Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Harry Potter And The Sixth Movie In The Franchise

Well, we're in the homestretch as far as Harry Potter movies go, though the bastards have decided to milk the franchise by splitting the last book into two movies. As if you couldn't possibly do the story justice in 2 1/2 hours, you need a full five to tell it.

But that's a problem for next year. Or the year after that, depending on whether they decide to drag it out even further.

Now, about this latest movie, The Half-Blood Prince. Well, wait, before we get to the latest, I have to assume that you're aware of the whole "Harry Potter" world and its inconsistencies. 'cause the world ain't getting any more consistent. (Like, how, in the fourth movie, all three forbidden curses were performed in a classroom; in this movie, a non-forbidden spell nearly as fatal as the death curse in the fourth one turns up. And an incredibly fatal potion is brewed as a casual class exercise.)

But, really, you should be expecting stuff like that by now.

You should also be expecting this movie to follow the increasingly dark trend the previous four sequels have followed, and it does, big time. The Flower and I have a running gag that started with the biting candy from the fourth movie: "Harry just can't get a break!"

And Harry doesn't get much of a break in this one. It's literally darker, too, with very few bright days, so that even the lighter moments--and there are actually quite a few light-hearted moments, probably more so than in the previous film--still feel like darkness is weighting them down. John Williams' Teddy-Bears-Picnic-esque theme is completely gone, except for some echoes in Nicholas Hoopers' gripping score.

I was somewhat reluctant to take The Flower to see it, in fact, but she brushed off my concerns and really seemed completely unphased throughout the movie. (There's even a bird that dies--or appears to--and she was disappointed by that, but not upset. Maybe she's growing up?)

You should know that there is a major character death in this film. The Flower, apparently wise to the ways of the sci-fi/fantasy/horror story, was fairly confident the character would come back in the next movie. But even when I assured her that the character wasn't coming back--I think that's true--she was okay with it.

Your eight-year-old's mileage may vary. (Of course, if your eight-year-old is frightened, that might offer a respite

Anyway, this darkness is kind of interesting in contrast with the rampant sexuality in the movie. Don't get me wrong: There's nothing graphic about it. The movie is just rife with teenagers and love potions (as if those were necessary), and some light snogging ensues. This also did not trouble the eight-year-old, though she found much of it silly.

Meanwhile, there's a whole lot about this film that is truly excellent. The camerawork is the best of the series. The establishing shots are breathtaking, a few scenes look like they're from Romantic era paintings, and director Yates (on his third Potter film) is increasingly confident. (Or perhaps he's just being given more freedom with his successes in the previous films.)

There's also a lot of richness in this movie. Most of the tedious exposition has been gotten out of the way in the previous five films, and the characters are well-established. The kids are better actors, too, and while the story needs to focus more on the main ones, it's a shame that so many of the peripheral kids are barely in the film. (Never mind the adults, who can now add the great Jim Broadbent to their rolls.)

I'd give a special shout out to Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Bonny Wright (Ginny Weasley) who get some meaty, if not huge, parts they acquit themselves well with. I missed Katie Leung (Cho, from the previous two films) both as an actress and as a character. Did their relationship really end because she was forced to tell about the secret room in the previous movie? Seems unfair.

The action is brisk, too. The movie really flies by, despite the nearly two-and-a-half hour running time (not counting credits). The plot is...well, the plot. It works because the director stays focused on the simplicities as much as possible: Threats large and small abound, and survival is a tenuous thing.

The big reveal is very nearly stupid, however. If you're super-sensitive to spoilers, you may want to skip this paragraph, but what I'm going to "spoil" is the entire basis for all the movies prior to this, at least as I have understood them. Ready?

The big secret Harry uncovers is that Voldemort used some magic to preserve his life even after shuffling off his mortal coil in the battle with Harry's parents.
Stunning, eh? Didn't see that coming. If you were Dumbledore. OK, it's a little more detailed than this, but really, given that Voldemort spent the first four movies re-incarnating, you'd think a trivial stroll through the library's Restricted Spell section--a stroll that apparently any kid can take, would've revealed this mystery sometime during the previous 15 years of Harry's life. Or at least the last five years.

As I said, you kind of have to be used to this stuff by now. None of the movies make a lick of sense (and I understand the books aren't much better in that regard). But this movie does leave things in a very precarious spot indeed. Along with a path for resolving those things.

The Flower did not rate it with her favorite, The Prisoner of Azkaban. (She likes it when Harry makes the Aunt blow up like a balloon.) But she wasn't displeased. The Boy liked it, too, though it doesn't comport with his economic sensibilities.

And I liked it, too. I sure wish they weren't splitting the last book in two movies, though.

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