Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Princes and Half Blood Potters

Has anyone seen it yet? We went to see it on Wednesday, first show of the day. We lined up with all the other HP keeners, standing in the hot sun wondering if it would be worth it. I'd even bought the tickets 3 days beforehand just in case. I stood there, wondering at my uncharacteristic temerity - it's so not like me to buy a movie ticket ahead of time. But this was Harry Potter, a world in the daily lexicon of the twins. FDPG was so excited that 5 people asked her if she needed to use the bathroom. Dominic kept repeating "I can't believe we are finally going to see it!" over and over again, while Max just sat there, not sure if he was excited or not.

Then we were in. A very mild-mannered theatre employee came out and said "Everyone here for the 11:30 Harry Potter movie can just go right in," which meant of course that all 300 people in all the various line-ups mobbed for the doors. I grabbed each twin in a Death Grip by the wrist and with Max close behind me we threw ourselves into the mass of teens, families, and older couples. It was a seriously distracting mix of people. It almost threw me off. Almost: we had to get in there and get 9 seats. Luckily I am not an easily distracted person when it comes to getting a good theatre seat, but that's only because I am extremely picky when it comes to watching a film in a large theatre space. I'm like Goldilocks: I need something not quite at the top, but not too low, and I hate sitting in the middle of the row. I need an end seat, in case I need a quick exit (I've done this all my life and have never once needed a quick exit so either I am excessively careful or I am more on the obsessive compulsive side than I care to admit), and I hate leaving for bathroom breaks (ask my kids, they will recite Sheila's Standard Lecture On Why Drinking Too Much At Movies Is Not Good).

First we watched 20 minutes of movie trailers. I usually like movie trailers, but this time they were a weird mix of slightly, err, mature movies, and ones we'd already seen when we'd seen Up! I sat through the chortling of my children as they watched guinea pigs flying through the air, as a kid asked for the gift of telephonesis, and as a giant pancake landed on a school. I surreptitiously withdrew the three bags of popcorn I'd made at home and stashed in ziplocks in my purse. I whispered "Don't eat this all before the movie even starts" and "try not to get the yeast all over your t-shirts" to everyone. I made sure FDPG knew to plug her ears in case things got scary: an excellent trick because in my experience the sounds are sometimes scarier than the action. And closing one's eyes does not require handwork, whereas plugging one's ears does (sometimes I feel a bit like James Bond, navigating my way through this Minefield of Complicated Mothering).

And once again Dominic whispered, oh-so-loudly, "Why do they always have all these trailers before the movie? We came here to see the movie, not these stupid trailers. We've already seen half of them."

Can't you just see the old man he's going to be?

Then the film started. You could almost feel the intake of breath. There was a serious level of excitement in the air.

(warning: reading further could spoil the movie for you)

The film diverges from the book in quite a few places, in case you were wondering. Some of them are quite fortuitous. There was more humour than I remember from the novel. And, if you're like me and you like the touches most directors sneak in as a sort of signature, another bird gets whacked outside Hogwarts. But I was not prepared for all that humour. This movie plays to laughs. Plays for laughs. There's hardly any creepiness in it, which was nice for poor old FDPG, who really quakes at anything and everything. She only had to plug her ears once, and I only had to cover her eyes once (in case she snuck a glance) and that was where the Inferi were grabbing at Dumbledore and Harry in the cave. They even snuck in a Blatant Comic Device in the character of Lavender Brown, who has some scene-chewing moments (and reminded me slightly of British actress Lucy Punch). And there are a number of Unexpectedly Witty Rejoinders between Harry and Dumbledore. There's also one incredibly deft and witty scene with Snape, Dumbledore and Slughorn in the Infirmary with Ron (I had to fight not to write "in the library with a candlestick"), ruminating about love. It's positively brilliant.

Some of the divergences are not so fortuitous. There is one scene where everyone raises their wands as a tribute, but instead of seeming like a bit of well-placed respect, it struck me instead as the sort of thing you'd see in a pop concert, with the audience asking for more. I don't know. It fell flat for me. And the fact that McGonagall initiated this, err, gesture, seemed even more wrong. There were other, small differences: Luna replaces Tonks as the one who finds Harry in the Slytherin Coach under his Invisibility Cloak; Harry is first sighted in a café picking up waitresses and reading the Daily Prophet in PUBLIC; the Weasley twins are hardly in the film at all; the Death Eaters burn down the Weasley house.

Oh the horror of it all!

But Luna is my favourite character so I wasn't too bothered by that bit. I love Luna. I love her batty, slightly breathless demeanour, and I love the way she drifts around in strange outfits. I also love how kind she is to everyone. She is unfailingly understanding.

