Film rights to popular novels and children’s books have always been high in demand, but recent years have shown that having a comfortable spot on the best-seller list means attracting the attention of major film companies. With readymade casts of engaging characters and pre-assembled plots, filmmakers view tapping into the literature market as a failsafe way to fill theater seats, and in the case of a series, guarantee that success again and again.
Harry Potter Director Strikes Out
J. K. Rowling’s popular series has broken sales records internationally with every installment, often selling millions of copies in a matter of hours. While the novels are instilled with the right amount of emotion, adventure, and social commentary, the majority of the Harry Potter films have been decent at best, with very little artistic interpretation on the part of the director. With the exception of Alfonso Cuaron’s smartly crafted 2004 adaptation of The Prisoner of Azkaban, past Harry Potter movies have either included too much or barely anything at all.
Surprisingly, David Yate’s 2009 release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has been received well by critics and hailed as one of the best films in the series. With a lengthy two and a half hour runtime, you would expect the film to include at least the most important aspects of J. K. Rowling’s original story. Instead, Yates and series screenwriter, Steve Kloves, chose to disregard ever relevant detail of the novel in favor of endless scenes of teenage angst and supposed betrayal.
The Half Blood Prince Disappoints
The film opens enjoyably as Dumbledore collects Potter from a subway station, interrupting his intended rendezvous. From that point the movie embarks on a two hour long episode of Degrassi (without the frequent unplanned pregnancies), adding an inexcusable amount of superfluous material capable of doing nothing more than provoking amused giggles from the thirteen and under crowd.
The most painful part of Kloves’s story is that characters who inspire admiration in the novel became unrecognizable versions of themselves. The incredibly intelligent and resourceful Hermione Granger was little more than a weeping idiot, while the outspoken, no-nonsense Ginny Weasley is turned into a teenaged seductress. By the end of the movie there is a cave and reanimated corpses, but no solid indication of how this moment relates to the previous two hours of the film. As Yate’s second production in the series, The Half Blood Prince is noticeably bare and incoherent, discarding nearly 700 pages of source material in favor of fluff.
What Didn’t Make the Cut?
The 6th Potter installment focuses on getting to the root of the villainous Tom Riddle’s mysterious transformation into Lord Voldemort, and discovering his weaknesses in order to allow the inexperienced Harry a chance of defeating his infamous rival. Along the way, Harry comes across an old Potions book belonging to the unknown ‘Half-Blood Prince,’ and a few of the prince’s homegrown spells force Harry to re-evaluate himself and the people he loves and hates.
There’s no denying the fact that teenage romance is more present in The Half-Blood Prince than any of the other novels, but this subject was by no means at the core of the story itself. The book’s title should have given the movie’s creators some clues about approaching the film. While the film adaptation does address the main premise, in the movie Harry sees only one memory pertaining to Voldemort’s dubious past. The subplot concerning the Half-Blood Prince surfaces only briefly and then disappears.
Adding Quality to Entertainment
For both the reader and Rowling’s boy wizard the shocking revelation is that the prized Potions book belongs to one of Harry’s worst enemies, Professor Snape. Having glimpsed a few moments of Snape’s rough childhood in The Order of the Phoenix and currently in the process of viewing Voldemort’s past, the reader (if not the naïve, Harry Potter) begins to see the similarities between these three characters piling up.
A little interpretation on the part of a skilled writer or director could have brought those various similarities to light and emphasized the blaring fact that Harry’s ambition, assertiveness, and marked interest in the Dark Arts could easily have manifested themselves in more terrifying ways and produced another Voldemort or Snape. Rowling finds clever ways to reiterates this point in almost every novel, and yet there’s no onscreen Potter moment to date that truly confronts this subject.
The removal of the most pertinent details is problematic when this information is the foundation for the next story, and the key to understanding both Professor Snape’s and Lord Voldemort’s behavior. The bottom line is, when the film studio is given a project that is guaranteed to be successful, why not take a real risk and actually produce a film adaptation with substance in addition to entertainment value.
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