Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Leaving Hogwarts and the Half-Blood Prince

HARRY POTTER AND the half-blood prince
book 2004   movie 2009   first read 2004   first watch 2009

A sixth-in-a-row return to the school of witchcraft and wizardry, where love is in the air and each laugh is followed by a sob.


Considering how the Harry Potter series reaches its most serious peak until then with Order of the Phoenix, the lightheartedness and actual funniness of Half-Blood Prince always gets me by surprise. Despite all the unraveling of dark secrets going on here, this is also the installment that focusses most on that awkward first, or in some cases second, love. Even Dumbledore suddenly seems interested in Harry's love life. In fact, no one is spared; Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny - everyone seems slightly confuzzled by the hormones that are suddenly filling each and every corner of the Hogwarts castle. The new Potions teacher Professor Slughorn isn't really helping with his socializing parties, nor is Quidditch. However, luckily for the audience, both provide for some of the funniest moments in the whole series (cue: Cormac McLaggen and a bowl of ice cream).

Meanwhile, Voldemort and the Death Eaters are gaining more power and influence every day, infiltrating the Ministry of Magic and even the school. Draco Malfoy, who gets the chance of a lifetime to prove his loyalty to the Dark Lord, is one of the most interesting side characters in this part of the series. While he's always seemed like a bit of a wanna-be dark wizard, hiding his cowardice behind empty threats and arrogance, you actually feel pity for him at this point. It turns out he's not really a bad person, just someone born into the wrong environment - and Harry's hatred towards him looks almost unfair at times, since you know (or can guess) what's going on inside Malfoy's mind. The same goes for Snape. Even though it's always very interesting to analyze his behavior with the knowledge of what happens in Deathly Hallows - something that has brought me a lot of pleasure during this project - it's not until Half-Blood Prince that it really pays off to know what's really going on. It breaks your heart to see the things from Harry's perspective, completely ignorant of the true circumstances behind the fight between Snape and Dumbledore. By the way, as you've probably guessed, Dumbledore's death was when I cried - and only in the book. Because no matter how well-made the film adaptation is, I can't forgive it for not showing Dumbledore's funeral. (And why did The Burrough have to burn?).

The movies managed to capture another core theme of Half-Blood Prince very well though, and that is Tom Riddle's childhood and the creation of Lord Voldemort. While there is much more material and snack for thought in the book, the movie filters out the most important scenes from the Pensieve and makes the story understandable enough to the unread viewer. At least that's what I could gather, never having seen the film without having read the book. Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and Frank Dillane were perfectly cast in the roles of 11-year old and 16-year old Tom Riddle, respectively. In fact, I had to look it up before realizing they were not the same actor morphed to be older/ younger with CGI. Speaking of which, the effects are improving vastly with each school year. Hogwarts is growing darker but also more realistic in every film, and the attention to detail in any of the interiors and exteriors of the wizarding world is amazing.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the most dually toned film of the series, but it works. The result is neither a dark comedy nor a funny drama - but there is no point in trying to find a name for You-No-Poo meets Dumbledore's Death anyway.


Make sure to NOT WEAR THE LOCKET FOR MORE THAN A DAY before next month to read about the SEVENTH entry in the Harry Potter franchise; The Deathly Hallows, Part 1.



  1. I love your Harry Potter posts! The one thing that annoyed me about HBP is the movie never actually explained WHY Snape was called that. I remember seeing this with my dad, who doesn't read the books, and he was like "so...what was that about?" Otherwise visually, this one was stunning, and the Ron/Lavender stuff was just as cringe worthy as it was in the books. Loved it.

    1. So do I! It's so much fun to go back and revisit that universe properly, one film/book at a time. You're right, one of the weak points of the films is how they leave some things from the flashbacks out... but it's so damn hard to catch those flaws when you know the books! Haha, I love the Ron/Lavender stuff, it's so funny. But also sort of sad.

  2. I love this series so, so much! Thank you for sharing your perspective!

    Something that always gets me as well is how "everyone seems slightly confuzzled by the hormones that are suddenly filling each and every corner of the Hogwarts castle", because it's so weird comparing to how serious the films became. It's as if in 2009 humor suddenly made a comeback.

    The effect of Dumbledore's death was less intense for me in the film as he was so silly in this film. In the book, I cried like a baby, too.

    PS. The final frame and scene were really beautiful, weren't they? Exactly as I hoped they would be.

    1. I always forget about the hormone stuff. Especially this time, because I watched this film at 3 or 4 AM after having seen 1,2,3 and 5 already that night, so it was such an odd shift. But still fitting. Hmmm I like Dumbledore in the film, but his death wasn't as sad in the movie, I thought so too.

      Love the final frame. So dreamy. It's like one last moment of peace before the big war.

  3. Half-Blood Prince is my favorite book of the series. I love all the backstory with Voldemort. I love the romance stuff with Ron, Lavender, and Hermione. I love the overall mysterious, yet light feel to it. And it's packed right in the middle of two heavy, emotionally draining books.

    For the first time in the films, I felt Michael Gambon was the perfect Dumbledore in this film... ironic that it took until the film he dies in to reach that point, though. I didn't cry in the book when he died, but I also had it spoiled for me before the book even came out. (The "Snape Kills Dumbledore!" spoiler was huge at the time due to an accidental leak about a weak before release.)

    What I always thought was a bit funny was how this book is the one that's primarily about Snape (the title refers to him, after all), yet he's actually barely in it. And he finally gets to be DADA Prof, and you get like one lesson from him.

    I do really, really like the film version, as well. I don't mind they cut the funeral (there really isn't much of one in the book, to be honest. And the conversation had at the funeral is still had in the film if I recall. The only difference is you don't see the closing of the coffin and all that). I questioned how they would handle some of the Horcruxes due to some of the memories they left out, but they worked with it just fine. In fact, I *love* the moment where Dumbledore looks at Harry after he touches the ring and says "I think I might have just found another." Double meaning ftw!

    1. Word.
      Yes, I really liked Dumbledore here too, he has a lot of great, humorous lines... And wow, I never caught the double meaning of the ring scene! However, about the funeral scene: what I like about it in the book is that Harry feels so numb and doesn't realize that Dumbledore is actually dead. Because it's such an unexpected, unbelievable thing. And then suddenly, he realizes what has happened and what it means and he cries - and I cry. In the movie, I felt like the "numb" phase was never truly broken.

      Snape could've been more in the movie, but I feel like he really gets his well-deserved fame in the last one. Better late than never.

      I'm not sure whether this is my favorite of the books... I just love Goblet of Fire so much. But it's hard to tell anyway. This one is certainly better than Order of the Phoenix.


Let the discussion begin!