Only having seen this film one, my thoughts pertaining to it are a blend of reactions. Foremost is the realization that it may be the best movie in the franchise due to its approach to the material, followed by mild disappointment that some subplots were eliminated or only hinted at, as well as sadness because one of the greatest characters in the series dies at the end.
The Half-Blood Prince is a story without an ending, because for the first time we are left without closure in the realization that the greatest battle is yet to come. Walking out, my mother said, “It makes me want to read the books,” which is a testament to the script. Taking a 600 page book and translating it to an under-three-hours-long movie is a challenge and I thought their subtle ways of shortening it were normally quite clever (having Dumbledore meet Harry outside a Cafe, or him just “decide” to walk down to Hagrid’s rather than hearing about Aragog’s death). I also understand their motives in putting an action scene outside the Burrow, but at the same time it rather frustrated me that the scenery had changed. The screenwriter is no Rowling and it is apparent in the weakness of his additions. What were the motives of the Death Eaters in that sequence or where they come to Hogwarts? If you think about it for long you realize there were none, whereas in the book the Death Eaters attempt to overthrow Hogwarts after the death of … uh… someone important. (For the Muggles reading this.)
What I loved most was both the more “adult” approach to the material (the way it is filmed) and that for the first time, we see things transpiring away from Harry… Draco in the Room of Requirement working on the Vanishing Cabinet, McGonagall watching the approach of a storm, Snape alone in his office. It makes the film seem much larger in scope and allows us to “see” certain characters in a different light. Our compassion for Draco is immense because we experience his anguish, but it was Snape that really astounded me. In previous films he has been one-dimensional and a “villain” who storms about frightening children with his nastiness. But here, we experience the nuances of his character, mere glimpses into a personality that for someone who did not know the outcome, or has not read the book, would leave them with the same overwhelming blend of emotions as the readers when they reached the end of book six. I remember that universal cry of, “It cannot be!” followed by months of discussion, of debate — is Snape good or evil? Whose side is he on? What was meant by what transpired?
Somehow, with regard to Snape, this movie got it right where all others failed. I could tell from the reaction of the audience. From the book lovers, there was a horrified silence and from film-fans-only there were astonished and horrified gasps. Brilliant, as was giving Bellatrix more of a prominent role. I know I should not love that demented sociopath, but I do. I thought the introduction of Tom Riddle’s past was done very well, in allowing us to experience the memory with the distraction of Harry or Dumbledore’s presence. Both young actors involved were tremendous — they made chills creep up my spine. I loved some of the cuter moments… Ron’s dazed, lovesick expression, Hermione with her hair all frizzzed in potions class, Lavender Brown drawing a broken heart with her and Ron’s initials in it.
I cannot reach the end of the book without being brokenhearted and sobbing relentlessly. The first time, it was a combination of horror and sadness compounded by the reactions of different characters as they learned the truth. The second time, in the knowledge that this person gave their life for another. The movie made me cry too, but not as strongly, not as powerfully. The loss is depicted, and meaningful, but somehow the book remains superior in that regard. Maybe because it is so abrupt in the film that the audience is not allowed to let it truly sink in. But that is not the film’s fault. What is the film’s fault is the shameful lack of Remus and Tonks, one of the most adorable aspects of the later books (even if it is angst-filled). But then again, her calling him “Sweetheart” in their one appearance did make me smile.
I am somewhat overwhelmed, really… and cannot wait to see it a second time.