View Full Version : For people waiting for the Harry Potter 6 movie to come out(test screening review)

Sep 7th, 2008, 11:45 PM
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A test screening experience and review by Eric Scull

~~~~SPOILER WARNING!~~~~ The review below includes mild spoilers for the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Read at your own discretion, but consider yourself forewarned.

First, let me explain that what we saw was a pre-release test screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – the first one, apparently, which is always held in Chicago stemming back to the days of the first two films. There were, if I had to guess, I’d say 300 people who made it, and none of the people I talked to knew what we were going to see beforehand. All we had been told was that the movie was expected to be rated PG-13, no video or audio recording devices were in any way allowed (they confiscated our phones) and the purpose of the screening was to obtain feedback from the diverse audience prior to the film’s actual release. Rather standard, I’m sure.

While sitting in the theatre all we could do was speculate what the movie would be. We were completely unsure, until something happened that made me look twice. David Heyman entered the auditorium and started talking to an associate. Although I hadn’t met him in person before, I’d seen him in enough interviews that, once I saw him, my furthest hopes came to mind. Sure enough, the lights dimmed, and it was announced that we were going to be seeing a rough cut version, not fully completed but generally in tact, of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Onward to the movie.

We knew they had filmed a bridge collapse scene which in the book was mentioned during the first chapter, “The Other Minister.” This makes for a great opening sequence and, although we don’t meet the Muggle Prime Minister, we get to see the disaster happen from the Muggle perspective. Actually it’s from both Muggle and a wizarding perspective that we see what happens – a really cool trick which you can do with film. It’s pulled off quite nicely. Already I like the style and care that is put in to characterizing people in this world who we don’t even meet.

The Dursleys are not in this film, but that information was also already available. Instead, we find Harry waiting for Dumbledore, and I won’t say where except to say that they’ve constructed a scene which I think works well. The movie has already given a couple of seconds to reflect quickly on the horrors of Harry’s previous year, and we are ready as moviegoers to watch Harry pick up the journey and go further from there.

Harry and Dumbledore Side-Along Apparate (the special effect, which appeared to be completed, was perfect in matching the canon description of the act) to the village where Slughorn is staying, and one of my largest concerns for the movie was getting to see Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn. Don’t worry. Throughout the movie, I was continuously impressed with how they adapted the character to the film, and to say that he does reflect my Slughorn from the books satisfactorily, with a little extra, is true. The scene where they meet Slughorn is surprisingly close to the events of the book, as is most of this movie, actually. I was surprised and delighted to see Couch-Slughorn put to film.

The events of “Spinner’s End” take place also in the beginning of the film. We’ve received a promo picture of Alan Rickman’s Snape and Helen McCrory’s Narcissa doing the Unbreakable Vow, and that’s why - it’s in the movie. Alan Rickman looks good. They’ve tailored his Snape suit and he’s got nicer hair, the full main villain treatment I suspect. The scene is compellingly acted and doesn’t feel out of place with the many events of the start of the film.

And thus, the movie continues. With the initial story-setting behind them, although it didn’t feel rushed at all, we are taken to the Burrow. Here is where I’ll speed up the review.

A lot of the things people seemed to dislike about the fifth HP film, such as vast amounts of time passing in visually appealing yet otherwise disappointing montages, does not happen in this. The film maintains its director’s neat visuals, however. Right from the initial Burrow scene, it is clear that Mr. Yates has not lost his creative edge and rather moved on to do different and wonderful things with the camera.

The entire movie seems to keep its pace, and I think one of the things that has helped the filmmakers is a clear-cut set of events spread almost evenly throughout the year in the book. There’s not too much stuff going on, rather just enough things at significant enough times of year so that they can document the full year without it feeling rushed. Again I mention the closeness of the movie to the book particularly. Some scenes are almost verbatim, but the ones that aren’t serve to really enhance the movie’s impact and its ability to stand alone as a film.

All of my concerns about Bonnie Wright as Ginny were washed away in her first scene. Book Six has either too much snogging or too much Voldemort – neither of which I complained about and both which I rather enjoyed – but this movie completely balances the two quite nicely. It seems effortless almost. But there are really dark scenes and then there are very fun scenes. If you know the characters from having read the books, I think you’ll get more out of the movie than those who haven’t and that’s surprising to me. For the first time, it seems, the filmmakers have made a movie which is REALLY true to the characters of the book and almost not afraid to leave newcomers with the shorter stick.

Also important to mention is that this movie is in NO way, at all, in any shape or form, a children’s movie. I’ve said that before regarding the Potters, but this time it couldn’t be truer. Everything about this movie screams serious intensity, like the Katie Bell necklace scene, and it makes me so happy that they could make such an intense movie, because it gives me real hope for the adaptations of the seventh book. But I think you should think twice before bringing your kid brother to see it.

Such effort is spent on the characters of the trio throughout the course of the movie. In fact, Emma Watson’s never been better. There’s a moment in this movie where I almost screamed “THAT’s my book Hermione!” which hadn’t happened to me since the first movie. Similarly Rupert has had some REAL fun scenes to play with in this film. The Lavender subplot is hilarious and, surprisingly, not annoying at all. And oh, what a joy it is to see Quidditch back!

