Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: For Fans Only

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

By George Kane

Head shot of George, smiling in jacket and tie.

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Whenever possible I select for the fourth Wednesday Reel and Meal a movie of particular interest to the atheist community.  A few years ago, Christian parents were objecting to the Harry Potter books for glorifying the occult, and demanding that they be removed from school libraries, and lead actor Daniel Radcliffe has recently revealed that he is an atheist.  So when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came to Lagoon Cinema in July, it was a natural selection.  Ten of us turned out for the movie, after most of us enjoyed dinner across the street at Uptown Drink.

If you have read all of the Harry Potter books, or even seen Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I suggest that you stop reading this review now.  I have never read any of the Harry Potter books, but I very much enjoyed the first four movies on television.  I have not seen the fifth movie, which has not yet been on television, but I thought I knew what to expect from Half-Blood Prince – imaginative fantasy, dazzling special effects, memorable magical characters and fast-paced action. While this sixth movie did a creditable job on these counts, it failed as a mystery.  Perhaps ‘mystery’ is a misnomer. More properly it should be called befuddling, as this movie was made only for Potter fans that have read the books, or at least seen the last movie.

I was confused from the opening scene, a foreboding black-and-white montage of a bloody-faced Harry being led by Dumbledore away from paparazzi taking a barrage of flash photos. I presume that this was a flashback to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This was followed immediately by black-clad villains careening through the air at fantastic speeds, trailing black smoke behind them. Who were they? What was the shop they attacked?  Whom did they capture?

While the movie never answered these questions, it was at least obvious that they were villains.  Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy, known to the audience since the first Potter film, completed the cast of agents of the Dark Lord, Voldemort, who does not appear in the movie. My only question on this score is how Dumbledore could be so blind to the villainy of Snape and Malfoy that he permitted them both to stay at Hogwarts Academy.

It was even remarked that Draco must be a “death eater,” because both of his parents were “death eaters.”  Unless I missed it, there was never an explanation anywhere in the movie of what death-eaters are (but it doesn’t sound good).

Several mysteries drive the plot.  What memory of Tom Riddle, the young Voldemort, was Horace Slughorn hiding?  What is the Dark Lord’s plan?  What is the deed for which he has selected Draco Malfoy, for which Severus Snapes takes an unbreakable oath to complete if Malfoy fails?  Why are wizards disappearing, and why was Ron Weasely’s home attacked by the riders on black smoke?

As well as I’ve been able to piece together the answers to these questions, there is hardly enough substance to justify the mystery or to sustain the plot.  Horace Slughorn told Tom Riddle the magic of the horcrux, which could make one immortal.  But why did Harry have to spend most of the movie plying Professor Slughorn, when Dumbledore must have known about horcruxes? After all, he had previously traveled away from Hogwarts looking for one before Slughorn spilled the beans.  The deed for which Voldemort had selected Draco was the murder of Dumbledore, but I wonder, considering the movie’s end, why that should be very hard.

The concluding scene sets the stage for the final movie, with Harry announcing that he is leaving Hogwarts to pursue the Dark Lord, and Hermione vowing that she and Ron will join him, as they are an inseparable team.  But that only made me wonder, what help had they really provided to Harry in this movie?

Often during the movie I had no idea of the significance of any scene as it played out, or its relevance to the plot.  When I did think I had figured something out, it seemed trivial.  I’m sure that a true J. K. Rowling aficionado, who has read all of the books, will have ready answers to the questions that perplexed me.  But in my old-school opinion, a movie should stand on its own.

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