August Issue 2009

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 15 years ago

Seldom do movies based on books do the source material justice. Harry Potter fans’ grouse with the earlier movies is that too little of the book has been retained. When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, it delighted many because it was far better than the first four productions, credit for which goes to director David Yates. Brought on for the direction of the sixth movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Yates has not been as successful this time.

The movie is completely plot-driven, which makes it choppy, and the emphasis is largely on the special effects, which are not very impressive. When Katie Bell is hexed in Hogsmeade, for example, for a moment it seems like a scene out ofThe Exorcist, but the robotic jerks of the body make evident the technology used in the creation of such scenes. In the scene where Snape and Narcissa make the unbreakable vow, the emphasis is more on the green glow of the enchantment binding their hands than the intensity of the moment. The adaptation also completely defies Snape’s character description in the book, in which his face was expressionless and there was no hesitation while he took the vow, whereas the movie shows the opposite.

But this is not all the movie reverses. The inner conflicts, of which there are many in the sixth book, are completely subdued and don’t make it to the screen, especially Harry’s or Malfoy’s. What is given more screen space is the Hermione-Ron-Lavender love triangle, whereas the Harry-Ginny story has been reworked completely. Motives and feelings are not reproduced — only actions are, and these too are tailored to fit the screenplay.

The visuals for the cave expedition, where Dumbledore and Harry go to retrieve the locket Horcrux, seem to be a modified version of the Fortress of Solitude out of Superman. The description in the book of the scenes when Dumbledore drinks from the sink, of the astronomy tower when Dumbledore is killed, or when the crowd surrounds Dumbledore’s dead body, are ignored. It is hard to sympathise, or for that matter, to respond emotionally at all to the movie. And, as if that were not enough, Dumbledore’s funeral is not part of the movie.

The acting is definitely a sore point in the movie and had it been better, it could have been a better experience. The choice and presentation of scenes is another disappointment. If anybody’s acting compensates, it is Jim Broadbent’s, who plays the part of Professor Slughorn in the movie. Harry Potter fans can only hope that breaking up the last movie based on book seven into two parts, serves the purpose of making the movie as close to the book as possible.

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.