Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.
This week, the series decides to respond to me finally calling myself a fan by dramatically worsening in quality.
First of all, let’s start with the fact that this movie is 2 and a half hours long. I know I address the length every time but I do it for a reason. These movies, even the good ones, are full of filler. This one especially. There is SO MUCH unnecessary in this movie. You typically don’t realize it from these reviews because I tend to skip over needless filler because I like you guys and I don’t want to waste your time. But these movies DO NOT need to be this long.
On to the actual movie:
We open on a direct pickup from the previous film, watching Harry and Dumbledore walk out of the Ministry of Magic after the big fight from last time. I like this a lot. It really does emphasize the intensity of what Harry is now dealing with. At the same time, the Death Eaters have begun public attacks on Muggles.
Again, this is a thing I really like. The Death Eaters are portrayed as straight-up terrorists which makes them a different kind of threat. This should indicate a major escalation of force and scale in the following movie. We also find out that Lucius Malfoy has been arrested for his actions as a Death Eater. Fucking finally.
Harry shows up eating in a train diner.
He hits on a waitress, and it looks like things are actually going pretty darn well for him, but then Dumbledore shows up to whisk him away on a magic mission.
Harry goes with him and the duo appear in a suburban house that someone has been living in as a squatter. Dumbledore investigates a chair in the room and it turns out to be a man in a chair suit.
Meet Professor Horace Slughorn. He has an awesome chair suit and a stupid, stupid name.
THE STUPID NAMES ARE STARTING TO GET TO ME, YOU GUYS.
Turns out Slughorn has been fielding recruitment offers from the Death Eaters which, as we’ve previously discussed, can’t be THAT appealing. Dumbledore offers Sluggy a chance to teach at Hogwarts again, which he turns down, but when Dumbles mentions that Sluggy could get a chance to teach Harry, the aging professor perks up and takes the position as the new potions teacher. Snape will become the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher so something bad’s gonna happen to him in this movie for sure.
Oh and afterwards, Dumbledore acknowledges that Harry was totally about to score with that waitress and that his appearance ruined that. Dick.
Dumbledore brings Harry to the Weasley house, where he meets Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. Who… was already staying there.
Good for Ron and Hermione (yay, Ron) (yay, Hermione). But now that the gang’s all together, it’s time to got to Diagon Alley to visit…
FRED AND GEORGE!
I like Fred and George. It seems like after they fucked up the OWLs gloriously last movie, they’ve opened a joke shop in Diagon Alley. They remain some of my favoritist characters despite their short time in this movie.
While tooling around, Harry and crew discover Draco Malfoy hanging around with some sketchy characters. We also learn that Snape appears to be an official Death Eater. And it looks like his job is to ensure that Draco heads down the same path. Harry suspects something is up, but before he can do anything investigative, it’s off to Hogwarts via train.
On the train, Harry makes use of his invisibility cloak to get close to Draco. However, Draco spots him and paralyzes him, leaving the cloak over his body so the train will take him away from Hogwarts. But there’s still one more person on the train.
Luna is another character I super duper love. Amazing how characters with unique and interesting personalities strike a chord with me over the stock standard ones, huh?
Luna and her magic 3D glasses spot Harry and she frees him. But Harry looks pretty beat up. Luna and Harry arrive on the Hogwarts campus, spotting Ron and Hermione. We get this exchange between the two of them:
“Why is he always covered in blood?”
“At least it’s his own this time.”
There are not words for how much I adore this clip of dialogue. It finally gives us something we’d been missing for a while: characters acknowledging how ridiculous the situation they’re in is! Stuff like this gives our group actual relatability and humanizes them a ton. Which we kinda need. People make jokes, especially when under stress. If your characters just stiff upper lip everything, they seem more like robots than people.
But now its off to Slughorn’s class!
We get introduced to a hyper powerful Love Potion that is considered incredibly dangerous to be around. Hermione mentions that it smells different to each person, and to her it smells of “mowed grass, parchment, and spearmint toothpaste.” Wow, Hermione, list your friggin’ turn-ons, why don’t you? That seems like a thing you should have kept to yourself.
Also, “mowed grass”? The hell?
Harry finds a book locked in the back of a cupboard and notices it’s been inscribed to someone calling themselves “The Half-Blood Prince”.
Wait, hang on, I remember how this works. If I AM LORD VOLDEMORT was an anagram for TOM MARVELO RIDDLE, then I can also use anagrams to figure out who the half-blood prince is.
According to my work, the Half Blood Prince is secretly someone named…
Clipboard Elf Ho N.
