Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Drama of Harry Potter

Steve Kloves' screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the most streamlined film in the series yet. So streamlined, that much of the spectacle has been exorcised to make room for the complicated interrelationships of the central characters. Director David Yates demonstrates a fine grasp of nuance and tension but eventually the film begins to wear thin, culminating in a limp climax that is too little too late. Still, it's fun to witness the shifting politics of Hogwarts on the big screen. Equally fun are the scenes in which Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ron's sister Ginny get their "snog" on, wizard-style, but the real pleasure of reading the book was the central relationship between Harry and Dumbledore and to this end, unfortunately, the newest film does not deliver. In the book, Dumbledore assumes the role of a father to Harry, but we don't know why and the mystery behind his actions fills the story with a sense urgency. In the movie, they don't have enough screen time together to generate the same tension. As a result, the would-be harrowing climax (which I will not disclose) feels rushed and does not leave us with any of the lingering impact of the book. In the end the latest Potter is efficient, subtle and well-detailed, but more memorable for its smaller moments than its big ones.

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