J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

26Jul09

Background: I saw the penultimate Harry Potter movie on Wednesday, and was quite astounded that I did not recall most of the book, which I had read in summer 2005. It slowly came back to me, as the movie progressed, but I couldn’t help feeling I was missing a fair bit. So, I dug out the book from the back of my bookshelf, to re-read it, and much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it, this time ’round (I had been fairly disappointed with my first read).

This post is not going to be a book review, but, more of a book vs. movie post, as there were a fair few interesting discrepancies, which I’d like to explore.

Review: There is always a lot of excitement, when the movie adaptation of a popular book is released, specially when the movie in question is Harry Potter, which has had a cult-following world-wide. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is no different. Packed with adventure, romance, and suspense, this adaptation follows Harry Potter and his friends (and enemies) into their sixth year at Hogwarts, where academics are tougher, quidditch more important, and the quest to find out more about The Dark Lord superseding almost everything else.

Death Eaters have become more powerful, and are wreaking havoc in both: the Muggle and wizard world. Harry Potter is still struggling to cope with the death of Sirius Black, his godfather, but avoids talking about it to anyone. Like most other parents, Ron Weasley’s mother is paranoid about the safety of the children, and is being more protective than usual. Her ‘special’ clock, which shows the location of each family member, as opposed to the time, has all its hands on ‘Mortal Peril’ (this bit is missed out in the book).

Just before term starts, and Harry and his friends are in Diagon Alley, picking up their books and other materials for school. They see Draco going into Borgin & Burkes, a shop famous for its involvement with Dark Magic, and they try eavesdropping on the conversation going on inside. Based on it, Harry is convinced that Draco has become one of Voldemort’s latest recruits, but, Hermione and Ron disregard this theory.

There is a new Potions teacher at school now, Professor Slughorn, and Snape finally gets the role he’s been eyeing for a long time: Defense Against The Dark Arts. Dumbledore, the Headmaster, tells Harry he’s going to give the teenager private lessons this year, which turns out to be sessions looking into the memories of various people involving Voldemort: from the time Dumbledore went into the orphanage to tell him that he is a wizard, to before his birth.

And of course, the reason why the book is called The Half-Blood Prince: Harry hasn’t bought his Potions text book, and ends up picking one out from the cupboard in the classroom. The book he picks out has instructions over and above the texts, which makes him seem like a gifted Potions student, causing Hermione to be envious and Slughorn to think Harry is a natural. The book also has some spells written by its previous owner, and they seem like harmless fun to Harry. Hermione, of course, has another view: the book is dangerous! In the book is scrolled: This book is the property of The Half Blood Prince.

Finally, the  romantic element: first off, there’s Hermione and Ron. When Ron has an exceptional quidditch game, and Lavendar kisses him, Hermione walks out, and avoids Ron, making things increasingly uncomfortable for Harry. The whole time, when Ron and Lavendar are going out is dotted with Hermione’s blatant envy and she goes as far as going to a Christmas party with a despicable student, just to make Ron jealous. Simultaneously, Harry has feelings for Ginny, but as she’s going out with Dean, he cannot do anything about it… specially, as she’s his best friend’s sister.

So, now, book vx. movie:

Due to the numerous sub-plots in the book, the movie was always going to be a tough one – trading off between time, and story. My main gripe with the movie was that it focused way too much on the teenage romance, as opposed to the plots that made the book gripping, i.e. Volemort’s history. The book has about six memories, involving Voldemort. The movie, only two.

The book is also considerably darker than the movie, as various characters are under the Imperius curse, and act on it. They show Dumbledore’s arm as burnt, but they never explain why in the movie either, whereas the book does say it was to do with finding and destroying Voldemort’s ring. While explaining some of these concepts would make the movie more complicated to a Harry Potter novice, it probably gives a better insight into how things worked in the wizarding world, how bad things had become, and the sacrifices that needed to be made.

