Two ‘Half-Blood Prince’ Movie Reviews

I’m not a movie guy, so I leave film reviews to those who can say more about them the sophistic “I don’t know much but I know what I like.” I liked Janet Batchler’s review at Quoth the Maven and Beth’s at Endless Books, ’10 Things I missed in Half-Blood Prince.’

My question for All-Pros is “have you met anyone who only knows these stories through the movies?” Beth says she wonders how these people know what is going on. I met a woman this weekend, a medicinal cook and cooking teacher in Philadelphia. She told me she hasn’t read any of the books, that she loves the films and has seen them all — but didn’t like Half-Blood Prince.

Your thoughts?


  1. YES!
    I met a young lifeguard in Texas who enjoys the movies, but doesn’t like to read…so she hasn’t “taken the time” for the books. We were discussing HBP-the movie during her break and she mentioned how some of the plotline just didn’t make sense to her πŸ™

    Welllllll…..I couldn’t hold back and shared with her many of the rich morsels of information from the book that set up the different segments of the movie and her face took on that look of wonder and understanding…I had to grin myself! Her co-worker sitting at the same table contributed to the conversation, being a Potterfile himself, and together we were able to help this young Potter-novice make some key connections re: characters, settings & plotlines.

    I encouraged her to take the time and read the series before she sees DH 1 & 2. Whether she takes my advice is anyone’s guess; however, I think I left her wanting to know more…so maybe I’ve swayed her to the book-side πŸ™‚

  2. Ah, whoever said we’d reached the days of functional illiteracy was right. People can read; they just don’t want to & don’t care. Bread & circuses fill their time quite well.

  3. But maybe I’m a cynic. πŸ™‚

  4. Dave the Longwinded says

    John, movies-not-books describes about half my students who are professed HP fans. “Why read the book when you’ve got the movie?” Yeah, it’s sad.

    A number of them have discussed confusion about the movies’ plots. But the vast majority don’t care. The biggest complaint I heard/read from students concerning HBP was the lack of an “epic battle” at the end. “All the other movies have one, and this one doesn’t! I felt ripped off!”

  5. I’d like to be more of an optimist. A fair number of my students have read one of the books; practically all of them have been to the movies. I think this may have something to do with the fact that they are still considered, in the teeth of the evidence, to be “children’s books.” Of course they are children’s books, but most of the time, my students don’t want to read books that are “only for children.”

    Also, in the population of students I teach, many didn’t read the books when they were younger because their English skills were very poor, and they learned that reading was a miserable, humiliating, and painful experience. However, there is no shame in taking a group of your younger brothers and sisters to see the movies, or watching it with them on DVD. And somehow, some of them manage to get into college and want to become teachers. (That is one way you wind up with teachers who don’t read.)

    Children’s Lit is a required course for Education majors, and a lot of them end up in my classroom, with a crazy lady who reads all the time, for fun, and takes “just children’s books” seriously. Most of their homework is reading and writing about their reading. The last book on the syllabus is always *Sorcerer’s Stone*, and while many of them have seen the movies but not read the books, a lot of them walk out of my classes saying that NOW they’ll have to read them all and they will never forgive me for this.

    My favorite was the young man who dropped off his final paper and overheard me discussing the later books with several students. He dropped the paper and said loudly, “don’t talk don’t talk don’t talk LALALALA!” Because, you see, he wanted to read all the books now, and he wanted it to be a surprise.

    So I wouldn’t give up on the movie-not-book readers so quickly. A lot of them will if given an excuse, and if my students are at all representative, a lot of young men are willing to read all sorts of things in order to impress pretty girls.

  6. Arabella Figg says

    The second time we saw it (where I liked it much better, sans cave on), there were few people there. A couple in front of us turned and were kind of shocked. The guy said, “You go to a Harry Potter movie for a big ending.” They were both confused and let down. I didn’t realize it until later, because of the brief conversation, but they’d obviously not read the books. That’s why they were confused when I said I’d liked it a lot better the second time. To them, the ending was as flat as a Fanged Frisbee.

  7. Arabella, I can definitely believe that the ending felt flat to people not familiar with the books. I think part of my frustration with the writing for this particular installment is that the writing in the book, when it comes to the final scene, is so stellar. JKR does such an amazing job of building suspense and tension and then we get the judo throws of all judo throws (to borrow John’s image). Given the “thin” treatment we’ve gotten of some characters in the films, I suspected that we would not have nearly the emotional punch in this scene that we should, but I didn’t expect it to fall as flat as it did. And it’s a shame…handled right, you would hope people would leave the theater shocked and surprised and deeply affected. I guess it’s true that even so, it wouldn’t have fulfilled the expectation of a “big ending.” I guess cliffhanger doesn’t qualify…and maybe there’s been so much talk in the press about DD’s death and the series in general that the element of surprise was missing for most of the audience, even if they hadn’t read the books.

