Thursday, July 16, 2009

The 6 Year Itch

Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince(2009) Directed By David Yates
"How grand it must be to be the chosen one."-Professor SnapeThe phrase, the seven year itch, refers to declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage. In it's 6th incarnation, the HP franchise seems interested in making a change a venue and tone, a bit early. I feel about Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince the way I feel about all of the films in the series, it has immaculate special effects, designed to dazzle, rather than merely explode or move in slow motion, it's score is evocatively composed, and it's ambitious for a children's fantasy film. But also like it's predecessors it feels like a TV mini-series Ive been watching for the better part of a decade. Each film goes like this, Harry comes back to Hogwarts, and things seem slightly more menacing than before, he gets a new toy or magic item, meets a new teacher/student/long lost god-father, and has to slowly unravel a mystery involving these things and his arch enemy, he who will not be named, (who named Lord Voldemort by his enemies, Tom Riddle to his friends), which he will because he is the "chosen one". Harry is lucky enough to be surrounded by a fantastical environment, and plucky sidekicks,(whose relationships, dialogue, and characters are all generally more interesting than Harry), because he suffers from the Super-Man syndrome. Harry Potter, as a character, is a bi-polar caricature; every challenge he is presented with, be it a new sport, new class, new enemy, he can solve, because he is destined too, while in his non-adventure alter ego, he is the bland normal Joe, who can't talk to girls, is picked on by his wicked step-family (who has by this time in the series vanished altogether), and constantly mourning the lose of the parents he never met (Krypton we hardly knew ye), etc, which becomes successively less interesting to watch with each film.This film detours from the formula for the first time, in it's 6th film, and the series finally gets to its second chapter,"Empire Strikes Back" phase, it's so long deferred. This film is different right away because it picks up immediately where the last film ends, just after Harry's godfather Sirius Black had died, instead of one summer later, as is the usual interim between school years. Then we see death eaters (Voldemort's goons), on the lose in the muggle (our normal non-magic world), and suicide bomb (without the self-immolation), the wand shop introduced to us in the first firm, signaling we are not in Kansas anymore, and business will not continue as usual. Although after this, it's pretty much back to business as usual. Harry meets a new teacher, gets a magic book, and his sidekicks are crushing on each other, and he's enamored with his best-friends sister, as A Midsummer Night's Dream love-potion hijinks's ensue, and many a puzzle solved (the film is sadly devoid of some it's staple monsters I regret to say). Like Professor Snape I am increasingly annoyed by Potter mania, and it's many repetitions. Ginny Weasley: [about Harry] "He's covered in blood again. Why is he always covered in blood?"Ron Weasley: "Well it looks like it's his own this time."Meanwhile his other nemesis Draco Malfoy skulks around on pins and needles, looking as if he just finished burrying corpses in a shallow grave, and now expects a flood. Yet innocence still endures, in plucky pixie Luna, who wears funny hats and markets glasses to keep invisible creatures from eating her classmates thoughts; she is the one of the films lightest and thankfully non-dramatic touches, though even a gust of wind is a welcome shot of life, compared to Harry's dull emoting or Duex Ex Machina heroism. I also wished more time would been spent developing more of why, Voldemort is so hell-bent on evil, instead of flashbacks to him as a boy and teen asking cryptic questions and looking creepy. By the end though, at least were left with a feeling that the next edition, "The Deathly Hollows" (split into volumes 1 and 2, in 2010 and 2011 respectively), might further develop into different kinds of films, as rumor has it, they wont even be back at Hogwarts. The series still wants for a theme, death, prejudice, love and growing up, are just things that happen, and aren't very well integrated into the story, by the end of the film for instance though we find out who the half-blood prince is, the name is not explained, though Harry himself is half-muggle and half-uhm-wizard folk.If you liked the rest of the films, you will probably like this one, if you haven't seen them yet, your don't need to rush out to see this one. For my money, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "The Goblet Of Fire" are the best of series, though their highlights are still middle of the road, compared to classical epic franchises, like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Lord Of The Rings. My appreciation for the HP series on a whole deepened a bit, while watching the trailer at the midnight screening I attended (I watched "Limits Of Control" in a theater by myself and this in a room of full kids who screamed at the "Twilight New Moon" trailer, after having been camped out for hours), and looking at the preview of Robert Rodriguez ADD driven "Shorts", it's most admirable that this film can get kids to sit still long enough to appreciate a protracted mystery, even if it's one that no longer surprises. And now a moment of silence for the recently, departed.

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