Half Blood Prince, The Day After (Part Two)
I know it’s technically the day after the day after, but let’s not split hairs. :D Part one of my HBP review this way.
The good stuff! (Yes! There was good stuff! Haters to the left and all that!)
Tom. Fucking. Riddle.
What an outstanding performance, from both kids. Aside from the fact they melded perfectly as the same visual character (holy good visual casting batman!) they also melded their portrayals very well. At one point the smile we get from teenage Riddle in Slughorn’s office calls back so perfectly to eleven year-old Riddle in the orphanage that I completely forgot we were dealing with two different actors.
Hero (awesome name, y/y?) Fiennes-Tiffen as eleven year-old Tom Riddle managed to knock it out of the park with only a bare handful of lines. When I first heard they were giving Ralph Finnes’ nephew the role, I was all *eyebrow-raise*, and I now happily withdraw and heartily applaud the casting decision. Fiennes-Tiffen captured the odd/creepy quality of young pre-Hogwarts Tom I so hoped the movie would without feeling at all forced or contrived. He was stillness, calculation, and dark hollow corners you didn’t want to get too close to, and the way his relationship with Dumbledore evolves in that tiny one-room scene echoes the book wonderfully. Wariness turned to greed turned to disdain. His face is haunted without being angsty and I loved every second of this kid on screen. Gambon played against him very well, switching tactics subtly to respond to Tom. Riddle is only eleven, and already we get the sense of these two characters countering each other’s moves and starting to plan the next one.
Frank Dillane as teenage Riddle also gave a standout performance and had just as difficult a task before him, but he succeeded admirably in bridging the gap between Fiennes-Tiffen’s Tom and Coulson’s Tom from the second movie. This Riddle is matured and controlled, every nuance of his performance calculated for optimal manipulation, just as Harry observed in the books. It’s easy to see how this Tom Riddle was widely respected and encouraged, yet there’s just enough shown lurking underneath this carefully crafted exterior to speak to the cruelty and horror this teenage boy is and will be capable of. As Gambon did with Fiennes-Tiffen, Broadbent plays off Dillane well and nicely rounds out the performance.
With these two highlights, the missing memories from this movie are even more unsatisfying, because I see these two amazing scenes and can’t help but think how glorious it would have been to see more of Voldemort’s journey. I drool at the idea of having Ralph Fiennes play against Gambon when a full-grown Riddle comes applying for the DADA job, and can’t help but think how wonderful it would have been to bookend the memories with the Fiennes-Tiffen-Gambon interaction and a Fiennes-Gambon interaction. That, above all things missed, is the biggest ball I think Kloves and Yates dropped, especially after one of the highlights of the OotP film being the battle (magical and verbal/mental) between Fiennes and Gambon.
And while we’re on the topic of the penseive scenes, the cinematography there was just completely lovely. The way they played with focus, sharpening what Dumbledore remembers most and blurring in degrees the things he doesn’t was clever, and the way they framed some of the shots really added to the dream-like quality of the scenes. Two thumbs up.
Speaking of other brilliant cinematography, the opening shots of this film were perfect. I never would have thought to open the movie that way, but it worked so well and set up the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore the way nothing else could have. The choppy editing and slow-motion represented the way Harry must remember this event very, very well. Loved it.
I’ve always generally like Gambon’s Dumbledore (though sometimes the man is COMPLETELY off, like when he freaks out at Harry in GoF), and here again I think he did well. It was nice to see a few more twinkles in his eye than previous films, and he captured the irreverence of the character better in this movie than he has before. His opening scene with Broadbent struck me as awkward in ways I can’t quite explain, except to restate my point yesterday and say this scene could have benefited from some underscoring music to clarify Dumbledore’s manipulative intent, which comes across so well in the books but is lacking here.
The cave scene was okay. In some places it was great (the Inferi were awesome), in some places it was meh. They played the potion-drinking way too fast in my opinion. The book eases Dumbledore into his torment there, with him taking the first few cupfulls himself and falling by increments, but in the movie we jump right into his terror and while it’s still effective, it loses some of the creepiness and mystery. The whole thing seems very physically debilitating in the movie, where the book portrays it as mental torture. And I’m terribly upset Kloves chose not to put in the line about Dumbledore not being afraid because he was with Harry.
I thought the tower sequence was very well played, all changes made included. Gambon did everything I needed him to do there, both with Malfoy and with Snape, and after that scene was done I sighed in relief because it’s one of my absolute favourites and I wanted it to be good. And the way Gambon played the scene where Draco disarms him was excellent — you can SEE Dumbledore setting up his pawns, and I LOVE it. He even glances down to make sure Harry is watching before luring Draco in!
Rickman’s portrayal of Snape and I have an interesting relationship. I like Rickman in these movies very much, but I see the two versions of Snape as VERY different beasts. Rickman was consistent again in HBP with his choices, and I can’t fault the guy for not getting the screen time Snape rightly deserved in this film. A few comments about specifics in those scenes, though, because I’m a Snape Girl and can’t help myself:
Slughorn’s Party: HAHAHAHA! Any time Rickman!Snape gets his shoes thrown-up on is a good time in my book. LOL.
Interaction with Draco: Um… oh God. I’m just going to assume that none of the relevant people — Kloves, Yates, Felton, or Rickman — are even aware of the slash-coloured goggles fandom wears, because while I get they were going for intensity! and drama! all I see is smoldering looks and up-against-the-wall slash-fodder, and I’m not even what you’d call a slasher. I could hear Snape/Draco fans all over the world squee-ing in unison.
