The movie has found huge financial success, smashed records, sold out theaters, and is pushing that dollar sign to surpass the James Bond movies to become the most successful franchise of all time. I wrote my review, tried to leave out spoilers, and attempted as best I could to base the film on the film’s merits alone. My general assessment came to: it was a pretty good film (beautifully shot, if nothing else), but flawed and jumbled at times, and tended to focus on matters less important than those pertaining to the main thought. It got everything it absolutely HAD to get in, however, and has set us up for what I hope will be the best film(s) to date; the two-part finale Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
That’s all well and good. Despite my liking of this movie, the book nerd in me is clawing to get out. So I’m letting him go. The movies have always made decisions that irked that side of me. For instance, why, dear God, is Order of the Phoenix the shortest film for the longest book? Who made that decision? This is a look at some things I wish had been included (or excluded) in the movie, based on what I know from the books. Some of these are small, mere sentences of dialog that I was waiting to here, because they give a lot of weight to the characters who say them; some others are full scenes that have been changed or removed completely. I’m not worried about Spoilers here at all, though I’ll keep those about the seventh installment out. Everything else is fair game. So here goes:
1. The Half-Blood Prince
A “Macguffin” is a plot device used to catch the viewers attention and pushes a story forward. Examples are the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and pretty much anything that comes after the “and the” in titles such as “[Characters name] and the [Insert Macguffin here].” It doesn’t always have to be the main focus of a narrative, but it is typically an important part of the story. The “Half-Blood Prince,” seeing as it is part of the title here, seems to be a focal part of this sixth installment.
I remember when the title was first released. Speculation was huge, as people tried to decided what it could be. It’s really a rather fantastic title, invoking images of some regal character shrouded in mystery. People were surprised, after reading the book, that the Half-Blood Prince was merely the old owner of a potions book. It isn’t that we were disappointed, quite the contrary, it was a great story with a great reveal, but it wasn’t the biggest part of the action. But it was still interesting. Harry grew to trust this “Prince” character, who guided him through potions so effortlessly. He felt the sting of betrayal, when the Prince’s spell Sectumsempera turned out to be a violent and horrific curse. And when it was revealed to be Snape’s old book, after he had killed Dumbledore and was fleeing the castle, it made for a surprising and emotional turn.
The movie barely mentions the Half-Blood Prince, and never quite instills Harry’s fascination with it. It’s mentioned early on, and then forgotten, so when Snape says that he had fashioned the nickname for himself it’s sort of, well, “Oh, okay.” But this all really comes down to the second thing I wanted to see more of.
I would not be alone if I claimed that Snape is J.K. Rowling’s most interesting creation, something she herself called, “A gift of a character.” Morally ambiguous until (and perhaps even after) the end, always interesting, with a troubled and powerful back story, he is a highlight of the novels. And Alan Rickman plays the hell out of him with that cold sneer, and knowing glare he can’t help but grab your attention. And he’s always been underutilized. This story should be his: his nickname is the title, his development is the most interesting, and after the series’ completion it becomes even more clear that Half-Blood Prince belonged to him. So let’s see him a little more. Let’s show him teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, the job he’s always wanted but been continuously turned down for.
There’s another vitally important part that was cut: it was Snape who overheard the prophecy that resulted in the Potters’ death. This was another great moment cut from the book, when Harry realizes Snape is more than just a sneering professor. He sold them out to Voldemort. This is another scene that becomes much more important in the final book, so it’s too bad it was cut.
This is really a minor complaint, because he was in the film enough. I just always wanted more. He may not be downplayed as strongly as Sirius Black was, and Dumbledore suffered similarly until this film, but we could always use more Snape.
3. More Ron And Harry
For those of you read those slasher fics and make horrific photos like this, this, this, and this, that’s not what I mean by “Ron and Harry,” and you should go paint something, because you’re likely a living, breathing, version of Todd from Wedding Crashers. (By the way, all four of those photos were on the first page of images by googling “Harry and Draco.” For more disturbing thoughts, google “Snape and Hermione” and ponder the sad, sad life these people must live).
This is more a complaint for the whole series, really. Ron’s role in the book is a confidant; a best friend who is trustworthy and loyal, and who understands Harry better than anybody else. When they do fight and don’t speak, Harry realizes that, though she is still very dear to him, Hermione is not Ron.
In the movies, Ron’s role is comic relief, being a whiny prat, and making this face:
Which I assume is the result of smoking too much floo powder.
