19 July 2009

First Impressions: Harry Potter and the Ass-Blood Prince

Wow almost two weeks there without a post damn that slipped away from me, although with no shortage of ideas mind you.

Let me start these impressions by saying firstly that I am by no means a fanatic or even consider myself a fan really of Potter at all. I've read a few pages out of the first book, found that I disliked reading, and haven't picked up another since. Prior to this past week I had seen the Sorcerer's Bone in theaters back in 2001, but other than that had not seen another movie in the franchise the whole way through.

I managed to severely catch up this past week, first with ABC Family Channel's Harry Potter Marathon last weekend (yes, I sat through nearly 11 hours of ABC Family programming and commercials...torture possibly worse than Voldemort's Cave Potion), and filled in the gaps with a few heavy doses of Wikipedia every night since. Also, have not seen O of the P yet, plan to this week, though. So I was feeling pretty confident going into the Ass-Blood Prince last night.

I won't say I was totally blown away, but I was pretty damn impressed. As someone relatively new to the quasi-complicated Pothead world, I felt fairly not-that-lost. The story flowed and a lot of the character actions made sense, which is basically my new standard for a good movie after watching fiascos like Terminator 4 and Transformers 2. That said, here were my first thoughts - Spoilers Abound!!

The weirdest thing about this flick is that the tone was slightly skewed throughout. Scenes tend to wander back and forth between this dire, end-of-magic-world, I guess, -type growing malice and unstoppable evil, and like, petty teen drama. It's really jarring sometimes, but ultimately it's pretty cool to see that these kids are living (or at least trying to) the lives of normal teenagers going through school. They deal with real problems and emotion, which is pretty rad. Against the insanely dangerous background of Hogwartz, though, sometimes it just gets redundant. But as Optimus Prime said, "Destiny rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing." You really get that feeling with some of Harry and Dumbledore's scenes. There's this sense that Harry might not want this "gift" or "fame" that he's been given, but Dumbledore's like "Look son, you ain't got a choice, boy." In as many words.

The idea of students knowing what is going on in their extremely dangerous everyday lives seems especially relevant with one of the most interesting characters, which is Draco Malfoy. He seems to be one of the only ones who consistently knows what is going on, and refuses to play petty drama games, instead being focused on the admittedly ridiculous task handed to him by Voldy, which is to snipe out Dumbledore. He's always got a scowl on his face, so so bitter, Drake. C'mon.

He's cool though in this building opposition he has to Harry. There's consistent dialog of Harry being "The Chosen One" with some great destiny to fulfill. Likewise, Malfoy is eager to be "chosen" by the Dark Lord Voldefart (I promise I'll stop these joke names pretty soon, let me revel in some more immaturity while I can) as someone who is special. Unfortunately, Malfoy pretty much sucks, so it doesn't quite work out.

In each of the films up to this point, it has always been Harry who has either fallen into some outrageous situation or given some task from Dumbledore or other analogous character to fulfill, and he, of course, pulls it off majestically. In HBP, Malfoy is chosen by Voldemort to do such a task as well, but whether from Malfoy's inner goodness and loyalty that he is struggling with (not unlike Snape, which may be a cause for him to take an Unbreakable Vow to protect him), or from sheer ineptitude and cowardice, Malfoy fails. Malfoy is an excellent counter to Harry, he's weak, he cries, he whines. He feels there is some justice he deserves to be given to him based on his family lineage and wealth, while Harry earns his praise and recognition in the Wizarding World through humility and actual talent.

This brings me to another point, can any of you ever imagine having Harry in class with you? You know that one really smart kid who always got all the accolades and everyone knew was going to an Ivy League school or something? Yeah, that dick. Harry is that dick at Hogwartz. You can tell when he perfects the Crawling Death-whatever potion (Of course, this was because he had the textbook of the Half-Blood Prince. Of COURSE HARRY gets the lucky textbook), that every other kid in that class was like "What the hell, Potter gets all the fame AND the best potion in class. Asshole." This makes me tend to identify with Malfoy some more. Why the hell does this nerd prick get all the attention and love. It's really NOT fair in a lot of ways, and this really fuels Malfoy's turn to the dark side. BUT he's got some depth in the fact that a part of him still loves Hogwartz and Dumbledore, you can tell the way he watches Bellatrix Lestrange wreck the eating hall, a little part of him dies, maybe remembering his first meal under the Sorting Hat or whatever. I think Malfoy's character and really, absolutely normal reaction to his perceived arrogance of Potter is the reason to watch this movie.

Harry on the luck potion was awesome. I was busting out when he just had a "feeling" about Hagrid's and it all worked out for him (kind of I guess). It was a well-done piece of writing with a good amount of coincidences that were just un-coincidental enough to be explained with a good pay-off. It kind of reminded me of the Time-Turner from the Prisoner of Asskaban, which was my favourite part of that flick, too. I get the impression that Rowling has a knack for presenting kind of goofy, seemingly stupid shit, that ends up meaning something and having that great payoff. Cheating and reading the ending and synopses of Deathly Swallows (Damn these names are easy to make dirty puns on), indicates that a lot of apparently arbitrary shit works out pretty cool and fulfilling, instead of corny with that groan-worthy moment.

My final major impression on my first viewing was a bit disturbing. After seeing the whole thing, I kind of got the impression that one of the messages of the flick was blindly following someone you kind of trust to be good, even if it's going behind the backs of friends, family, memories, everything. It's a very Machiavellian movie in a lot of ways, a lot of Patriot Act stuff going on here. Harry really, really blindly trusts Dumbledore, stooping low enough to attempt to trick professors/old friends about information, bending rules on Apparition to travel on secret field trips, there is a whole bunch of semi-nefarious shit like that which requires a lot of trust and loyalty given to a dude who seems to keep a shitload of secrets from Harry. The other movies are all like that, though, there's always instances of Harry spying on people, whether through his Invisibility Cloak or Marauder's Map or whatever. How the hell do they let a little kid get away with this stuff? Every arguably "good professor" (ie, Lupin, Mad-Eye, Dumbledore) seems to be pretty okay with letting Harry do just about whatever mischief he wants, somehow just "knowing" that things will work out. I tend to side with Snape a lot in situations like this, I mean, honestly, you're in a huge castle filled with monsters and witches and shit, stop sneaking around, asshole Potter.

Well, that's mostly it I think. Like just about every Potter movie, it's basically the school year rather than something that continually drives towards the main plot (Or Title, the Half-Blood Prince is barely mentioned, but I guess is actually pretty important when you find out who he is at the end), and so has a fair amount of tangents and other generally weird shit that happens instead of continually circling around one driving factor. Either way, I'm pretty pumped to catch up on Order of the Penis as well as both Deathly Swallows when they arrive in the next few years, from what I've heard, it's the best book by far, here's to it being the best flick as well!

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