Sectumsempra Scene: Blink and you’ll miss him in it. Throwaway, like the rest of the Half Blood Prince plotline in this movie. Extreme sadface.
Tower, Pre-Cave: Loved this scene, and was so pleased they added it in as something Harry witnesses rather than something Hagrid talks about. This is one of the only times Rickman drops dramatics in favour of nuance, and this scene was more book-Snape than anything else he’s done in the series. My love, let me show it to you. I cannot WAIT to see him play against Ralph Fiennes in DH you guys. Cannot. Fucking. WAIT. Because if it’s anything like this scene orthe scene in the Shack in PoA, then it’s going to be AWESOME.
Tower, Post-Cave: Very good. A satisfying mix of Rickman!Snape and book!Snape, and the silent conversation between him and Dumbledore here was great. Different than the book, but not in a way that disappointed me.
Snape shushing Harry before he goes up to fulfill the Vow was an interesting storytelling choice that I’m of two minds about. On the one hand, it’s nice to see this because Snape’s allegiance — a topic of massive discussion in the books — is barely touched on at all in the films, so any time we get to see this I’m generally for it.
On the other, having Snape shush Harry and by proxy re-assure Harry at this point just before murdering Albus clarifies his intentions and motivations to the movie-goer. I don’t think anyone who’s only seen the movies is confused about where Snape’s loyalties still lie despite his actions, so the mystery surrounding Snape is rather lost. Is he still a character of greys? Sure. But when you stack all the film choices, you end up with a grey that’s obviously way more white than black, so the question marks mostly disappear. It will be interesting to see how they resolve his character in the final two films, and how ambiguous they are or maybe aren’t about the actions he takes to help Harry throughout.
Hagrid’s Hut: Okay, Rickman. Here’s the deal. I like your Snape. He’s a different creature, but he’s still calculating and stoic and held-in and I like that, even when he’s all over-dramatic, which I also kind of like (maybe because it makes my sister’s head explode?). But, like in the Occlumency scene in OotP, the scene at the Hut is made to get under Snape’s skin and crack him open to expose something he doesn’t want anyone to see. His reactions — sheer, unrestrained, uncontrolled rage — in the books are there for a reason. They don’t have to be anything more than the briefest moment, but I think they do have to be there. Every part of this scene was well done except the fact that Snape didn’t react when called a coward. Once again, Rickman played it cool when all I wanted in the world was a crack in his control. My biggest criticism of Rickman’s performance in this series is that he’s sidestepped the internal struggles of Snape. He was not always smooth and unruffleable — he became that way because he had to.
I thought Radcliffe’s performance was par in this movie, and in some places his comedy was great. The much talked about Felix Felicis scene is pretty excellent (played well by both Radcliffe and Broadbent), and the extra bit about the fish Lily gave Slughorn is a simply lovely piece of writing. Elegant, and perfectly delivered by Broadbent.
Watson continues to rub me the wrong way in degrees, but in general she’s improved. Grint continues to delight me as he has in the past, and has also finally grown-up a bit.
OMGYOU GUYES LAVENDAR/RON WAS THE MOST HILARIOUS THING EVER. I don’t know who that girl was but she was an absolute joy to behold and stole the movie the same way Evanna Lynch did in OotP. When she drew the heart on the train window I thought I was going to die laughing.
What looks like H/Hr knife-twisting is probably actually set up for the locket scene and Ron!angst in the next movie. It’s very pointedly constructed to look like something that it isn’t (and Yates goes to great lengths to make sure everyone with the exception of Ron knows it isn’t) just as Ron walks in, so I’m calling foreshadowing on this one rather than any attempt to confuse or blur the ships. Fandom head may explode anyway. *laughs*
Ginny and Harry is done very differently than it was in the books, and I’m of two minds about Ginny. In places I love her and in places I don’t. Unfortunately, Radcliffe and Wright don’t have much chemistry as a couple, so the whole thing ends up sort of feeling forced. I wonder if some of the choices Kloves and Yates made with regards to that storyline — keeping their interaction fairly minimal, all things considered — was impacted by that lack of chemistry. It’s certainly possible.
I loved the way they set up Harry the Horcrux in this movie, and I delighted in it because you can see Dumbledore figuring the whole thing out on screen. This is in some ways a significant shift from the books, but in the movie canon I think it was a very good choice and makes more sense than any "gleam of triumph" ever did in the novels.
The pointlessness of the Death Eaters invading the castle was a bit obvious, wasn’t it? No chaotic battle made it seem like all Draco’s hard work was merely done to gain him some spectators, but I guess I understand why. The fight sequences aren’t really the point, but they needed to have the Death Eaters get in so they could give Draco a task that would heap angst and suspicion on his head. I think they could have made that whole thing work better if they’d put their minds to it (and hadn’t wasted quite so much time on the love!wangst) but whatever.
OMG the sets! The Burrow! The orphanage! Weasleys’ Wizard Weezes! Spinners End! ARTHUR’S SHOP! *loves* This franchise continues to do one thing better than everything else, and that’s bring the magical places to life in ways that absolutely delight me. I can’t wait to see Malfoy Manner and the Lestrange Vault and Godric’s Hollow.
My last note? I’m so glad the costume designer got over her obsession for stripes that plagued OotP. FOR SERIOUS GUYS, GO BACK AND WATCH IT. THE STRIPES, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE! IT DRIVES ME MAAAAAAAAAD. It’s like someone had a half-off anything striped sale and the wardrobe department bought EVERYTHING THEY HAD.