The Scene

Keep up with the Columbia Missourian's Arts & Entertainment beat writers

Archive for July 2009

Take “Half-Blood Prince” for what it is — a great summer blockbuster.

with one comment

The sixth Harry Potter movie opened early Wednesday morning to record-breaking ticket sales.

The sixth Harry Potter movie opened early Wednesday morning to record-breaking ticket sales.

WARNING: Post may contain spoilers.

Let me start off by saying that I adore the Harry Potter series. I have read the books multiple times, own all the movies, and have been to several midnight movie and book releases. In high school I was an avid listener of Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron’s Harry Potter podcasts, Mugglecast and Pottercast. I know my Harry Potter.

That being said, I will admit that I did not “prepare” for the premier of the sixth movie, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which came out at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. I didn’t check out movie stills online, watch E! behind-the-scenes specials, watch all five previous movies within the last week or even reread the book in the recent past. That’s right — the last time I read “Half-Blood Prince” was last summer.

The thing is, you shouldn’t have to “prepare” for a movie. A movie is meant to be enjoyed on its own, without bestselling literature to back it up. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when people come out of the Harry Potter films and say, “But in the book…”

No. The movie is a movie, not a scene-by-scene, line-by-line, visual interpretation of the book.
You would hate it if it were.

The movies are already, on average, 2.5 hours long. There’s no way to include everything from a   600+ page book and make a movie that will appeal to a mass audience. It would drag on for eternity if they included every minute detail.

That’s why you read the books. Rowling is an amazing writer who has managed to weave complicated plot points throughout seven books, over a 10-year span. It amazes me that Harry destroys a horcrux in the second book; we don’t find out what a horcrux is until the sixth. That’s good writing.

In conclusion, I saw “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” at 12:20 this morning and thought it was a great movie. Here are some thoughts.

What I liked:
Once again, art direction and cinematography dazzled. A frantic opening flight through the streets of London set the pace for the film, which clipped along and never lost speed. This movie is visually darker than previous films, underscoring the ominous cloud of Voldemort’s power, quite a contrast from the brilliant colors of “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets.” One bright spot in the movie was the appearance of the Weasley twins’ joke shop, filled to the brim with fabulous magical creatures, toys, games and inventions. I appreciated its reminder that under normal circumstances, when there’s not an evil wizard on the loose, that the magical world is a whimsical and wonderful place.

What I disliked:
Hermione loves Ron. We all know this. I had a little bit of a problem with how this was portrayed in the movie. Hermione is a strong, independent woman, and would not fall apart if the guy she liked didn’t return the favor. She’s not happy about it, but she’s not crying in the corner either. While I appreciated the direct scene from the book where Hermione sends her flock of conjured attack-birds at Ron, I didn’t appreciate the fact that she was obviously upset by the whole situation. Hermione has more pride than that.

What I laughed at:
In “Order of the Phoenix,” the teens are just discovering their hormones, but in “Half-Blood Prince,” their hormones are raging full-speed. It made for some awesomely awkward moments, including Harry and Ginny’s first almost-kiss brought about when Ginny volunteers to tie Harry’s shoe and their first legit kiss in the Room of Requirement. Ron also gets a piece of the action with a over-the-top relationship with Lavender Brown and a run-in with a misplaced love potion, which results in his jumping into bed with Harry to dish about his undying love for Romilda Vane.

What was poignant:
While the film lacked a formal “Dumbledore’s funeral” scene, the students and teachers of Hogwarts gathered around their fallen mentor and raised lit wands in his honor. As the screen faded to black after this moment, the theater of 250 people was absolutely, positively still — not a shuffle of popcorn buckets of a creak of seats. I didn’t know that it was possible for 250 people to be so quiet. I feel that it was a true testament to the love that people have for Dumbledore, regardless of how people feel about Michael Gambon’s portrayal of him.

What I wonder about:
In the book (this is the only time I will use this phrase), Dumbledore does his best to give Harry as much information about horcuxes before his inevitable death. In the movie, Harry is barely introduced to the dark objects before galavanting off to the sea-cave to retrieve the faux-horcrux locket. Then Dumbledore dies. While I didn’t necessarily miss the prolonged exposition in the movie (the plot made sense without it), I wonder how Harry will cope in the last two installments of the series. Dumbledore gave Harry absolutely no hints about what direction he should take in order to find the remaining horcruxes. While Harry didn’t have a lot of information in the book, he had more to work with than in the movie. I’ll be interested to see how Harry fairs on his life-and-death horcrux-hunt in “Deathly Hallows.”

What I loved:
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” was entertaining and made sense. I feel like too many times movies fail because you won’t fully understand the plot unless you’ve read the book. This movie managed to tell the story of “Half-Blood Prince” well, leaving out what wasn’t absolutely essential. The film didn’t feel like it was 2.5 hours long; it felt like a enchanting jaunt into one of the world’s favorite made-up universe.


Written by Lindsay Stadter

July 15, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Silly adults, Harry Potter is for everyone!

leave a comment »

The British "adult" version of the Harry Potter series.

Bloomsbury Publishing, the British publishing company for the Harry Potter series, released special "adult versions" of the books. The only differences between the "adult version" and the "children's version" are the books' covers.

Today I was looking over a list of the Columbia Public Library’s recent popular reads. Not surprisingly, Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” and Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper” were among the most sought-after books this week in “teen fiction.”

What I was surprised by was that J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” made an appearance under “children’s books.”

I’m not surprised that the book is still being checked-out like it’s going out of style nearly a year after it’s initial release. It’s a great book, the last in the best-selling Harry Potter franchise. With the premier of the sixth movie coming up Wednesday, interest in the series has been renewed.

What I was surprised by was its description — “children’s book.”

Don’t get me wrong. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first book in the septology, was written for children. (It’s about an 11-year-old orphan who finds out he’s an extraordinary wizard, for those of you who have lived under a rock for the past 10 years.) And although the series began with prepubescent heroes who battle trolls and giant snakes (scary, but not too scary for the youngsters), over the course of the seven-book arc, the books become, well, much less childlike.

By the end of the series, Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione have faced corrupt politicians, muckraking journalists, genocide, a governmental coup and multiple deaths of family and friends.

I think those are some pretty adult themes.

It’s not that this series isn’t for children — it’s that it’s for everyone. Despite the adult content, the series manages to keep its original core intact: it’s a coming-of-age tale that children (and adults) will find entertaining. Rowling’s engaging writing, likable and relatable characters and universal themes are what make these seven books “fun for all ages.”

If you’re interested in more “children’s books” that can be enjoyed by adults as well, check out these series.

A Series of Unfortunate Events
Although the stories of three orphaned children are silly and easy-to read, the dark, dry and sarcastic humor of author Lemony Snicket will have children riveted to the plot and adults “snickering” at the writing. There’s also a mediocre movie starring Jim Carey based on the first three books in the series.

His Dark Materials
The highly controversial trilogy by Philip Pullman seems like your run-of-the-mill fantasy series filled with exploration and exciting lands until the underlying allegory of a corrupt church and a dying god comes into light. A movie based on the first book in the series, “The Golden Compass,” debuted in December 2007.

The Chronicles of Narnia
The polar opposite of “His Dark Materials,” C.S. Lewis’s beloved fantasy series asks the question, “What would the story of Christ look in a different world?” while sending readers on exciting adventures and crusades through time and space in Narnia. The series was made into a TV miniseries in the late 1980s, and the first two books, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Prince Caspian,” have been recently remade into blockbuster movie hits.