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Harry Potter and the Summary of Action
I truly got lucky. After Summer Weapons Retreat, while esrblog and I were still in Michigan, I managed to instigate an expedition with a subset of my out-of-town friends to see "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the movie version of book 6 and the latest Harry Potter film to hit the theaters.

I enjoyed the film, with some reservations that I can't explain without venturing pretty deep into SpoilerLand. I can say three things without spewing spoilers:

* The casting continues to be superb.
* Director Yates continues to film in what a famous film critic has aptly described as a palette of "lead and sepia".
* Yates's approach to this movie gives us a vital clue as to how he is likely to film the two remaining movies (i.e., the two movies we've been told will be made from Book 7).

Most of the reviewers, and a lot of the friends I've talked with about the movie, have come to the same conclusion; Half-Blood Prince isn't really a full movie. A lot of the story lines of the book--the process by which Harry decides to use, and ultimately share, the bottle of luck potion he wins in Potions Class--are cut, though there is blessedly little in the movie that was out-and-out invented, as best as I could recall from having read the book several years ago.

It occurred to me, after I'd finished watching the movie, that I suddenly understood what Yates's formula for the Harry Potter movies he is making is.

Yates has decided not to treat the individual books as separate stories at all. He is treating the series, particularly numbers 5, 6, 7 (part 1) and 7 (part 2) as movies that combine to tell a single, continuing story--the story of how Harry and his friends discover and destroy, first the Horcruxes, and then Voldemort himself.

This hypothesis explains, at least to me, one of the more annoying decisions Yates made in the movie versions of "Order of the Phoenix." As I wrote in my review of that movie, I thought that Yates rearranged material in the final climactic fight at the Department of Mysteries section of the Ministry of Magic that undermined one of Rowling's major themes for the series--how our young heroes are forced to step up and fight for their lives, and for what they believe is right, even before they reach adult age.

But Yates hasn't really cut that theme out. He merely shortened it up and moved it--to the scene he puts in "Half-Blood Prince," showing Ginny, Harry, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in the cornfield near the Weasley home, backs together, wands at the ready--prepared to defend themselves and their loved ones from Death Eaters. This scene, which physically mirrors some of the dueling scenes in the fifth movie, *does* emphasize the "assuming adult respondibility" theme--even if it does so in a stylized manner Rowling could eschew because she had the luxury of extending the story by many extra pages.

I understand and respect Yates's choice, though I regret it, because in my opinion it cuts out just about every scene that made the book version of "Half-Blood Prince" fun to read, such as Hermione's sleuthing to attempt to help Harry discover who the "Half-Blood Prince" is. On the other hand, he has been forced to add short bits to make sure the audience "gets" certain character developments that are necessary to appreciate the uberstory's ultimate denouement. Thus, Snape does *not* snarl and threaten Harry when Harry catches up to him after the killing of Dumbledore (as he did in the book). We also see Snape almost tenderly healing Draco's wounds after the bathroom dueling scene in which Harry uses the "sectumsempra" curse. Both of these are, clearly, paving the way for the big voyage into Snape's memories (which Rowling split up into the last two books) that will finally reveal Snape's true motivations.

On the other hand, most of the scenes that Yates *does* keep from HBP are fully realized and beautifully done. The session in Slughorn's first Potions class where Harry wins the luck potion is priceless, as are the subsequent scenes with Slughorn, and the memory views of Tom Riddle as a Hogwarts student are chilling.

If one accepts the hypothesis that Yates isn't really trying to make the remaining movies into independent stories, his handling of "Half-Blood Prince" suddenly makes much more sense. He is giving us the scenes, and *only* the scenes, that are necessary to comprehend the key points in the search for the Horcruxes and the death of Voldemort. If he can work some of Rowling's themes into those key scenes, he likely will (in the same offhand way he worked the responsibility theme from book 5 belatedly into movie 6), but he won't add a scene if it is not essential to the Horcrux/Voldemort plot.

Based on my theory, I predict (for example):

* That most of the exposition about the origins of the Deathly Hallows will be cut, and the whole very much shortened (I doubt he'll bother to account for what becomes of all of the Hallows, for example);

* That Yates will likely cut the scene in the Ministry of Magic where our heroes go undercover;

* That Yates likely will *not* cut the scene where our heroes break into Gringotts;

* That we will learn all we're ever going to learn about Grindelwald in Yates's version of the last conversation Harry has with Dumbledore, while the two of them are (arguably) both in the Great Beyond;

* That the final battle at Hogwarts will be greatly condensed and most of what we'll get to see is Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort. (I really regret this one, because Molly Weasley's duel with Bellatrix LeStrange is one of my favorite bits from the last book.)

Yates *might* cut the Epilogue scene, but I doubt it; it's short but conveys a lot of information--and that seems to be Yates's preferred style.

Overall, I'm content with Yates's approach. Rowling devoted what has to be nearly 7,000 pages to Harry's tale; getting the rudiments into even 8 movies will be a stretch. If the price for that is that the movies do not really stand alone as independent stories, I'm willing to live with that.

EDIT: I moved some paragraphs around in the interest of organization but have not really changed the content of the above.