The final scenes of the book: the great fight, and the funeral of an important character were completely omitted from the movie, and I struggled to understand why. The final fight is one of the most gripping parts of the book, and the funeral in the book is described so vividly, that I can imagine it being incredible on the screen.

Many of the important characters either have a miniscule role, or aren’t existent in the movie, at all, with Tonks and Lupin coming to mind. However, Luna still exists in the movie, which makes the whole thing slightly bizarre.

The movie has an additional scene, where some of the Death Eaters attack the Weasley’s home during Christmas, but, I still am unable to determine what this adds to the plot, other than making Mrs. Weasley more paranoid and scared. The graphics though, were amazing.

Actually, the graphics throughout the movie were far superior to some of the other movies (barring the Chamber of Secrets chess game). This might have something to do with not that many magical creatures being displayed on the screen. Even in the opening scene, when the bridge breaks, I was amazed at how well they had directed it. The dialogue was fast, and witty, and while it’s always tough to capture the essence of the book, I thought the movie did a reasonably good job. Think the movie was aimed more towards children, whereas the book targeted at young adults.

The language in the book did depress me somewhat, with the characters using words like ‘prat’, or, ‘making rude hand gestures’. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still think children’s books should steer clear of these elements.

Movie rating: 3
Book rating: 4

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8 Responses to “J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”

  1. 1 mee

    I remember book 6 being one of my favorites and that had to do a lot with the telling of Voldemort’s past and people’s memories, so I was definitely disappointed that the movie didn’t show many of them. And the funeral! I can’t believe they completely erased the funeral. I can totally see it on the screen too. Boohoo. And the burning of the Burrow is just totally random. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for it except for showing off effect.

    • I got really annoyed with all the romance, and envy in the book. Think that’s why I didn’t like it the first time around. Second time around, I was focusing more on the Pensieve memories, as those are probably more important. I’m tempted to read Deathly Hallows again, now!

      The funeral, for me, was one of the two worst omissions (the second being the memories brought down to two, instead of six). What they had replaced it with was so incredibly banal, that it did real injustice to the ending of the book. Should’ve done that, instead of The Burrow burning.

  2. Great job comparing the two!!!

    I too often forget the specifics of the Harry Potter books when the movies come out — they all blur together for me. I find it better to watch the movies totally separately from the book as I just don’t think the movies (no matter how well done) could do justice to all the rich details you find in the book. I’m surprised they’ve done as good as they did. Throughout this series, I’ve read the books first and then waited a few years to see the movies so I’m not to disappointed in the movies. I’m glad you went back and reread this and discovered a new appreciation for the book though.

    Great post!

    • I’m yet to truly enjoy a Harry Potter movie. All said and done, I can’t help compare the two, and the movie rarely hits the mark.

      As you said, the movie is almost never going to be as good/rich as the book. What does confuse me though, is, some of the trade-offs they make, with respect to the story. Oh well, thought this was the best movie so far (i did miss Order of the Phoenix though).

  3. I usually love the movies. Not as much as the books, of course, but I do enjoy seeing real live people running around and doing magic. But I thought this movie was the worst so far. I still enjoyed it, but the whole end part was lame: the fight, Harry standing around instead of being immobilised, the Horcrux scene with Dumbledore. In fact, I think Richard Harris (is that right?) is an awful Dumbledore, and clearly doesn’t care about the role at all.

    Emma Watson, however, is so beautiful that it’s impossible not to enjoy watching her. The two boys are good fun to watch, too.

    • I actually did enjoy this movie, although, after re-reading the book, it made me realize how much the movie has missed out of what I thought was relevant. I concur about the actor that plays Dumbledore (Michael Gambon?).

      I love Hermione. She’s one of my favorite characters (after the Weasley twins). However, not the biggest fan of Ron! Harry’s, well, you know… Harry!

  4. 7 Kari

    Great review. I haven’t read this Potter book so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie. I’m hoping to see the movie soon with my kiddos.

    • I think you’ll enjoy it a lot more without reading the book! If you do read the book, though, read it a few months later :)

      Hope you (and the kids) enjoy it!


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