Director: David Yates
Production Company: Warner Bros.
Continuing on with our journey into the Potterverse, Little Satis and I sat down to watch the sixth installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise (having concluded the book sometime in the spring) for this week’s movie night. I’m not quite sure what took us so long to get around to it, given our only rule was to have read the book before watching the movie, but when all is said and done, life often gets in the way.
In it, we watch as Harry Potter, played excellently as always by the remarkable Daniel Radcliffe, embarks on his sixth year at Hogwarts, where he excels at potions thanks to a well-annotated textbook from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. Meanwhile, the sinister Death Eaters are wreaking havoc on both the magical and muggle worlds as they follow the now-returned Lord Voldemort in his conquest to control all of…well, England? The world? I guess it was never terribly clear in the books, either.
The film seems to have two strong focal points, in keeping with the book: Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) insistence that Harry continue to learn more about the young Voldemort and his early rise to power, and the emotional traumas of being young and in love (Hermione and Ron, Harry and Ginny, etc.). Herein, however, lies unfortunately the film’s greatest weakness, which it shares with most of the Harry Potter film franchise. In trying too hard, I feel, to keep to the letter of the book, the film rushes its pace along, and never truly gives enough weight to the emotions and feelings of its lead characters. As the books in the series grew ever longer, trying to compact the content into a two-and-a-half hour movie became increasingly difficult, and the pacing suffers as a result. For an example of how to do an epic book conversion well, see Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: whilst many would say the films are too long, you certainly can’t fault them for taking their time over character development.
Then there are the small incidents that were never in the book at all, and the most egregious of these is the burning down of the Burrow. Not only did it not happen in the book, it was entirely unnecessary, leads to difficulty with setting in the following movies, and leaves a gaping plot hole: if the Death Eaters are capable of knowing perfectly well where Harry Potter is at any given moment, why didn’t Voldemort simply apparate there himself and kill him?
Having said all of that, it was still an immensely enjoyable film, and the shock of the conclusion – even knowing it from the book – was handled superbly. Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the duplicitous Severus Snape was spot-on as always, continuing to make him (even though we haven’t finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet) my favorite character in the Potterverse.