron up on a broom and it was worth the wait.
  • The ending is different in many ways (but with ultimately the same outcome) and I understand why certain changes had to be made.  But still.  I feel lukewarm about it, perhaps because what transpires in the Astronomy Tower is such an emotionally charged scene in the book – there is such a sense of helplessness when reading it – that just didn’t translate in the screenplay.
  • Finally, I want to mention Snape – he is the Half-Blood Prince after all.  I must confess here that while I read the HP books, I always pictured Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.  This is in part because I saw the first movie before I started reading the books, but I think it is also because Mr. Rickman is so completely awesome in this role.  Snape is a wonderfully written character, but Alan Rickman plays the shit out of him and imbues him with so much wit (with a peppering of humorously tortured angst) that even with limited screen time, he always stands out to me.
  • So, there we have it, my meager scratching of the surface.   I could go on and on, but I chose to draw my dork-line in the sand here before we all grow long, white beards of tedium.   Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me.


12 Responses to “ Compare and Contrast Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ”

  1. anncine on July 22, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Ok, god dammit…I will read bloody Harry Potter. Grand post, my dear seester.

  2. pancake on July 22, 2009 at 8:59 am

    You won’t be sorry, they really are fantastic – J.K. Rowling deserves every penny. When you finish the series, we can mock John for not getting on board.

    Also, thank you.

  3. Nat Almirall on July 22, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Apparently Bill Nighy is going to play Scrimgauer…badass…

    Also, haven’t seen the movie yet, so thanks for totally ruining it for me. Will, you and the Wikipedia writeup on it I read this morning.

    But absolutely agree with your “Don’t follow a goddamn werewolf into a cornfield” rule–especially over something so petty as burning your friends’ house down. You were one of those people who screamed at the TV when Mulder and Scully did likewise, weren’t you?

  4. Casey S. on July 22, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Spot on review. I read HP6B in 24 hours so the book is very near and dear to my heart. Oh and Anne I will be dropping off all the books to you so don’t you worry.

  5. pancake on July 22, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Sorry Nat, I thought titling it spoiler-laden woul d be enough of a warning – now go see the movie!

    Also, regarding cornfields and werewolves – two things plenty scary on their own – yes. I did scream at Mulder and Scully and I do sound like this guy when I watch a horror movie at home:

  6. Jackie D on July 22, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    HP6B&M lovers (that sounds dirrrrtay),

    The best scene in the movie was when Hermione figured out Harry didn’t really give Ron the Veritaserum (Liquid Luck)… Ron just simply happened to kick ass on his own. Does anyone else remember Hermione being so smitten with Ron in the book? In my mind, she was a tad cooler and less desperate for him in the book, not that I mind… that will just make the next movie even more awesome. I agree about the kiss between Harry and Ginny, I can already picture their children so come on people, we already know what happens! Was the corn scene supposed to be symbolic (btw, I totally spit soup through my nose when I read your suggestion about running through corn with wolves).

    I am guilty of taking my 4 year old son to see this. He learned about puberty a bit early, is casting spells on everyone, but thankfully fell asleep before the dead people came out of the water at the end.

    It is I who will need a vat of antidepressents when the last movie has been released. Dork line – drawn in sand. I admit, I was at Barnes and Noble at midnight each time a new book came out. Partly to see all of the crazies dressed up, partly because I couldn’t wait to read more, and partly because I was so thankful that J.K. had made reading cool again. Go HP! Lylas.

  7. heatherp on July 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Loved your review – so true, so true. I missed the same things as you – Fleur, Rufus and the post game hot kiss. Also, the hiding of the book in the Room of Requirement. How will this thread to finding one of the last horcruxes (don’t want to be a spoiler :-) ). I too was in need of a huge box of tissues for a few days after reading HP6 the first time 4 years ago b/c of the death of the beloved D. He had the same significance for me.

    Can’t wait to see it in the IMAX next week. Wonder what scenes will be 3D!

  8. pancake on July 22, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I know! I pre-ordered this book (it came out on my wedding day) and couldn’t wait to get home and read it…I wish J.K. would write 7 more books. And now the film series is coming to a close, I don’t think I can take it.

    To participate in this ongoing discussion, I would like to further add how much I loved Ron under the influence of Love Potion – plus the director’s decision to make the character’s adolescence such a huge part of the film. He had to cut out so much, but by focusing on the things that any human being with feelings can relate to, it helps connect the audience to the characters that much more – our investment is pretty solid at this point, but still.

  9. Newtfelt 1 on July 22, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Let me also add that Luna Lovegood is FABULOUS in the movie. I’m so smitten I can’t even remember how I pictured her before the movies came out. And, yes, Alan Rickman is superb. Michael Gambon as Dumbledore? CRAP.

    And where was the big, magical, wizarding fight finale in the movie?

    And there is NO WAY that Harry would have stood by of his own free will during the scene atop the Astronomy tower….

  10. CJ on July 22, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I have no idea what any of you people are talking about, having never read any of the books or seen the movies, but Pancake you should know that this is how much I enjoy your writing. I read the whole post and all the comments and enjoyed it all even though it felt like walking into an advanced Japanese class instead of beginner Spanish.

  11. Nat Almirall on July 24, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Chalk me up as another Luna Lovegood lover!

    Still haven’t seen it yet…boo…

  12. News on December 9, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows special sneak peek. Behind the scenes footage and a teaser clip for the film, which is due out at the end of next year.