I’ve always thought that if the evil sorcerers really wanted to finish off Harry Potter, they would just kill his friend Hermione. It would be such a cakewalk. People are so obsessed with the myth of Harry that nobody pays much attention to the brains of the operation.
She does all the work. He gets all the credit. In countries where the Harry Potter books are less famous, the movie series is called Hermione: Female Genius Sorcerer or Hermione: Harry Potter’s Brain. Speaking of fake titles, I haven’t decided yet. Should I mock this film as Harry Potter and the Half-Dead Prince? Or should I forego clever wordplay altogether and go with Harry Potter and the Relentless Afternoon Nap? No matter. I’m sure the filmmakers have lost track, too.
And the last few have slipped and slid along the same retrievable outline. The student wizards return to school. They have dinner in the grand hall. A new devious character is introduced. A sliver of Voldemort’s evil plot is afoot. We take two-plus hours to discover a clue that supposedly brings us closer to the secret but never really does. Harry gets in trouble and Hermione bails his ass out. We witness the death of someone we’re supposed to love but don’t. There’s a funeral that takes fourteen minutes longer than we care to watch. The End. Throw in a bleach-haired assassin who looks like Gary Numan in the Tubeway Army days and you have The Half-Dead Prince.
All of this, of course, takes place within the confines of Hogwarts Academy, where expert wizards tutor a gigantic flock of apparently useless junior wizards, better at gossip than sorcery. And appropriately as their hero they nominate the most useless of them all, Harry Potter, Old Ritalin Eyes himself. Heros are supposed to master their destinies. This film confirms what you’ve long suspected, that if Harry ever got in a scrap with a real wizard, like Alan Rickman’s Severus, the supposed Chosen One would get his ass run over. During this film I laughed only once, at the end when Hermione tells him, “I’ve always admired your courage.”
At least Harry has dumped his old girlfriend, the one who made him look like Mr. Personality (Or did she die in the last one? You can tell she made quite an impression). Now he has an eye on his friend Ron’s sister, a girl who at least seems like a trade up. For some blonde-moment reason, Hermione has an unrequited crush on Ron. In a movie about teenage wizards flying on broomsticks, this seems like the most unlikely thing around.
I mildly liked the last film, The Order of the Phoenix. Despite a bland story, it presented Harry Potter with his first taste of adult morality, with choices that have unpleasant consequences. For just one moment, he must realize that his heroic destiny might require more than playing quidditch, glowing in ridiculous overpraise, and being repeatedly rescued by a ninety-four pound-girl. I’d hoped that maturity would continue in The Half-Dead Prince. Instead it’s right back to Hormoneville. They returned director Peter Yates perhaps in a bid for consistency. But the most noticeable consistency in Harry Potter films is how different directors manage to replicate the same stupid face when any girl proves desperate enough to kiss the guys.
Then again, maybe Harry Potter is the perfect hero for the Obama Age. Living in a bubble of magical reality, Harry has no accomplishments to his name, but all he hears is that he’s the Chosen One. He has no grand talent beyond the ability to absorb misplaced adulation. In a time when people have soured on bailouts, Americans will flock this weekend to cheer on the ultimate bailout expert, a boy who has mastered the art of waiting for authority figures to step in and save him. I weep for any generation that has this twerp forced upon them as a hero.