    Moonyprof, I love that you get your children’s lit students hooked on Potter books. And I chuckled over the fact that guys will still read all sorts of things to impress girls. Many, many years ago now, when I was in college, I’m pretty sure more than one young man thought reading Madeleine L’Engle was a prerequisite before I’d consent to a date.

  8. Several of my kids’ friends have seen all the movies but not read the books. The movies are quite an event for them. The kids who have read the books pretty much can’t discuss the movies with those who haven’t, except to try to explain all the missing bits. There’s a lot of “Well, if you’d read the *book*” kind of comments….

    (I am proud, by the way, that my son’s first official all-nighter was to see a midnight show of the HBP movie. A mom who is more of a pushover than I was persuaded to bring the kids home at 4:00 a.m. And my son was so excited he couldn’t sleep, so he stayed up till sunrise rereading the books…)

  9. Arabella Figg says

    Janet, what a wonderful memory for your son to have.

    I think the movies drive us back to the books, because their lack drives us to restore in our minds and hearts how it really was, and again experience the character/plot richness/intricacies missing in the films.

    It is definitely hard to discuss the films with “viewers only” rather than readers. I mean, where do you begin? I usually use the “trailer for the book” line, and suggest the books to discover the “real” HP.

    Beth, I think the book had as big an ending as any of the others. Too bad the film stiffed it.

  10. My husband gets the stories mostly through the movies. He catches snatches of the stories when he happens to be in earshot (and actually listening) when I’m reading the books to our kids. Even without actually having read the book, he really enjoyed the movie. From the time I finished reading HBP, he knew that Dumbledore dies (he and I both figured that was coming in the sixth book) and the Snape killed him (because he walked in on me as I was reading that part and wanted to know what I was reacting to). His only question after seeing the movie was if Harry was a Horcrux. I thought the movie did an excellent job of wrapping all the slight hints throughout the stories into one brief bit of film.

    A number of people have cited a lack of a big ending in the film. But as I read these reactions, I’m wondering if that’s why the ending of HBP left me feeling a little underwhelmed when I read it. The story breaks with the patterns of previous books, including a big dramatic battle (always included in the movies) and a final explanation (usually highly truncated in the movies). HBP simply does not have these things like the other books.

    Even so, Harry’s brush with death in the cave was even more vivid in the film than in the book. It worked the images from the book and the inherent Christian symbolism in the books beautifully — immersion in water/baptism, fire/Spirit, dying in baptism and being raised to new life. (John, don’t you just love it? … I told you when the book came out that this was Harry’s death and resurrection moment — not in the fight with Snape. πŸ˜‰ )

    The film did give a lot clearer hints than the book that Snape and Dumbledore had planned the death. That may have undercut some of the tension of the actual death scene and made it seem less dramatic to those of us who read the books. In the book, there’s so much unknown and up in the air at that point, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen until it does. As much as I have always disliked Snape and suspected he was ultimately up to no good, even I was shocked that he was the one to kill Dumbledore. I know a lot of people in this forum really like Snape and feel very differently toward him … but reducing the potential for malevolence in his character reduced the impact when he kills Dumbledore.

    The funeral scene would have made a nice final act and added a sense of finality to Dumbledore’s death. I think the impact of that death was minimized by not seeing the characters express or come to terms with their grief.

    But at the other end of the film, at the very beginning, with Harry facing the cameras back at the Ministry and Dumbledore (almost literally) taking him under his wing set the stage nicely. It will be interesting to see what satege setting they do in Deathly Hallows so Harry has some idea what he’s looking for in the Horcruxes. They’ll have to do something to help the poor blokes who can’t be bothered by reading good books.

  11. I personally think that the movies are sticking more to the storyline–and getting the better parts of the book that are not only important to the plot, but just plain funny–and that the current director is doing an awesome job. In the past two movies, OOTP and HBP, the plots are getting darker and darker, but, even while reminding us that, we’re also given a lot to laugh at, almost to remind the characters that, while there is a war going on, they can still be human and laugh once in a while. Of course, we’re still missing major pieces of the DH puzzle, such as Bill and Fleur and even Dobby and Kreacher, who were supposed to major pieces of the puzzle, have been excluded. Harry doesn’t even know he’s inherited Grimmauld Place, another big piece, as that is ‘base camp’ for a little while for the trio. Hopefully, DH movie Part 1 will do a lot of filling in the gaps.

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