The movie focuses on the trio perhaps more than ever, but the surrounding characters are well portrayed. Matthew Lewis as Neville again has a small amount of screen time, but we all know how awesome his role is going to be in the next movie. Even in scenes where the characters we all know by now aren’t featured or speaking, their characters show through. That’s no doubt due to improved acting all around, and a seriously commendable tolerance for their bit parts. They do the characters well. Evanna Lynch’s Luna gets perhaps equal screen time as she did in the last movie, and many things from her character in the books are brought to screen and fun to see.

Also commendable is the new casting. Cormac McClaggen’s character and Lavender Brown’s really help to push the school side of the plot throughout the film. The movie almost relies on their convincing roles at times because it’s easier to forget that we’re in school with how dark and mysterious everything else is that’s going on.

There are many scenes with Draco. I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned him yet. From early on, Tom Felton has a lot to work with in this movie and it’s very pleasant to see him get to play his character for a good amount of time. The movie is sympathetic – the story focuses on his plight as a subplot, and we’ll often see him lurking around the castle in the backgrounds of other scenes. We’re being “reminded” that he’s got his mission, without being told everything.

Michael Gambon, in this movie, has finally satisfied me. He has the right inflection of the lines which is necessary for Dumbledore, and altogether seems to be really with it. The climax of the film is very wonderfully done, and throughout the film you are able to embrace his Dumbledore quite nicely.

Another great thing about this film is the reappearance of the little things. Tom Riddle’s diary, from Chamber of Secrets, and The Marauder’s Map, for instance. It’s the little things that add continuity from previous films which I’m a stickler for. Also, the twins! While I realize they’re not props, by far my FAVORITE scene in the movie is the one that takes place at Weasley’s Whizarding Wheezes! It’s so good to see them after the initial subdued opening of the film and their scene, while about five minutes long, is the best. The filmmakers simply couldn’t leave it out – and it does well to show that some people in the wizarding world are able to break through all the fear going on out there. Diagon Alley is otherwise almost completely empty – Ollivander’s shop is empty. Can you believe they mention it? They do. They even have time to walk inside and feel sad.

Next to mention are the Pensieve scenes. It’s been confirmed that there are a lot fewer in the movie than there are in the book. I didn’t have a problem with scenes cut from Movie Five, and I have even less of a problem with them not being included in Six. What the filmmakers have done is meticulously crafted a movie to portray the events that happen in the book and to tell a really compelling story which includes all the most adaptable parts they could to fit the time frame. Would I have liked to have seen The Gaunts? Maybe. But that’s easily a ten to fifteen minute scene which has little to do with the actual path ahead of Harry. There are some things which I’m proud that I can just read them in the book and they’ll always be there, so well done, without a film adaptation.

There are only two Pensieve scenes included. The scene from the teaser trailer, Young Tom Riddle in the orphanage, and the scene in Slughorn’s classroom both shortened and elongated just like in the book where we learn about Horcruxes. These three journeys into the Pensieve are so well-placed in the film and the film doesn’t feel short of them. Nor is there too much snogging. Overall, once more, a great balance between.

The cave scene at the end of the book could have been messed up so badly in the film, but it’s not. It’s amazing. It’s exactly what I imagined and conveys amazing emotional impact. The special features are great. Watching Harry force-feed Dumbledore is just as raw and scary as it was in the book. Dan Radcliffe’s acting all throughout is top-notch.

I forgot to mention the Half-Blood Prince subplot. With so many subplots, it’s a wonder how they all fit into the movie so well, but they do! They weren’t cut! And Slug Club scenes, oh yes, there are a few. And Quidditch, as mentioned. So much is back I am overwhelmed with how much of each that I didn’t think we’d see.

Finally, the climax. It, too, is adapted very well. There is such emotion behind it and, when the score is completed, I’m sure it will be one of the defining moments of the series. I liked watching it much, much better than Sirius’ death scene. There was a funny moment for me at the Burrow with Lupin and Tonks and Mr. Weasley in the room when I thought, “Hey wait a minute, where’s Gary Oldman?” Dumbledore’s death will stick.

The movie score, although we did hear an un-finalized version, was great. They have used some recurring themes, including several from the Prisoner of Azkaban film! I was very in awe to hear the tune to “Something Wicked This Way Comes” set to book six events - so ominous and truly perfect. I have full faith that, when completed, it will be wonderful.

After the movie I introduced myself to David Heyman. Not only was he there, but so was Alan Horn, president of Warner Bros. And David Yates, the director, David Barnes the co-producer, and Mark Day the film editor! They all sat for a twenty minute “focus group” afterwards which I did not attend, and when they came out I spoke with them at length about the film and how I felt it was a big success.

I wrote this review so that I could express to everyone how worth the wait this movie is going to be. I know it’s been delayed and I know that stinks. But they’re going to use the time they now have, screen it some more, and a better movie will be made as a result of it, I am completely convinced. I can’t wait to see proper movie trailers, a movie poster, and all of that because my worries are completely gone. I am sure that the movie I saw is not the final film and once the CGI is completed and feedback considered, there will be plenty more to make it a completely different experience.

Seeing it is still a bit of a blur, but hopefully this helps the wait, and to assure you that the people who are making the movie have the fans’ concerns at heart. We all took surveys which begged us to be as specific as possible about what we did and didn’t like, who our favourite characters were, questions about the pace of the film and all of that. This movie is going to be the best one yet. They have the time and the will-power to make it so.

Sep 8th, 2008, 12:20 AM
Sounds good.

You should have punched Horn in the face though. Greedy asshole.