Part of this might be due to Rupert Grint as an actor, but I think it was mainly a conscious choice of the writers. You see, Ron has suffered from what I’m going to dubb “Breastism.” Particularly since the third movie, producers realized that puberty was, in fact, not going to turn Emma Watson into an acne ridden Rosie O’Donnell, but into a rather beautiful young lady (breasts included). So at this point, Hermione stepped into the spot Ron was supposed to have, and Ron got silently pushed to the sideline. Case-in-point: Did anyone else notice in the last scene in Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Hermione watched a beautiful sunset and talked about the future, while Ron sat on the porch, made that aforementioned face, and didn’t say a single word? Grint did a good job this movie, and I would have loved to see his friendship become more meaningful. Though it was nice to see him play Quidditch.
4. Voldemort’s Past, More Memories, and What Are Those Hor-thingies?
This is actually a biggie. While my critiques mentioned previously are just things I would like to see, I believe this omission actually hurts the movies narratives. For one, if asked what this film is about, what do you say? “Dumbledore helps Harry learn about Voldemort’s past in order to help him destroy the Dark Lord, as he is the ‘Chosen One.'” Really? If that’s true then there is remarkably little to learn. We see two memories in the film, one views young Tom Riddle in an orphanage, the other where he asks Professor Slughorn about Horcruxes. That is all. In the novel we see a plethora of other memories, including one neat one concerning Voldemort’s mother and grandfather (which probably needed to be omitted) as well as some really spectacular scenes when he was a young man. We see him come to Hogwarts to ask Dumbledore for a position as teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts (a position that inexplicably seems to attract villains, liars, and bitches dressed in pink), and him as a young man working in the shop Borgin and Burke’s. It’s through these we learn exactly what Voldemort uses for his horcruxes. This little tidbit is never mentioned in the film. I imagine this can be taken care of by a letter given to Harry as part of the will, but that’s not nearly as exciting.
For one, think about how awesome it would be to see Ralph Fiennes playing Voldemort without the deformities that come with the role? He could be the young, dashing, Tom Riddle, and we could see him change with every passing memory. Hell, this could be done in one scene, really. Just have Harry and Dumbledore go straight from one thought to the next. It adds ten minutes to the movie, but they would ten awesome minutes.
Also, a lot of people might be confused about Horcruxes, and exactly why Voldemort looks like a slit nosed offspring of Lex Luthor and an albino. It’s because he’s made six horcruxes, meaning he’s killed somebody and ripped his soul apart six times, leaving him disfigured and more evil than ever. That kind of ups his threat a little, especially since he’s so scarcely seen in these movies.
The reason these parts were taken out, I suppose, is because they’re slow and dialog based, but I don’t see why that’s a problem. The movie hurt on the action side already, why not keep these bits in to give the story more weight?
5. Important lines of Dialog
Rowling is a master of dialog, and every now and then she’ll write a line that’s so perfect and so weighty it practically screams at you. I always listen for these lines in the movie, and they’re almost always omitted, making we want to strangle Steve Kloves for writing yet another screenplay that removes what I see as vitally important moments. These wouldn’t add more than twenty seconds to the movie, but they can occasionally be very revealing of the speaker or the situation. And in a movie when characters are forced to get sidelined, since there are so many to fit in, these bits can tell a lot without much effort.
A “Crude” Gateway: The cave scene in the movie was almost perfect. Yes, it was a little short, but I understood why. By and large, they really did that well. But there was one thing, one tiny thing, that I had hoped to see. When Dumbledore realizes the cave entrance requires a blood sacrifice to open, he mumbles something to the extent of “How Crude” under his breath. What’s interesting is he says it with a mix of disgust and disappointment. Despite Voldemort’s pure evil, Dumbledore expects more from him than something this vile. It’s a nifty moment, and it says something about both Dumbledore and Voldemort; though I’m not even sure I could phrase exactly what. The only way to describe the emotion is the quote itself. Though I can forgive them for this, since they left in, “You’re blood is far more valuable than mine.”
Snape Ain’t No Yellow-Belly: The last scene in the film was disappointing for many reasons, which I will discuss soon. But the Flight of the Prince in the novel was full of drama and action, and left Snape morally ambiguous while giving him some great moments. One of these moments was when Harry shouts, “Fight back you coward!” (which they left in the film) only to have Snape, in a rare moment, lose his poise and shout back, “Do not call me coward!” It’s powerful, and is even more so once the whole story is wrapped up.
“I am with you”: The other two, as much as I love them, I can live without. But it was this I was hoping to see the most. It’s such an important line, it made it onto this terrific fan-made poster for the film:
In the beginning of the book, when Dumbledore takes Harry to find Slughorn, he tells him to take out his wand but that they shouldn’t be afraid of being attacked. When Harry asks why, Dumbledore responds simply, “Because you are with me.”