And don't hex me but I was glad to see Michael Gambon (as Dumbledore) leave. He's always rubbed me the wrong way. I loved him in Gosford Park, among other things, but in my opinion he plays Dumbledore too befuddled and daffy. I miss Richard Harris. He was Dumbledore for me: wise, careful, clear. But he died before they could film the rest of the onslaught.

I do find it curious how so many of the Truly Bad Characters seem to be also the best-dressed ones. Malfoy is positively glistening with cool charismatic savoir-faire. He has a long black coat, slim black trousers, and slicked back white hair. He looks amazing. Almost as delicious as his father, Lucius (the image of Lucius at the Quidditch World Cup [Goblet of Fire], telling Arthur Weasley, through wonderfully gritted teeth, that Arthur's nosebleed seats will enable him to see the rain coming sooner than everyone else is one of my very favourite scenes ever). Similarly Snape always whips in and out of every scene in the blackest black imaginable. He's like a well-dressed and deeply malevolent bat, flapping around the film. Bellatrix is less well-dressed, certainly, but her sister Narcissa looks pretty snappy.

Finally, while I really really enjoyed the film, I had one quibble: it plays as a series of small vignettes (as opposed to a coherent story). I did not enjoy that. It was disorienting. I think that was why it doesn't seem to be a long film, when it actuality it clocks in at two hours and thirty minutes.

Oh, and before I forget, where the hell did Fawkes go? I was hoping the movie would play with this, but it didn't.

I'm still wondering.

Sheila's Movie O'Matic Rating: 8.5/10


Michelle said...

Pancake landing on a school...that sounds like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs! My son loves that book, will have to google that.

I can't wait to see this new HP. I'm more into Jane Austen-type flicks, but I am a big HP fan.

I think Luna's great, too. I'm also a big Snape fan...all that mystery, that dark just know underneath that black cloak beats the heart of a, moving on...

I wasn't a fan of Gambon as Dumbledore, either, but he's grown on me; he's more lively.

I usually wait until the movies come out on DVD so I can watch in the comfort of my own home (I hate the blaring cinemas), but I may not be able to wait for this one.

sheila said...

Isn't Snape great? I love Alan Rickman. He's such a babe of an actor. I heard that Tim Roth was the first Snape but had to drop out - can you imagine? AR really owns that role.

I have to say it was fun seeing it on the big screen. We went on the first day we were all so desperate to see it!

shaun said...

We all enjoyed it greatly -- well, all of us 10 and over. I agree, divergences from the book are often distracting, even if they turn out OK. At this point though, as Harry says, I just go with it. After 6 movies I know that so much has to be left out.

With Luna, more onscreen time is better, since so much of her other stuff is cut. But more Weasly twins please! I can never get enough Fred and George.

I guess I just want more of everything -- the movie ended after 2.5 hours and I thought, oh man, that's it?

Michelle said...

Fortunately, they're going to make the last book into 2 movies (There will be more of Gambon, though, Sheila, I'm afraid)

I do wish AR would keep the black hair even when he isn't Snape; it really suits him.

Tim Roth?! Eww, no way, he doesn't have the presence and he's not the right age.

sheila said...

Shaun, I had the same reaction: What? It's over already? And even with all my quibbles I'll still flock to the movies. I think the casting is brilliant, even if I don't like the vision of the directors.

Michelle, I think it's a great idea to divide the last book, but I feel quite anxious about them being exhibited 6 months apart, even with Mr Gambon still making his presence felt (funny how much he bugs me). Can you imagine if they'd had Tim Roth? I can't. He's too short.

shaun said...

I do wonder what my daughters will think of AR when they see him in other movies -- Sense and Sensibility, for example, as poor Colonel Brandon.

sheila said...

I was watching Gosford Park on my computer the other night and none of my kids recognized Michael Gambon for Dumbledore!

But AR has a lot of roles that do not showcase his sexiness: that space movie (with Sigourney Weaver?) not to mention Barchester Towers. Even Love Actually makes him look caddish. Show your girls Truly Madly Deeply and Die Hard - that man knows how to wear a black turtleneck.

shaun said...

I hated him after Love Actually -- how could he *do* that to Emma Thompson! My husband was laughing at me -- I was angry for days after that movie.

I don't think I need to encourage my girls to love the sexy bad man. I think they are in a good way to arrive there all on their own -- scary!

Anonymous said...

I think Snape looked the best ever in this movie - I said to Roy it seemed he'd discovered shampoo!

Pity we didn't see Lucius (except for a brief glimpse at the beginning?) - he's my favourite.

As you said, too many changes and omissions to make it truly satisfying....and I would have liked to see a bit more of the relationship between Harry and Ginny. One measly kiss - gah.

ddadmin said...

