Monday, 10 August 2009

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Daniel Radcliffe as the eponymous hero

So, in my desperate and pathetic attempt to get this year's installment of the Harry Potter saga over and done with, I feel like an entire week and two-and-a-half hours of my life have been lost to the franchise, with no returns.

As far as the story goes, it's your typical HP sauce: a little bit exciting in parts, plenty of fluff, and cringeworthily bad "teen drama". Hollyoaks at Hogwarts; or perhaps the Magic world's version of Grange Hill (post Mr Bronson-era). Maybe it's because I've outgrown the target age-group, but I find myself caring so much less about who-fancies-whom at Hogwarts, and bored with the recurring theme/cliché of "love is more powerful than the most powerful magic" which not only stinks of the most sugary sentimentalism but is about as interesting as listening to Gordon Brown reeling off the most thigh-slapping anecdotes of his career.

I won't concenrate on too many of the differences between the book and the film adaptation, mainly because most of the cuts and changes made are economically beneficial and gratefully acknowledged. Two-and-a-half hours is quite long enough without another unnecessary display of Richard Griffiths and Fiona Shaw being resentful and nasty. I'd have to say I probably enjoyed the film more, since I went "oh come on!" a lot less during the experience of watching it than I did while reading. Since I hadn't read a Harry Potter book since I was about 15, I was shocked to discover just how bad a writer JK Rowling really is. Actually, that's unfair: she isn't a bad writer, just mediocre. Although she doesn't patronise, one gets the sense she is trying to "get with the kids", with her use of characters' language and certain phrases she trots out. The typical trap of Children's Fiction, which easily makes it one of the most difficult sub-genres to attempt. Maybe she should write for adults, in future.

In any case, "mediocre" seems to be the word for the whole experience. Seven instalments, eight, if you count the final book being split into two films, are just two many, with books/films five and six feeling more like exercises in plot exposition than anything else. After all, what have we really learnt? Voldemort is bad; Harry is good; Snape is ambiguous. Right then. There is the final twist, at the end of the story, but far be it from me to reveal it (hint: someone dies).

As for the acting, it has markedly improved. All three of the "child" stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, are more comfortable in their roles, while Grint remains the strongest, most talented of the three. As usual, the adult actors are all superb but underused, since the only real adults who matter in the Harry Potter universe are Dumbledore, Snape and Voldemort. That said, it's always nice to see the cream of the British crop messing about in a kids' flick.

I suppose I'll have to read the last one, and wait for the apparently "necessary" two films, now. Just so it can all be over and done with...



  2. I've never been remotely interested in Harry Potter, or anything to do with magic. To coin a phrase, "What a load of old shit."

    As an aside, isn't it fascinating how people (or the media?) were desperate to sexualise the child actors (especially Radcliffe and Watson) at the earliest point at which they could get away with?

  3. TG-K - Exactly.

    Garçon - I think what got me into the Harry Potter story was the Heroes and Villains aspect. After all, it's what makes most cult franchises popular. Also, I know exactly what you mean about the "now they're grown up, let's consider their sexualities" aspect of it all. Isn't one of the Media's favourite games to sexualise and condemn sexuality?