Fast forward to the end of the book, after Dumbledore has drunk that potion and is horribly week, and he asks Harry to get them back to Hogwarts. Harry says, “I will, don’t worry.” To which Dumbledore replies, “I am not worried, Harry. I am with you.” It’s a moving, powerful passing of the torch moment, a book-end to this chapter of the story, and it’s at this point we should have realized for certain that the man was about to bite the dust.
6. Bill Weasley
The older Weasley brothers have yet to make an appearance, but I thought for sure Bill would make it into this one. Considering his wedding to Fleur Delacour is a rather important part of the seventh, I thought they’d set it up here. Does this mean there will be no wedding? Will he never be attacked by Fenrir Greyback and become part werewolf? Just wondering, that’s all.
7. Less Romance, Please
You might tell me the film was about Harry learning about Voldemort, I think it was more about the teen romances between the characters. It’s a subplot of the book that became a major plot to the movie (probably to appease those fans that now read up Twilight and think Edward Cullen is all they want in a man). Yes it gave us some funny moments, and yes it was nice to see the “Oh, don’t you remember what it was like to have a crush when you were a horny sixteen year old?” aspect of the story, but it took the place of a lot of those other parts I mentioned.
The thing about the books is that they tie in the romance with other parts of the story very well, it’s rarely just romance. This was done at parts in the movie, for instance when Hermione zapped McLaggen in the Quidditch tryouts so that Ron would win the position. This shows her feelings for Ron as well as moves the narrative forward. Hermione had a lot more to do in the books than pine over Ron (like berate Harry for his potions book and help him figure out the details of Horcruxes) but this movie debases her to a needy girl and makes Ron look like an uncaring ladies man.
8. Burning of the Burrow? Really?
In an astonishing display of time wasting that could have been used to do any of the other things I have mentioned, they throw in a random, dull attack of Ron’s house halfway through the movie that does nothing to advance the story. Woo hoo, I’ll pass thanks.
9. Don’t Change My Ending (or: David Yates Does It Again)
The cave scene was spectacular, I’ll grant you that. But the changes to the remaining scenes leave me baffled. For one, when they get back, they’re supposed to see the Dark Mark over that tower, so that’s where they go, only to discover it’s a trap by Draco Malfoy. In the movie, they just apparate to the tower, and he’s there waiting. How did he know to be there? That that is the exact place Dumbledore would arrive? Not only that, but it’s supposed to be a full scale siege on the castle. This is also necessary; why else would Draco fix the vanishing cabinet? Why did he need to get the Voldy Cronies in just so he could kill Dumbledore and leave? Why couldn’t he kill Dumbledore on day one and run away? No, no, no, the battle is important, because that’s the only way this whole thing makes sense. But they took it out because there’s a battle in the next one, and they didn’t want it to be ‘repetitive.’ To which I decry: “Lame.” First off, who amongst us doesn’t want to see two bad ass wizarding battles at Hogwarts? Who complained in Lord of the Rings when we saw another huge siege? Nobody, because they were fucking sweet. There was no reason to cut this battle, and it would have lifted this rather action-less film into the realm of exciting. Cut the burrow attack, throw this in, and you’re golden.
There was also no reason to leave Harry unstunned. In the book, Dumbledore hears Draco, stuns Harry, and hides him so he can’t interfere, he can just watch. In the movie he tells Harry to hide underneath and be “Vewry vewry quiet.” Harry then proceeds to not do a damn thing when Dumbledore is murdered. How is this within his character at all? He’s always a hot head, running into danger. Yeah, yeah, “Dumbledore told him so,” I don’t care. He should have been stunned.
This scene also cut a lot of great stuff from Dumbledore, which is a shame, cause now he’ll never get to say it [sniffle].
And the funeral! Why remove Dumbledore’s funeral?! I’ll admit, the image of all the kids removing the Dark Mark with the light from their wands was spectacular, but 1: why were they out of bed? This would only have worked if, there had BEEN A BATTLE,” and 2: The funeral is a poignant, moving scene. We had centaurs shooting arrows in honor, Mermaids singing sad songs of lament, and wizards from all over coming to honor this fallen warrior. Instead we get “Oh noes, he’s dead, THE END!” It wouldn’t have taken long, and it would have worked fine.
That’s all I can think of for now, and this post has gotten to be ridiculously long. Basically these movies have needed to be 3 hours or more since the fourth (which people will watch, I don’t understand the qualms), and they focused a bit too much on unnecessary stuff. I still liked the film, but the Book nerd in me had to let out his wrath.
Feel the sting, Hollywood execs, and don’t disappoint me again.