Y’know what, I’m sticking by that.
I’m onto you, Elf Ho!
The book contains a bunch of scribbles and notes that make the enclosed potions and spells way more effective than they would be otherwise. Using the book, Harry nails the potion Slughorn is teaching and wins a vial of Liquid Luck, a potion that makes you super duper lucky.
Dumbledore pulls Harry aside and tells him the truth: he believes Slughorn has vital information about Voldemort’s plans that he learned while teaching Tom Riddle. Dumbles wants Harry to get close to Sluggy and earn his trust. Dumbledore shows Harry one of his memories, specifically one of his recruitment of young Tom Riddle.
This scene is literally straight out of an X-Men movie. like, I know Harry Potter is the X-Men for Millennials, but this is just copying.
Hermione asks to check out the Half-Blood Prince’s book but Harry denies her like a dickbasket.
What the fuck, Harry, it’s just a book. Just let Hermione borrow Clipboard Elf Ho N’s book for godsake.
Harry later accuses Malfoy of being a Death Eater with literally no evidence. This is not how… pretty much anything works. You can’t do things like this Harry. Really being a prick this movie, aren’t we?
Next, Ron tries out for the Quidditch team and makes it. Yay, fucking quidditch.
After the Quidditch match, Ron gets a girlfriend named… (checks wikipedia)… Lavender Brown. She seems fine I guess. I prefer her brother Encyclopedia but whatever.
Oh, but Hermione’s all upset because I guess she and Ron weren’t already together like I’d been assuming this whole time?
But you know, Hormones.
Harry and Luna hang out and we learn that Luna sleepwalks which somehow only manages to make me love her more. Harry has a conversation with Lupin (HEY LUPIN!) who is just being kind of a jerk. Yeah, I know his boyfriend just died but my sympathy only goes so far.
The Death Eaters appear and Harry cases them outside, only for them to disappear.
Back at school, Harry tries to find out about Slughorn’s connection to Voldemort by… point blank asking him about his connection to Voldemort. Real subtle, Harry
Ron gets poisoned with a love potion and acts like he’s super high for a while until Slughorn brews up a cure. He gives him some alcohol to balance him out but oops, the drink was poisoned and Ron falls into a seizure.
Ron is hospitalized and Hermione rushes to his side. Lavender shows up, but when Ron sleep-babbles hermione’s name, Lavender gets pissed and dumps him.
Harry confronts Malfoy in the bathroom and they have a magic duel. It goes as you’d expect until Harry hits Draco with a curse from the Half-Blood Prince’s book that seriously fucks him up. Snape stabilizes Malfoy, but Harry has done some damage.
Horrified, Harry and crew decide to hide Clipboard Elf Ho N’s book somewhere where it won’t be found. Ginny and Harry stick it in the room of requirement (hey, remember that?) and they share their first kiss.
Harry decides to use the Liquid Luck potion to try to get information out of Slughorn. He downs it and instantly becomes a fun, enjoyable character to watch who isn’t consumed by broody hormones. He finds Slughorn with Hagrid, who is standing by… the body of that giant spider from Chamber of Secrets.
WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY, WHAT A WONDROUS OCCASION, THE GIANT SPIDER IS DEAD!!!!!
Seriously, fuck that thing.
Then we get a spider funeral.
This is dumb.
The trio head back to Hagrid’s hut, where they engage in a drunken singalong that is in no way as good as the drunken singalong from Jaws. Slughorn finally agrees to show Harry his memory of talking to Tom Riddle. The memory shows Riddle planning on using a magical process called Horcrux creation. The process allows one to implant bits of their soul in physical items. This prevents the magic user from ever truly dying as long as the Horcruxes are still around. However, you have to kill someone in order to perform the process. Riddle asks if it would be possible to make seven.
Why seven, specifically, you ask? Well, it’s because… uh…
So Harry brings this information to Dumbledore who figures out that two horcruxes have already been found and destroyed. Those being Voldemort’s mom’s ring and Tom Riddle’s diary from Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore says that he’s found the site of another Horcrux, but he needs Harry’s help to deal with it.
So it’s off to a cave to do just that. A cave that is literally Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
In the center of the room is a vat of potion. Dumbledore insists that the only way to get the Horcrux is to drink all of the potion.
Why would you assume that?
If all you have to do is get rid of the potion, then just evaporate that shit. Or transmute it into some other liquid. Or whatever. You don’t gotta drink it.
