Half-Blood Prince continues almost directly from where Order of the Phoenix ended, showing Harry and Dumbledore at the Ministry of Magic shortly after the battle with Voldemort. Reporters are taking pictures of them for the Daily Prophet. I love this opening. I thought it was brilliant. From there, the film continues in a muggle office in London. I might almost venture a guess, based on the shape of the office and the pervasiveness of the glass around the office, that the office is within the Gherkin. In fact, this Wikipedia article states that this building was in fact used for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
From there, we see three Death Eaters come down from a familiar cloud formation in the sky–the Dark Mark. I’m not sure if I like the visual interpretation of apparating from this and the last film, where black smoke surrounds the Death Eaters while they apparate, and white smoke surrounds the aurors while they do the same. Apparition, in my mind, should be nearly instantaneous, and for as long as it takes for those three Death Eaters to navigate the streets of London, break through the wall behind The Leaky Cauldron, and reach Diagon Alley to abduct Ollivander, we as a viewing audience of mere muggles can obviously tell that it is not even close to instantaneous, even at such a short distance. It is visually appealing, sure, but it is certainly not canon.
However, after the abduction (this is the coolest part for me), the three Death Eaters destroy the Millenium Walking Bridge, a pedestrian-only bridge between Tate Modern Gallery and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I have personally taken communion and then climbed the 530 steps to the very pinnacle of the dome at St. Paul’s Cathedral, walked across the Millenium Bridge, and ridden down one of the four slides on a gunny sack at Tate Modern. I have the pictures to prove it. I also took pictures of the Gherkin from the top of the dome at St. Paul’s, though that was the closest I have ventured towards it. My point is this: I love that this movie has so many famous London landmarks, places I have not only seen before, but visited. I have a canvas hanging in my living room of a picture that I took of the London Eye. It really is too bad that the Death Eaters didn’t decide to double back before the end of the scene and knock that over into the Thames River too.
Edit: I just realized something. The events in Half-Blood Prince occur during the years 1996-97. The Millenium Walking Bridge wasn’t open to the public until 2000. I understand that movie producers don’t necessarily have to concern themselves with canon consistencies–their only worry is about getting the “best shot”–but I certainly think about these inaccuracies sometimes.
What I don’t like from the start of this movie is Harry in the train station. It is no small secret among my friends that Goblet of Fire is my least favorite movie. One of my reasons for disliking Goblet of Fire is that it doesn’t start at the Dursley’s. Half-Blood Prince also shuns the Dursley’s and I really don’t like that. Harry, flirting with a muggle in a train station? She may be easy on the eyes, but could she ever realistically date the chosen one? I don’t know. This whole scene is just so awkward.
Harry goes with Dumbledore to visit Horace Slughorn. Jim Broadbent portrays this character spectacularly.
Harry arrives at the Burrow. Ginny gives Harry a forklift hug. Another awkward moment.
I have no comments for the next few scenes. Except, wait, what? The spectrespecs actually work? Luna uses them to see the whackspurts around Harry’s head, and in so doing, she finds Harry? Really?
Harry arrives at Hogwarts. I love Flitwick’s line, “No exceptions… Potter”. Speaking of Flitwick, it was in this moment, when I first saw this film, that I really noticed the change that this professor underwent from the first movie. This change was so drastic that, when I saw Prisoner of Azkaban, I simply assumed that Hogwarts had hired an additional coincidentally short professor to direct the non-canon Hogwarts frog-carrying choir. Because Flitwick’s name was never mentioned in the next three movies, not until this moment, did I realize that it was Flitwick, having previously undergone an extreme makeover. I like the change, but I dislike the lack of continuity.
I love the scene between McGonagall and Harry. It is classic Dame Maggie Smith.
I sometimes wonder, if Draco had gotten his hands on the Half-Blood Prince’s textbook instead of Harry, and if he had won the Felix Felicis instead, would his endeavor to kill Dumbledore have been successful on the first go? Would Snape not have had to kill Dumbledore for him? How would that have changed the outcome of Deathly Hallows? I am not sure that many people think about that. Nor should, for that matter, as this is a movie (adaptation) and not real life.
The Quidditch trials are hilarious. Ginny: “Shut it!” I say that all the time in my classroom now… Cormac: “I like my chances.” Such an arrogant twit… You can also see that the special effects for Quidditch have improved drastically from the first film.
Should Hermione really be acting that intoxicated after (as it appears in the film) only one Butterbeer? Sure, it’s funny, but it’s not very realistic.
I had a roommate in college. Sometimes we would lie awake after the time that we should have been asleep, partaking in interesting conversations. However, we did not talk about the nice skin that is a contributing factor to dating a girl. I can’t say that it ever crossed our minds to talk about that.
Evanna Lynch’s (Luna Lovegood’s) self-made lion head mascot is spectacular.
Harry and Hermione. This entire scene is so sweet. The music is so fitting. Harry’s line, “It feels like this”, is so heartbreaking.
Harry’s line, “But I am the chosen one”, followed by Hermione’s smack with the newspaper, is hilarious.
Hermione’s antics to try to stay away from Cormac are equally as hilarious, followed by Cormac’s upchuck on Snape’s shoes.
Next comes one of the most controversial scenes in this movie: the Death Eater’s attack on the Burrow. This attack never happened in the book. Instead, the space was filled with more and more memories about Voldemort viewed within Dumbledore’s pensieve.
The excuse in favor of the change is that, without it, the movie is left without any action, and you don’t get any real sense of the danger that they all face, now that everyone knows that Voldemort is back. You read about more disappearances in the book from the Daily Prophet, but it doesn’t really hit home unless you can see it for yourself in the movie. That being said, I don’t dislike the scene. It isn’t canon, but it does serve a purpose for the movie-going audience.
What I really wish could have been done, though, is not sacrifice the memories about Voldemort to make room for this scene. Just like in Prisoner of Azkaban, wherein everyone wishes that the backstory of the Marauder’s Map could have been told, I wish, in this movie, that the backstory about the Gaunt family could have been seen, as well as the memory with Hepzibah Smith and the Hufflepuff goblet.
Ron after ingesting the love potion? Four syllables: hi-lar-i-ous.
Harry after drinking the liquid luck? Same syllables: hi-lar-i-ous. There are so many great lines, I think, from this scene:
- “I should have announced myself. Cleared my throat. Coughed.”
- “Well, then, by all means come along, sir.”
- “That would be counterproductive, sir.”
- “Not to mention the pincers.”
Another great line from a later scene: when Dumbledore says to Harry in the Astronomy tower, “Well, being me has its privileges.”
The ending scenes are handled so spectacularly well. When I saw this movie in theaters at midnight, I don’t think I had cried harder or longer than I did for the aftermath of Dumbledore’s death. Everyone raises their wands to the sky not only, I think, to honor him, but also to erase the Dark Mark that Bellatrix left there. That scene, in particular, is so powerful. The accompanying music is awesome.
While there is much that is different and much that is cut from this film (particularly all the battle scenes within Hogwarts that were ultimately saved for Deathly Hallows Part 2), there is one thing I am so happy wasn’t cut: Fawkes’ departure from Hogwarts. This scene is truly wondrous.