That's why I wear shoes to bed.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Think about what J.K. Rowling has done. Not about the money or the fame, but about the simple fact that she created from her extraordinary imagination seven books that have absorbed millions of readers. Harry Potter’s schoolboy years with best friends Hermione and Ron were firmly embedded in Rowling’s mind when she began – Hogwarts School of Wizardry, Headmaster Dumbledore, Voldemort, Snape , Malvoy, the Weasley family. And now they are still being played in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by the actors who created them years ago. That alone is a bit of magic.

            Could the movies do justice to the world she created? Apparently many of the crew who shepherd the books to the screen have remained on board for the whole ride. They know the actors and the books, and their work is faithful to Rowling’s vision. One thing that has changed is the enhanced technology available to them. Quidditch, dazzling in the first movie, is even more so here. Things whir and spin, and implode. Will we ever forget the train journey from London to Hogwarts across a barren landscape?

            Take for example, the opening scene where the death-eaters scream through the London sky twisting the Millennium Bridge until it spins and breaks. Never clear what is computer-generated, model created, or real, the visual impact of the thing is enormous. We watch a world of the power of potions and the darkness of men’s souls. One drop of a certain potion dropped in water becomes a memory; another brings good luck. And how can we not love a writer whose character says, “I sleepwalk; that’s why I wear shoes to bed.”

            Because these movies are not stand-alone creations, a mere movie critic can’t review them in a normal way. They play to a community that assembles in theaters where their intensity is palpable. It is a given for readers that the movie will be of the highest quality, and they are right. They quibble only with faithfulness to the book, sometimes without understanding that a 789 page book does not fit easily into a two hour screen slot. Some things must be left out, and readers are not always tolerant of that. They love this movie, but will talk into the night about the details.

            If you have ever tried to interrupt a young person reading Harry Potter on publication day, you will understand why a packed theater is absolutely silent during the climactic scene of this movie. They have read every book and seen every movie in a state of enchantment. If they were eleven with Book I, they are now eighteen.

            Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) delivers a life lesson, “There’s no light within the dark, so I try to live in the light. I suggest you do the same.” Right, but J.K. Rowling knows that everyone is sometimes tempted by the dark, and she takes them there. Millions still love that journey.


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