I realize this may get me avada kedavrad, but I almost wish I had gone to see I Love You Beth Cooper instead, so unsatisfying is this movie. The last time I felt this...bland...after a film was after seeing The Golden Compass in 2007, a film that Half-Blood Prince's problems bear a striking resemblance to.
By now we've all come to terms with the fact that the Harry Potter films will never be as engaging or brilliant as the books on which they are based, nor will the main actors ever become our friends in the way their literary counterparts do, hard as they try. However, they've still managed to be entertaining and satisfying in a lower, simpler sort of way, especially for audience members who have never visited Harry's world in the books. But when I left the Metreon after Half-Blood Prince this morning, all I could think about was what I was going to with the rest of my day. In fact, I was so unmoved by this movie at the ending, that I didn't even really discuss it with my friends on the way out of theater, at lunch following, or think about it on my way home. And come to think of it, I don't think I really heard anyone else doing so either, a bad sign for any movie, but even more so for this one.
You see, Half-Blood Prince is easily the most suspenseful and mentally stimulating book in the series. It is the point where the truly important things come into play, where the story arc begins to peak, where we find out what the characters are made of. All the brilliant and mind blowing questions that kept millions around the world on the edge for over two years before the release of book 7, all directly stem from this one year of Harry's life. For that reason, this movie should have been ruthless. It should have smacked the audience with one question after the next, pulled us to the brink, left us drooling for the last movie(s). Instead, it just barely got by.
The irony I suppose, is that I thought that this movie was the first of the series to really cut out the parts that it didn't absolutely need. Sorcerer's Stone sort of succeeded too, but then again, the story it had to tell was much simpler and about a third as long. All the other films have sliced and diced the story but, as a fan, I've been disappointed by their choices. Not so with this one. I actually thought that the stuff they focused on was spot on - from the blossoming love relationships between the main characters, the long and vanity laden Horace Slughorn storyline, and of course, discovering the secret of Tom Riddle's past.
Unfortunately, that is where the postives end, which is all the more maddening in retro-spect because its obvious that the film makers knew what was important and they just failed to present it correctly.
There is no better example than the crap job they did with the first scene, a scene in which Dumbledore shows up randomly and takes Harry out of London on a mission to somewhere unbeknownst to Harry or us, for some important and serious reason which we are also ignorant of. They arrive at a dark village, alone, in the middle of the night, and approach a big, rundown old house. Everything about this scene should have us on edge, wondering whats coming, why Dumbledore is here, encouraging us to be concerned or scared or...or...something. Except it doesn't...at all.
And then, to add to the emotional deadzone, Dumbledore says (all in monotone, without a hint of emotion or caution) "By now Harry, you must be wondering why I've brought you here." Then Harry, almost as if he is in the audience himself, says "No sir, I'm just going with it." And god said let them be numb, and they were.
From this lethargic beginning we fumble on, enjoying ourselves but never entering Harry's world or joining him in the 'danger' that is obviously supposed to have everyone scared, and yet, doesn't. We see terrible things happen and, like the characters, find it hard to react. We are constantly getting glimpses of Malfoy, hints that there is something dark surrounding him, but we don't really care because even Harry, who is following Malfoy around, isn't emotionally invested either. He might as well be playing a game of hide and seek in an empty room for all the suspicion, suspense and doubt his 'investigating' and instinct generate. Ron almost dies, and like Horace Slughorn, we just kind of stand there and go 'oh no...he's foaming at the mouth...should I be upset?' And then, the true icing on the cake is the ending. The ending that should have knocked us all over and left us wasted, the ending that should have had half the theater in tears and the other half going 'I don't believe it', the ending that would have made up for everything that was missing in the whole movie series until that point. The ending that just...happened. It just happened and then the movie was over and Golden Compass deja vu came slamming home.
There isn't anything else to say. Even Alan Rickman, who should have and could have owned this movie utterly, was just catonic at times. I could say that I thought the script was very funny and clever at times. I could say that I enjoyed Emma Watson and Rupert Grint's performances especially. I could say that the developing relationships between Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny, were exceptionally well done. And I could say that my favorite point in the movie (and easily the most clever film making) was the split second following Dumbledore's horcrux revelation where Harry cracks his neck and blinks like Voldemort. But, in the face of the flatline pace and the vacuous, empty pit of an ending, none of those things matter. I'll never forgive director David Yates, and neither should you.