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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » September 2, 2009
The world of movies
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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
September 2, 2009   
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When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth big-screen adaptation of the most popular series of books of our time, came out two years ago, I finished my review of the movie saying: "Many viewers, diehard Potter fans among them, must be wondering whether the producers are taking the audience for granted." Alas, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince proves me right because for the second time in a row, the screenwriters have shown themselves unable to cope with the breadth of the original story. Although the first four Harry Potter film installments made some cuts here and there, they retained the spirit of J.K. Rowling's books and most of the plot intricacies. From The Order of the Phoenix on, however, the novels grew to over 1,000 pages and compressing it all into a movie, even if it were to last over two-and-a-half hours, became troublesome. The difficulty of the task is best illustrated by the fact that the final part of the saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is planned as two separate movies. It's a shame the same idea was not applied two years ago, or in the latest film.

Viewers who are not familiar with the book will have a hard time trying to figure out the ins and outs of the plot. Those who are familiar with the novel may bridle at scenes that were evidently added to show off some special effects (such as the Death-Eaters destroying the Millennium Bridge in London in the prologue, or the battle in the swamps around the Weasley home).

Meanwhile, several key moments in the book are missing altogether-including scenes involving the mother and distant relatives of Tom Marvolo Riddle, the future Voldemort, or the last meeting of Prof. Dumbledore with Voldemort in Dumbledore's office at Hogwarts.

It's hard not to conclude that the film is trying to be an action movie, a coming-of-age comedy and a dark horror fantasy all at the same time.

For 153 minutes, viewers are exposed to all of the above one after the other and although individual sections are deft, the whole lacks something to bind it together, to justify the glaring transitions in mood. Again, the problem stems from cuts made to the original text.

And so we come to the main character. The problem with Daniel Radcliffe seems not to be that his repertoire is limited, but that in the four years since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he has changed surprisingly little. While all the other young characters are on the threshold of adulthood, Radcliffe remains a boy. In scenes set at Hogwarts, most girls are evidently taller than Radcliffe, not to mention his male pals, most of whom look several years older than him.

The biggest discovery of this movie is Rupert Grint. The 21-year-old actor who plays Ron Weasley seems to have connected with his inner comedian and scenes involving his romantic dilemmas provide a welcome dose of comic relief.

As in the fifth installment, where Imelda Staunton shone as the despotic Prof. Dolores Umbridge, the cast of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is buoyed up by a movie veteran. A key character in the retrospective section of the movie, Prof. Horace Slughorn, is ably played by Jim Broadbent (Iris, Moulin Rouge!, Topsy-Turvy).
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