Last Sunday we went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the new film in the series. My expectations for the films at this point are moderate at best: The book series bottomed out with the awful Order of the Phoenix and never really recovered. The original of this one was padded and poorly plotted, although it had some good character bits in the middle.
The story basically survives intact in the film, although with many of its warts still showing: Many sequences are slow, especially the beginning (in which Dumbledore and Harry persuade Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts) and the end (the retrieval of the Horcrux is tense, yet tedious). But the stuff in the middle is still quite entertaining: Harry, Ron and Hermione falling for various other students, Harry awkwardly captaining the Quidditch team (I rather wish the series had more consciously explored the theme of Harry being thrust into a leader’s role while being anything but a natural leader), and Harry learning potions with the help of the textbook of the Half-Blood Prince. The flashbacks to Voldemort’s past are interesting and not as overdone as they are in the book.
The film has been getting strong reviews, and overall I enjoyed it despite its flaws, but it’s not nearly as good as the best in the film series, The Prisoner of Azkaban, although with stronger source material it might have been its equal.
It’s interesting to see all the actors growing up. Daniel Radcliffe looks less buff than he did in Phoenix where his appearance seemed a little odd. Rupert Grint seemed to grow into his body awkwardly, especially in Goblet of Fire, but he seems to be past that; he’s the actor who’s changed the most in appearance as he’s grown up. Emma Watson has changed the least, looking much the same at 18 as she did at 11. Tom Felton’s features have become much more defined as he’s grown up, and he doesn’t have the smooth, dark-elfin look he had when he first played Draco Malfoy.
I can’t believe I’m going to sit through two films to see all of the final book, Deathly Hallows, which was another padded book; that means a lot of the padding is surely going to make it into the films (which already run long at over 2-1/2 hours apiece). But no doubt I’ll do it.