David Yates (director) did a superb job just magnificent to watch, may be Alfonso Cuarón would have made them ROCK. I am a great fan of Harry Potter series. My favorite still remains HP3: Prisoner of Azkaban. But Half Blood was simply outstanding on levels.
Being a great fan I have collected a list of good sites and articles (may be around 200) related to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (movie information, movie schedule, movie reviews, books, games, news, wallpapers and many more). If you are interested take a look at the below link

sheila said...

ddadmin, I almost nixed you because your bio looked a little iffy, but I totally agree with you about Cuaron. He really WOULD have made that movie rock. My favourite Cuaron is Pan's Labyrinth (I feel bad but sometimes mix him up with the guy who did The Others).

David Yates went for the Big Audience Effect, don't you think? Funny, great CGIs, but not terribly memorable. Liked the bird smack though.

sheila said...

Nicola - I thought the same thing about Snape's hair! It looked so fresh and swingy! Maybe he washed it as a celebration for getting his Dream Job.

Isn't Lucius wonderful? I just love him. When I see him in other shows I always feel a thrill. I want that long white wig of his...

Samantha said...

I totally get the end seat at the movies thing. I always go for that one as well.

I also prepare myself before hand by not drinking too much a few hours before the movie - especially a long movie. I remember being at The Lord of the Rings in the theatre and shaking my head at people walking in with HUGE drinks. What were they thinking?!?!?

I haven't seen the movie yet and might not get a chance until it comes out on DVD :-( Bummer!

Rebecca said...

Lucius = delicious. Mm-mm-m. But the actor isn't nearly as fit without the long blond hair (although he's still very good, iykwim).

I love Gambon. I loved him in The Singing Detective and in Wives and Daughters. I prefer his warmer Dumbledore to the rather chilly one played by Harris. But I think Ian McKellen would have made the Very Best Dumbledore Ever, but then he kind of already had his "mad and amazing wizard" spotlight with Gandalf. Still...

I'd love to see him and Patrick Steward in Waiting for Godot (on stage in London)... now that would be a great movie (with the two of them). But I digress.

H.P. and big screen. I'd love to see it. And I'll have to take someone else's child. LOL

sheila said...

Samantha, we must see movies together. I think my picky picky self will be glad to go with a kindred spirit. My kids think I am merely grouchy with all my needs and dictates.

Rebecca, I'm amazed at how many things I've seen Lucius in outside HP. But without that blonde wig he's not nearly as edible, although with the right haughty look he can come pretty close. As for Dumbledore, I might have gone for Nigel Hawthorne, or even Jim Broadbent (although now he's Slughorn), or even Tom Courtenay. Gambon was too, hmm what's the word, doddery for me.

I had a friend who saw David Tennant do Hamlet, sob. She also saw Patrick do Macbeth in London - with blood gushing out of taps and all kinds of wild things. She said it was an amazing production.

Anonymous said...

Must. Get. Snape. Fix.

Rebecca said...

Nigel Hawthorne (that's Sir Nigel to you, young lady). That would have been interesting (but he did die in 2001 so that wouldn't have worked). I love "Mapp and Lucia" and he was fantastic in "The Madness of King George". Jim Broadbent, though... I dunno. He's a great actor but I don't think he could match *my* Dumbledore (the one in my head). Plus, he played Bridget's dad...

I would love to see David Tennant on the stage. I'm so jealous of your friend!!! In fact, I'd love to see any of these guys on the stage. I'd even love to see good ol' bulgy eyes in some Shakespeare. When Grant and I spent 3 weeks in London, we didn't plan too far ahead (even though we were staying right in Covent Garden). We could only get into shows that weren't already sold out. Next time we go, when Jr. is old enough for some adult content plays, etc., I'm agenda-ing the heck out of us! None of this spontaneity nonsense for this girl! I've got to get my fab Brit actor fix and nothing will stand in my way!

sheila said...

Oh no, I forgot he'd died. Sorry, Sir N. But can't you just see him with a long white beard, those blue eyes twinkling? My image of JB is still his character in Topsy Turvy. He has the right nose, too: all twisted and misshapen.

Yes, my friend leads a charmed life. She vacations with friends on Capri, jets off to Paris when she feels like it, and works at the same uni. as Diana Wynne Jones' husband, of all the luck. She's even met her at staff parties! I knash my teeth in envy that she came so close to both DYJ AND the lovely lovely David Tennant. Sigh. Sob.

When I went to the UK on my own I went to the Cheddar Caves to see the Cheddar Witch, so I think you did pretty good, considering. What the hell I was up to is anyone's guess.

Samantha said...

I don't know if I could handle British actors in person. I'm guessing yelling out things like "Yeah baby" and "You look so goooooood" and "...censored" is not acceptable theatre procedure?

What if they were doing The Full Monty?

Oh my! What if CLIVE was in The Full Monty?!?! I don't think I could handle it - I would pass out in my front row centre seat!