A Slice of Fried Gold

Harry Potter and the Altered Finale

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The best holy trinity since Rush

Typically, those who associate themselves with enthusiasts of the book series Harry Potter quite often distance themselves from the films. Phrases such as "complete bastardizing of the series!" or "they totally missed the point!" are thrown about, and that is their right to say them. However, I'm a rare breed of fan who looks at both the books and the movies as completely separate productions: screenwriter Steve Kloves is faced with the Herculean task of reducing 600+ page books into something that is short enough to entertain the general populace (ensuring it success in the marketplace) and accurate enough to not completely ignite the Hpotheads and their ever smoldering rage.

And to be fair, through six movies, he's mostly done that. With Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Kloves once again ably juggles those two audiences and gives us the key moments we are looking for more often than not while entertaining us to a great degree. This film is funnier than the rest, often being laugh-out-loud so. He even manages to make the plot line that most strangely dominated the sixth book, let's just call it "Snogfest Year Six," entertaining and only partially awkward. Okay, mostly awkward, but for the most part it is a successful venture in something that translates poorly. The guy goes toe-to-toe with the champ for 13 rounds and says "is this all you got?"

Of course, it never is, is it? In those last two rounds (or the last 15 minutes), to say Kloves finds a lack of success is understating it. His butchering of the finale of this book is inexcusable. By completely altering everyone's role within the scene and totally removing all dramatic tension from arguably the single most cinematic section within the entire book, Kloves ruins all momentum that is built in the 2 hours preceding the film.

Which is a complete shame, as the hours preceding it are as engrossing and entertaining as any of the other films. All of the acting within is as uniformly superb as it is throughout the rest of the series, especially newcomer Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn, the incomparable Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood (her Lion hat at the Quidditch match is worth the price of admission), Michael Gambon as Dumbledore (finally making the role his own), and a special congrats to Daniel Radcliffe, who manages to turn the Felix Felicis scene into a mobile tour de force with his remarkably entertaining portrayal of a lucky lad. The ensemble cast is one of the best around, and even with everyone having their roles limited by time constraints, they still make the best of the screen time they do get.

Not only that, but director David Yates once again impresses me with dynamic visuals and a remarkable style to his film. I think if it weren't for the fact this is one of the most highly scrutinized films out there, a lot of people would be talking about the strong work he is showing, and I personally am looking forward to his life after Harry Potter.

I wanted to love it. I was fully ready to love it. All of the elements were there for this to be the best Harry Potter yet. But when they completely altered the finale of the story, the one part that needs to survive intact and strangely the most easily translatable to film, they lost me right there.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: B


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