*SPOILER ALERT! This post assumes that you have read all the books, know the details, and would be willing to give your firstborn to Rumpelstiltskin in order to play just one game of Quiddich.*
I am not a purist when it comes to move adaptations of books. I understand that the two are very different mediums. And I know that certain details need to be set aside in order to make the movie work. Nonetheless, the Lord of the Rings trilogy proved that a movie can be faithful to the “spirit” of a book and still make substantial revisions.
I think that the Half-Blood Prince does try to keep to the “spirit” of the book. Yet, I do not think it delivered even on the necessities. Before moving into critique I want to commend certain things the movie did very well.
– The cinematic visuals, as always, are out of this world. Even as the book takes a darker turn, so this movie keeps everything in a sort of dark mist. The colors never stay too bright and the world of magic is as if in a perpetual dream. Something about the filter makes the Weasley hair especially red with the special effect that Ginny looks so much more mysterious, like Geladriel thousands of years younger than we meet her in LOTR.
A scene of special note is the cave of the Amulet Horecrux. Dumbledore is on the island, surrounded by the Infurius, and he is whipping up the kick-ass fire of the century. The zombies are dropping like flies and Dumbledore, already completely drained by the magical liquid, is in absolute glory.
– Of the many relationship connections that had to take place (more on this later), only 1.5 of them are able to really make it. The friendship between Harry and Hermoine truly deepens and you are able to feel it. Without this, their extended solitude in the Deathly Hallows would not be possible and I am glad they were able to pull it off.
Similarly, though rushed and not elaborated, Harry and Ginny connect in a great scene in the Room of Requirement. I actually thought this worked much better than how it happened in the book, where it is a result of a Quiddich win. The intimacy and tension is readily apparent and the silence broken only by the sound of singing birds works quite well.
– But these are the only two relationships that materialize, and there are several more that, in my opinion, absolutely had to happen but did not come to fruition. These are the the relationships between Dumbledore and Harry, and Ron and Hermoine. While it is true that we see Hermoine’s affection for Ron, the reciprocal affection of Ron for Hermoine is far from obvious.
These had to happen because, despite the fact that the Half-blood Prince is one of my favorite books, it has to be admitted that it is really an elaborate set-up for the Deathly Hallows. The motivations and relationships need to cement in order to provide the necessary emotions to make the final book work.
Harry has got to care enough for Dumbledore to be concerned about Dumbledore’s integrity and past, and he needs to feel as if he has been sent by him. A massive mistake of this movie is that Dumbledore never entrusts the mission of destroying the Horecrux’s to Harry! In the final scene Harry just sort of, decides for himself that he has got to finish his work. But Harry should be sent!
– Without connecting Ron to Hermoine, the trio never comes together in the way that is necessary. This seems especially important as the bulk of the Deathly Hallows revolves around these three.
– In light of this it is hard to evaluate the movie “by itself.” I am thinking of it in light of the books, and in that regard I don’t think it was able to pull it off. Though, for the imaginative rendering of the world of magic, I think it perfectly well worth watching. But if you haven’t read the books, for goodness sake do it!