Oh Noes! I’ve Got a Bad Case of the Pre-Half-Blood Prince Jitters!

(It’s okay; it’s not lethal.  The one symptom to look out for, however, is prolific blog writing and subsequent abuse of your best friend’s offer to guest write for his blog.  That can be deadly!)

Hello fellow Hornerites! Welcome to my first guest column for “NPBiaH.”  I’m Parker, and I could tell you a bit about myself, but I’d rather just jump right into the proverbial fire.

In the summer of 2005, when George Lucas was wrapping up his Star Wars hot mess and four teen girls were sharing a pair of pants on the big screen, the biggest blockbuster was not in theatres across the country but rather in bookshops across the world.  No, this is not hyperbole.  This was, at the time, the largest release of a book, ever, brought to the world courtesy of one J.K. Rowling.  The penultimate book in her Harry Potter series benefited from a six-month pre-release hype, with bookstores promising to remain open until after midnight so that they could meet fans’ demand of devouring the book before anyone could possibly spoil it.  The enigmatic title (Who, or what, is the Half-Blood Prince?  What will this mean for Harry?) met speculation, along with the perennial unanswered questions that run throughout the book (Will Hermione finally snog Ron?  Will there be more Quidditch?  When will the final battle occur?  Will there be another large death in this book?  From, you know, an actual MAIN character this time?  Will Hedwig remain my favorite character, despite my hatred of birds?  Will Oliver Wood finally pop off the page and profess his love for me?).  From this point on in my review, put on your SPOILER glasses (AKA, don’t read anything after the jump if you have not read Half Blood Prince!)


A certain proprietor of this website, his roommate Shmathan, a certain third, tall roommate, and I were living that summer in a magical, wondrous apartment that had its own serialized soap running over AIM away message world-wide-web-waves.  We all had the book on reserve, the other three roommates at Barnes and Noble and I at Borders.  On the day of release, we ran to our local grocery store and stocked up on Sugar Free Red Bulls (I’m sure if someone did a business study of Red Bull purchase, that day and one two years later, when Deathly Hallows was released, would prove to be two of the largest sales dates in Red Bull history) and coffee beans.  A certain proprietor of this website was still in the midst of reading book 5, but the other three of us decided that we would stay up all night until we had finished the new book.  At 1 a.m., we were all back in the apartment, camped out in the family room with all of the lights on, a pot of coffee brewing, and at least one Red Bull in, each, devouring the opening salvoes at breakneck paces.  Shmathan proved to be the quickest reader of us all, but by 5 p.m., I was finished, and already waiting for news about when the final book would come out.  The book captured and moved me like no other in the series.  While it still wouldn’t live up to the fourth book, my personal favorite, it was a close second.  The ending!  I mean, whoa, Blossom.  Whoaaaaaa!  I still worried that the J.K. in the author’s name would prove an omen, that she would have a press release days later, after selling 15 million copies in 5 days, saying, “J.K!  I’m not going to finish the series!  But isn’t my castle in Scotland FABULOUS?  Thanks for making THAT possible!”

So what does my long, rambling intro to a blog about the movie have to do with anything?

I’m effing nervous as hell that this movie will suck.  And not just, “Well, it could have been better but they were cramming a large tome into two-and-a-half hours,” but rather, “well, they pushed its release date back eight months (supposedly because of the writer’s strike of ’07 and Warner Brothers subsequently not receiving a script in that time period that would become their summer blockbuster for ‘09) and, honestly, they should have hired a new director.  Or a new screenwriter.  Or a new cast.  Because nothing about this movie says ‘good.’”  I shouldn’t worry about the cast—they’ve all proven their acting merit and have believably brought the characters to life, after a rocky start with a Chris Columbus directed opening.  I mean, seriously, why did anyone think it was a good idea to give that man RENT?  But, I digress…


The first preview for the film came out in July of ’08, as the film had yet to be pushed from its November release to the current July ’09 release, and I didn’t know what to think.  I wanted to love the preview, and I think after squealing in glee that footage had finally been released, I took a moment to ponder the implications of the trailer.  This movie looked like it was shot through a blue filter, as if the movie were black and white with only a select few colors accenting the monochrome and chiaroscuro effects—specifically, blue.  This technique is trite at this point.  Even Spielberg has stopped his overuse of it.  However, I loved the teaser-aspect of the trailer, as it only showed a scene of Harry going into Tom Riddle’s memory, followed by quick cuts of action, including someone running through what looked to be a burning replica of the Elysian Fields.  I watched the trailer over and over, trying to figure out if I was going to love this film or feel indifferent, as the fourth entry in the series had made me feel (at the time).  At the time, I decided to feel the love.

