A Movie Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Writing about the sixth installment of the Harry Potter film series without providing spoilers is difficult. By now, everyone who has seen the movie has formed an opinion of it—especially those who have also read the books. At a little over 650 pages, the book on which the movie is based contains far too much “meat” for one film to encompass. The filmmakers likely had to decide which aspects of the book should receive prominence. And, which aspects to only touch on or leave out entirely.
So if you were expecting the big battle scene following Dumbledore and Snape’s final encounter you would be disappointed. If you were expecting anything having to do with Kreacher and Harry’s inheritance of his godfather’s house, you’d be disappointed. If you wanted anything of the storylines with Bill Weasley, his fiance and the other women in his life, and his unfortunate transformation, you’d be disappointed. If you wanted to see more than a couple of flashbacks fleshing out Voldemort’s past and development into the greatest dark wizard of our time, you’d be disappointed.
This movie was dark, yes. And because of that darkness, perhaps the filmmakers thought that it needed to be counterbalanced by…teen romance. Lots and lots and lots of teen romance.
The entire Scribe household went to see this movie on opening day, along with two additional little girls from our daughters’ school. You’ve never heard such giggles at all the “snogging” going on throughout the film. Hormones thickened the very air at Hogwarts and defined and redefined almost every relationship between and among characters. And meanwhile, in the theater, between passing the large bag of popcorn and boxes of Sour Patch Kids and packages of Twizzlers, four little preteen girls picked up on every glance, every swoon, every flash of jealousy.
I realize now that there was no way the filmmakers could have left out that aspect of the book. The young actors playing Harry and Draco and Ginny and Hermione and Ron and the rest look like what they are—young adults. It would not have done to have them prancing around playing Quidditch and drinking pumpkin juice and frolicking at Hagrid’s with magical creatures. Hormones had to make an appearance at Hogwarts at this point in the tale.
But the way that romance entered the picture in this sixth installment was a little…odd, to say the least.
The first thing I noticed was how female-driven and -initiated the romance was. Girls used every trick in the Muggle and Wizarding worlds to get their men: flirting, batting eyelashes, slipping love potions into candy treats. A cute Muggle of Color at the start of the movie even gave Harry the old coy I-get-off-at-11 line. The young women in this movie were downright…predatory in their quest for romance.
This is in stark contrast to the book, mostly because in the book we got to see all the internal lusting on the part of, at least, Harry. And this is also in stark contrast because of the addition of a most unusual scene: the Shoelace Incident. The Incident has already been discussed here. I am not sure that I agree that the scene displayed passivity on Ginny’s part. I felt she was still very much strong and in control of the whole interaction, even as she was kneeling at Harry’s feet. In fact, I thought that was one of the most erotic scenes I have ever seen in any movie. And this was in a movie (ostensibly) for children. The silence of the secret room, the intimacy of grooming, the softness of the private kiss… Chills.
The Harry Potter franchise has moved beyond being just a popular book and movie experience. It has become part of Western mythology. It will help define this generation’s identity much like Star Wars helped define a previous one. Its themes will help form my daughters’ and their friends’ ideas about good and evil, friendship and loyalty, race and class, and—yes—sexuality and gender. As uncomfortable as I was at times watching all that snogging with four little girls, I couldn’t help thinking that this still might be a better model for budding female sexuality than the images I was exposed to at their age. It was not perfect by any means. But perhaps better. With all the death and destruction in this series—especially the major deaths to come (assuming the filmmakers decide to portray it)—I guess I can put up with a little more snogging than I am used to seeing in a children’s film.
This movie was not the movie I would have made. But I did enjoy it and can’t wait for the next installment.