If anything, I think I was far too kind in my original review of Half-Blood Prince. This remains my least favorite movie of the franchise, and I think in many ways, it’s rather insulting to the series as a whole.
[This post contains spoilers for the sixth book and movie.]
It might still be my least favorite book as well, though I have read it more recently than Order of the Phoenix, so I kind of feel I might like it more than the fifth book — recency bias, I don’t know. But as the second-to-last book in the series, HBP basically only needs to get one thing right: prepare Harry for the last book, for the final confrontation, and for the end of it all. The movie fails spectacularly at this singular quest, and everything else falls apart because of that. I wasn’t just overcritical the first time because I’d reread the book the month prior.
Hilariously, despite not dedicating any time to the whole “Dumbledore teaching Harry about Voldemort” and “helping him understand his enemy so that he may defeat him” thing, it really felt as if director David Yates was desperate for more material to fill the movie. We hadn’t had a Quidditch match in two movies because they simply weren’t important — we had death and trauma to fill the minutes. No time for silly sports! But here! Here with the Dark Lord’s official return, as acknowledged by the Ministry of Magic — here we have time again for another Quidditch match! And for what purpose? So Ron can grow an inflated head. So Hermione can hex McLaggan for him. So Lavender Brown can be an over-the-top, lovestruck drama device. I’m glad we have our priorities straight.
We also totally had time for the movie-only Death Eaters destroy the Burrow scene. Someone please tell me what the point of that scene was. No, seriously. Please enlighten me. Did it teach Harry anything he didn’t already know? Did it teach the audience anything it didn’t already know? Did it provide any character progression other than awkward and rushed Harry/Ginny moments? Did the Burrow even stay destroyed? (No! It’s back again for Bill and Fleur’s wedding in Deathly Hallows part 1 with absolutely no acknowledgement that it was ever destroyed.) It wasn’t even visually impressive! So why was it there? Why was it there when Yates couldn’t bother slipping in a two-second sentence where Dumbledore explains that Voldemort likes to collect trophies from his enemies, things of value, things to make into Horcruxes? #whywhywhy
It’s a wonder I managed to be so tame when I described Michael Gambon’s portrayal of Dumbledore prior to these rewatches — it was probably because I had about eighteen months between each movie originally; that’s plenty of time to forget just how awful he was last time. But trucking through all of these movies in the last month or so… I really have nothing nice to say about Gambon’s Dumbledore. He is not Dumbledore. His face and his voice never change. He is always this severe, over-serious, cheerless old man. He does not seem to respect anyone, least of all Harry, and is a contradiction of almost everything Dumbledore is supposed to be, and I vehemently reject him. Having not seen any other movies with Gambon, I can’t say for sure whether he’s a terrible actor in general, or just a terrible Dumbledore, but being a terrible Dumbledore is crime enough as it is. I’m glad this is the last movie I had to watch him in.
I’m also not sure why I offered any praise for Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy in my original review. Felton still plays a terribly stereotypical villain and has the facial range of a Figma or Nendoroid figure — if even. He is always angry. It’s either snotty/arrogant-angry, or it’s scared-angry. That’s about it. Sure, Malfoy walks around with a spotlight on him the entire movie (seriously, was there a reason he was wearing a fancy jacket suit the whole time? Was it part of his supervillain initiation requirements?), and he’s put in situations requiring a slightly different set of actions than in the last five movies, but he really just fills the bare minimum requirements. It is, perhaps, Felton’s good fortune that Malfoy was never a very interesting character anyway.
The only redeeming factors lay in various scenes with Harry, where Dan Radcliffe tries to make up for some of his colleagues’ poor acting. After some unevenness in emotion in movies four and five, Radcliffe seems to settle back into his character. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are, for the most part, entertaining to watch as well, even if they prove to be 100% useless as supporting characters. (Really, when was the last time Ron did anything worth mentioning? He played a chess game at age eleven and it’s been downhill since then.) Evanna Lynch remains a most charming Luna, and Jim Broadbent does a great job with Slughorn.
Beyond that, there isn’t much else I haven’t already said. I hated this movie the first time. I expected to hate it less this time because time has passed and I have resigned to many things just being the way they are — but nope. I still hate this movie, and I am still pretty disgusted at how it managed to fail in its one Important task.
This film has no backbone. There is no clearly stated goal (there hasn’t been in most of them, honestly, but at this point, you can just about see the shining white line leading you to the final battle, and there needs to be focus), and the story wanders. We go from accusations of attempted murder to “Hermione’s got nice skin.” And I never got the impression that the Horcruxes were terribly important, despite Dumbledore dying for them. After all, in that last conversation about them, even Hermione interjects, “Ron’s okay with it, by the way — with you and Ginny.” Yes, we sure do have our priorities straight.