One of the more depressing parts of growing older is that you find it difficult to perform tasks that once came so easily. Drinking massive amounts of alcohol without significant effect and staying up until the wee hours of the morning are the two examples that first come to mind. So my decision to attend a midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (HP6) was not made lightly. But in the end, my fangirlishness beat the tiny logical section of my brain into submission, and there I was, sitting in a movie theater at 12:00 midnight on Wednesday morning to see the first showing of HP6.
After getting home from work at around 6:30 on Tuesday, I immediately laid down for a nap. When the alarm went off at 8:00, I felt a little groggy and a little confused. I would normally start the winding down for the evening process at this time. But there was Harry Potter to be had, so I jumped out of bed and quickly wolfed down some dinner.
Then it was on to more important tasks. Specifically: cookie making. To add to the celebratory feeling of the evening, I decided to make some sugar cookies in fun Harry Potter shapes. I had mixed the dough and made cookie cutter templates out of cardboard the night before (in the shape of a lightning bolt and Harry's spectacles) and just needed to actually cut and bake the cookies. They turned out very good, if I do say so myself, especially for a low fat sugar cookie recipe. I stuffed a tupperware container full and carried one of my large handbags; if I got searched at the theater I would be totally busted but was hoping no such steps would be taken.
I left to meet up with Chris and Kent at 10:00, and it was a bit surreal to be leaving the house at the time I would normally be hitting the hay, but I was feeling good. After meeting Chris and Kent's creepy roommate, we struck out and began walking to the movie theater, which was basically just across the street.
Along the way we passed a lady smoking a cigarette. Kent in his usual friendly fey manner said "Hello!" to the lady to which she replied, "Fuck you. Bastard." We hurriedly walked away and of course laughed about the incident for the next 6 hours. Because, seriously. What the hell was her problem? Although we should probably be grafeul she didn't stab us or anything.
We arrived at the theater at around 10:30 and joined the already impressive line. We played some card games, ate cookies (which thankfully did not get confiscated) and met up with our friend and fellow Potter-phile, Whitney. The theater opened at around 11:15, and then we just kind of sat there for 45 minutes waiting.
There were of course too many commercials and too many trailers, but at last, around 12:15, the movie started.
(If you want to be spoiler free, stop reading here)
So what did I think? I really liked it. I can't wait to see it again, in fact. As with all the Potter movies, the scenes are so full of small details, that it takes multiple viewings to take it in. The actual direction and cinematography of the film is gorgeous, the camera seems to really inhabit the wizarding world, rather than it seeming the world was created for the camera.
I think overall Order of the Phoenix is still my favorite of the films (because of the big fight scene at the end), but this one was really great. It was much more mature in tone, despite the PG rating, and it seems that as the characters near adulthood they’re making the films less and less whimsical; there is a noticeable lack of moving portraits or shifting staircases, for example. Now Hogwarts is all about dark gothic corridors and secrets. Is that a good thing? I'm not sure. At time it feels like Hogwarts could be a normal private British school, rather than a private magic British school. One of the things I love about the films are the classroom scenes, and other than some potions here and there, we don't get that here.
My only real disappointment was the lack of a real big fight scene at the climax; I guess they are saving all that for Movies 7 & 8 when they have the battle of Hogwarts. This was more of an emotional climax with Dumbledore and Harry in the cave and on the Astronomy Tower. Maybe I was tired, but Dumbledore's death was not as moving as I was expecting; but the cave scene was actually more tense and scary than I had prepared for. The inferii are creepy as hell and Harry forcing Dumbledore to drink the potion seemed like it was lifted right from the book.
Regarding the performances, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe were great; they both get separate comedic scenes that really deliver (the love potion and the Felix Felicious). The chick who played Lavender Brown was hilarious, really spot-on, but the biggest surprise was Tom Felton as Draco. Having to play tortured and brooding can go so wrong so easily, but Tom Felton really sold it.
I was hoping that Alan Rickman might let his Snape break through into more of a mania at the end with the whole "fight back, you coward!" but alas, he was still as stoic as ever. I get that it's his own take on the character, but still, Snape in the book is prone to rages and we haven't seen any of that in the movie Snape. It would have been nice to see him get really worked up. Also, before killing Dumbledore, he sees Harry and hushes him. But this basically telegraphed that he's actually a good guy, right?
The other adults in the movie are around only for a couple minutes, but are always welcome. Jim Broadbent (who I swear, looks totally different in every movie he is in; that guy can totally control his face) was a perfect Slughorn and I just read he's due back for Deathly Hallows, so hurray!
On the whole, I was impressed by how faithful the book was to the movie. Whole lines seemed to have been taken directly from the book, and the things that were changed, made real sense. There's an attack on the burrow that was added (with JKR's approval) but it ups the ante and gives you a sense of the real menace. There's also a small moment with the Gaunt's ring and Riddle's diary that took my breath away with it's awesomeness and hinted at things to come. There was sad lack of Luna and especially Neville, but I am just holding out hope that Neville's big moment in Deathly Hallows is handled well.
Which leads me to the big issue. So much of HP6 is set up for Deathly Hallows. We get some key info and key character development (notably Harry and Ginny--which side note: I loved that Ginny was pursuing Harry as much he was crushing on her), but after the movie ends you want to get on with it! There's another year and a half wait until Deathly Hallows Part I and that's the most disappointing thing about HP6. It doesn't satisfy in the way the other Harry Potter movies have because it isn't really an ending--it's just the beginning of the end.
Overall, I would give it a solid B+. It's my third favorite of the movies (behind Order of the Phoenix and Prisoner of Azkaban), but it might move up in the rankings after multiple viewings. I will say it felt more like a "real" movie than any of the others, meaning it didn't just feel like a Harry Potter film. But I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not. I'll let you know after I see it again on Saturday!
By the way, I was home and in bed at 3:30 in the morning and was feeling fine. If I can prepare myself for being up so late without any problems, maybe my days of binge drinking and no hangover aren't behind me after all!
Then again...maybe they are.