But Dumbledore drinks it all like a big boy and Harry retrieves the Horcrux at the bottom of the basin. And then zombies attack. I’m sure they have some sort of Harry Potter name, and aren’t actually called zombies, but I don’t actually care, they are zombies.
Harry gets overwhelmed, but Dumbledore uses some badass fire magic to wreck havoc and clear out the room. Horcrux in tow, he and Harry head back to Hogwarts.
But when they arrive, Harry has to hide as Draco shows up. Draco blasts away Dumbledore’s wand and reveals his brand new Dark Mark. Turns out his mission was to kill Dumbledore and arise to a new level of evil.
Draco fights through the personal struggle of…
Ok, I’m not pretending like I feel anything right now. You know how I giddily get excited whenever characters like Fred, George, Luna, and Lupin show up? Yeah, it’s because those are actual fleshed out characters who I care about. Draco Malfoy is not one of those. He’s barely appeared in any of the previous films and when he has, it’s only been in the capacity of stock bully character.
And yes, I totally get that in the books, Draco is probably a fully realized character. I am not reading the books. I am not reviewing the books. I am reviewing the movies. And the movies do not make Draco interesting or easy to care about.
So Draco can’t go through with killing Dumbledore, but Snape shows up and does it for him.
A: this is some Obi-Wan “you can kill me but it’ll just show how evil you are” shit right? Like, Dumbledore is letting this happen? Because he just called down a hellfire rain to wipe out a zombie hoard, I find it hard to believe he couldn’t find a way out of this one.
and B: … oh boy, this isn’t gonna be fun.
Hey, so, remember all that stuff I just said about Draco and how he wasn’t a realized enough character for me to give a shit about him. Yeah, I , uh, I kinda feel the same way about Dumbledore.
Look, last movie featured Sirius Black’s death, which actually affected me in a way this didn’t. But that’s because of what Sirius was. Sirius was a character who I was always excited to see. He debuted in a movie that really knew how to endear you to its characters and all his following appearances were full of personality. I never really got anything out of Dumbledore other than “wise old professor”. No real humanity, or relatability, or even appeal. Dumbledore’s appearances never really got me to care about more than the plot being delivered by him. I miss Sirius’s appearances. I won’t really notice the lack of Dumbledore’s.
I will miss calling him Dumbles, though.
So Harry chases after Snape and the Death Eaters and tries to blast Snape with the curse from the Half-Blood Prince’s book. Snape deflects it and reveals that he already knew the curse because…
wait for it…
HE is the Half-Blood Prince!
Damn you, Clipboard Elf Ho N!!!!!!
So Snape is the Half-Blood Prince, huh?
I know this is a text based medium, so you can’t see that I just shrugged, but I did. Because who cares? The HBP’s book was so unimportant to the plot that I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all in this review if the movie wasn’t fucking named after it. And the identity of the Prince is EVEN LESS IMPORTANT.
We are given so little info about him. What is he the prince of? I can guess at what Half-blood means, but it woulda been nice to be told. What does it MEAN to be the Half-Blood Prince?
WHY IS ANY OF THIS IMPORTANT?!
Snape leaves and Harry heads back to campus. He runs down into the courtyard to find Dumbledore’s body which– fucking bullshit, he fell like thirty stories, his corpse would not be that intact.
Man, Dumbledore’s dead. Wouldn’t it be great if one of our main cast had a device to TURN BACK TIME and stop this from happening? You know, some kind of TIME TURNER? Too bad one of those doesn’t seem to exist.
Harry gets the Horcrux off Dumbledore, but discovers it is a fake. Turns out the real one has been taken to be destroyed by someone with the initials R.A.B. Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to head off immediately to go find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes so they can beat Voldemort once and for all.
Ok, so right after the movie that made me start calling myself a fan comes the first one of these movies I actively dislike. The climax falls absolutely flat, it’s full of filler, it tosses out most of the characters the last movie did such a great job of building up and it’s overall incredibly boring.
It covers some necessary plot stuff and has a couple really solid character moments but it feels like if you cut this movie down to just the actually important bits, it’d be fifteen minutes long. I’d been told that this one sucked because of all the angst and relationship drama, but that isn’t true. It sucks because it flails all over the place with no idea of what it wants to be.
The other movies all have their own distinct identities. Philosopher’s Stone is a kids movie, Chamber of Secrets is a mystery, Order of the Phoenix is a boarding school drama. This one is… I honestly don’t fucking know. It’s a mess, is what it is.
Fucking spider funeral.
Ok, we are about to enter the big two part finale and I really have high hopes but lowered expectations. I wanna like these movies. Hopefully they soon get back to being the kind of thing I like.