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I have to admit that my only real beef about this latest film -
besides the dull colors (Yes, even tho' I understand fully why
he's using them, I have to say "OKAY, OKAY, WE GET IT, WE
NORMAL") - is that he sort of just threw the Harry/Ginny thing
at everyone. And this could be the fault of the dreadful writer
they had for the last movie (notice they are not using him
anymore?). Of course, J.K. Rowling did most of her hinting in
"code", and it was only the uber-geeks who got it early on (I
have to ask if you;ve ever gotten wind of the Harry/Hermione
fanatics - they're almost as funny as the Harry/Draco dweebs...).
But, for a movie, there should have been some hinting.
Preferably in the previous movie. But that was such a bust, I
should know better than to even mention it...

Re: More spoilery things.

I have to admit that my only real beef about this latest film -
... is that he sort of just threw the Harry/Ginny thing at everyone.

He sort of had to; movie 6 is just about the last place he could do that and have some of the action in the book 7 movies make any sense. That further supports my theory; if he has to show a scene or add a theme in order to film the Quest Against Voldemort adequately, he will; otherwise, it goes under the bus. (Though my recollection is that Rowling doesn't make much of a deal of Harry's burgeoning relationship before book 5, and the book 5 hints are pretty subtle. The stuff in book 4 can be read as normal teen dating and experimentation, and not as a sign that they will necessarily end up as a pair.)

And this could be the fault of the dreadful writer they had for the last movie (notice they are not using him anymore?)

I didn't notice, but you may well be right that losing the last writer is the reason for the change. (Though come to think of it, movie 5 was kind of short on dialogue... in general. The best parts of it were images, not words.)

(I have to ask if you;ve ever gotten wind of the Harry/Hermione
fanatics - they're almost as funny as the Harry/Draco dweebs...).

No. I don't do fan fic; life's too short to start wading through swamps of mediocre to bad writing in search of pearls unless you're getting paid to do so.

Re: More spoilery things.

There was a really huge "hammer-to-head" moment in
the second book where Gunny informs Harry that he
should have consulted her about being possessed by
Voldemort because she's the one who knew what it
was like. That was the moment most people realized
the two of them were supposed to be together.

Re: More spoilery things.

... That was the moment most people realized the two of them were supposed to be together.

I have no basis for either disbelieving or believing this statement. All I can say is that I didn't see them as a pair that early.

Commenting without reading spoilerage since we're seeing it tomorrow in IMAX, but I was wondering if you guys we going to be around Aug 11th and willing/able to meet up for a late lunch/early dinner in/near Philly?

We will be in our home area on August 11, but that's a Tuesday; esrblog would have to come into Philly by train, and I would likely be downtown without my car (unless I made special plans) because I commute by train. So whether we could work out a meeting would depend on exactly where/when you're likely to be and what transport you have available to you as well.

Yep, it's a Tuesday. We're driving through Philly on our way from DC to Boston. I'm not sure where we are stopping yet, though. I imagine that will have more to do with what's convenient for the people we'd like to see in Philly. I'm trying to work that out, now, which is difficult since I don't know squat about Philly, heh.

Google Maps is your friend. :-)

It is, but it's hard to trust random people's restaurant reviews. Alternately, we'll be heading back through Philly, on our way back to Florida. Our current itinerary has us leaving Niagara Falls (and possibly going through Albany) on the 20th. It's harder to plan that far out, right now, because it's impossible to know what problems we might encounter before then.

In any case, we'll be headed back through Philly a week plus later, if that would work better. I think I'm just going to email you guys, my other Philly friends, and my friend in Albany to see what I can arrange. I want to see everyone I can, since I have no idea where I will be living by this time next year. It is not inconceivable that might be overseas and quite likely that we'll have kids too boot by that point in time.

In any case, we'll be headed back through Philly a week plus later, if that would work better.

There's nothing wrong with August (after we get back from World BoardGaming Championships on August 9), but my doing anything social in the middle of a work week is always challenging, and since Eric doesn't drive mid-week evening socializing is a problem for him too. It may be better if you just call us when you actually make it in the area and we can attempt to plan on the fly over the phone.

I sent you, though lj, a copy of the email I tried to send to you.

Either way, it's likely to be a Tuesday or Thursday. However, since we will likely be through Philly twice, we could always head out to Malvern on the evening of the 20th, assuming Eddy and Vi are better off with the 11th. If you both would rather see us on the 20th, we can probably still manage to see everyone that evening at their own respective homes, since our time line on the way home is considerably more flexible.

I know I had numbers for you guys once upon a time but I can't find them in my contacts list on my phone or in my gmail inbox. It's probably user error, as my husband handed me a glass of wine a little bit ago. Still, it might be a good notion to email me (as in my username here and everywhere else) at gmail with them all the same and I'll follow your suggestion to call en route/on arrival.

The 20th is probably better for us.

If you're heading from Philly to DC, though, Malvern is about an hour and a half out of your way--we're nearly an hour north-west-ish of Philly, so you'd have to head to us and then back eastward again to pick up I95 to DC. You may not want to do things that way, depending on when you want to get to DC and how early you're likely to hit the Philadelphia area. I'm rarely home from work before 6:30-7:00 p.m.

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