The movie was pushed back, and it was many, many months before a new trailer emerged, one showing the cave and Dumbledore stepping into battle.  Frak!  I was stoked (and had just finished BSG on DVD, apparently).  I again began to be hopeful, as the visuals were just stunning.  But wait, what was this at the bottom of the screen?  The MPAA has rated this movie…PG?!?!  A movie where, in its original source material, there is a cave full of dead souls that try to devour our titular hero and his mentor?  A movie where, if they stick true to the book (and, at least on this point, they’d HAVE to), Dumbledore frakking dies?  A movie where the teenagers that were once children have matured enough to have rampant hormones rage emotional battles and are caught snogging in the hallways frequently?  A movie where, in the book, there is an EPIC battle that becomes the condition under which Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave Hogwarts, effectively becoming wizard dropouts and thus, the scourge of society?  Kids can’t see this!  Especially if the film promotes dropping out of school, even if only to save the wizarding-world.  This rating couldn’t possibly be!  I want my bat-shit insane wizard duels!  I want a long, epic death scene for Dumbledore, preferably with a gorgeous, swelling, non-diegetic score until he is struck with the death blow, followed by no music as his eyes register his death, a cut to Harry screaming (in silence, because I love these cliché compositions and they get me riled up EVERY TIME), a cut back to Dumbledore falling to his knees, cut to someone restraining a silently-screaming Harry as his wand at his side shoots sparks—hopefully blue and pink against a monochrome frame, Harry’s scar brilliantly blazing on his forehead—until a final cut of Dumbledore falling over the tower as the camera follows him, with the sound finally coming back, but only in diegesis, as he splats against the ground.  Morbid?  Yes.  But that’s my dream, PG-13 (or maybe even R) rated ideal version of what this film should be.

And therein lies the problem with a Harry Potter film.  Because they are such beloved books, books that have transcended their original realm and crossed over into the popular vernacular, books that instantly became literary classics, books that made—and subsequently broke, three times in a row—book release records, the movies have to live up to common vision, whereas each reader envisions the world of Harry Potter differently.  No matter the artistic merit of each film, they stand as adaptations, never fully achieving an autonomous existence.  The viewer, unless he or she has never read the books, remains unable to wholly distance himself from the book and the world he created in his head.  Even the unread viewer suffers from four-different-directors-of-six-films type of whiplash, where the visuals and backdrops of the world change from film to film (with the exception of 1 and 2, and, assumedly, 5 and 6), the costume and minutiae differing slightly enough for the discerning eye to question its meaning rather than just realize a different person brought his realization of the book to film-life.

In fact, I remain so nervous for this film that I did something I haven’t done for any of these films yet: I read a director interview on comingsoon.net .  Oh, noes, Mr. Yates!  You say you CUT OUT THE BATTLE AT THE END OF THE BOOK?

Double You.  Tee.  EFF!!!!????!!!!

I realize the films must stand on their own as films, and not my idea of films but the person that was granted artistic license to create their idea of a filmic adaptation, but I just don’t understand how this film will work.  The idea of burning the shire down (or whatever you call the Weasley Grotto) is lovely, really.  I think it will add so much to the film.  The scene in the preview of the Millennium Bridge shifting and getting destroyed by a Death Eater is stunning.  The banner on the top of a few websites I’ve been to recently, advertising the film with the Potter Trinity standing in front of the Gherkin, perfectly encapsulates a sense of danger of magic spilling over into the “real” world that book tried to get at.


But… how, oh HOW, David Yates, will you successfully transition from film 6 to 7.1 WITHOUT raising the stakes so high that the Trinity MUST leave?  I just… I just don’t understand.  It’s the turning point, the climax of the series, that segues into a book length denouement (albeit, one full of battles and deaths and turning points itself).  It is the ONE moment in the series when nothing, absolutely NOTHING, can go back to the way it was.  It’s more important than Voldemort rising from that scary, MacScottishPlayian cauldron, toiling and troubling his way into the world again.  It’s more important than the Ministry of Magic discovering and beginning to question the implications of Voldemort’s return.  It is the peak of the Potter series.  So why isn’t it in the film?  I see your reasons.  I read them, and I suppose you make some valid points, but I can’t distance myself from the fanboy within me that just doesn’t care about your vision.  And I want to.  I want to give this film a fair shake.  But now, in addition to being nervous, I’m predisposed to my own bias and hatred, all because you refuse to include the final battle of the book.  WHY?  So, like I said, despite some of the things I mentioned that I think I will like about the film, I revert to hyperbole and again state that NOTHING about this film says it will be good (and really just because I read that interview).

In fact, I’m so nervous, that I’m SKIPPING the midnight showing tonight and waiting until WEDNESDAY at NIGHT to see the film.  That’s how scared I am.  I just want to sit in the fetal position a bit and rock myself into a sense of comfort.  I’m worried, Hornerites.  I was so excited, so excited, but now I’m so…scared.  Thank you, David Yates.  You made me something I never wanted to be: Jessie Spano.  Also, you made me hate this movie.  And I haven’t even seen it yet.  So, I’ve got the Pre-Half Blood Prince jitters, and I don’t know if they will go away until I see the film.

P.S., I promise to not be so verbose in future posts!

One Response

  1. I demand continued verbosity. And am pleased you have FINALLY seen BSG. Frak yeah!!

    I miss the days of our convivial companionship in the hallowed land of Riverclub Apartments. And that was such a fun night. Ben baked for a week in preparation and you threw things at me whenever I squealed/gasp/yelled at the characters in reference to something that ya’ll hadn’t yet reached. Good times, Shmarker. Good times.

    And I am determined to like this film. Determined. I will strain against my every instinct and my tendency toward hypercriticism.


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