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August 03rd 2009 print

Philippa Martyr

Harry without magic

Julie Walters is winsome and heroic and red-haired; Helena Bonham Carter dresses up in corsets and does her by-now-patented mad girl routine (Hamlet, Fight Club, Sweeney Todd, etc etc etc). Michael Gambon was the cause of some serious sniggering with his faintly paedophilic visit to the young Voldemort’s ghastly orphanage.

Harry Potter and the Fabulous Paycheck 

I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie on the weekend, which is called Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. True story: I have never actually seen a Harry Potter movie up till now. I did read a few of the books and got a good laugh out of them, especially the first one, but have felt no compunction about not reading any more of them, buying them, recommending them, or watching all the movies, even when aired on commercial television in appealingly early evening timeslots. In short, I am a Harry Potter heretic; a lapsed Potterite who has a leisurely breakfast at home while the rest of the family dutifully troops off to the cinema to worship. 

But this Sunday was different. I was greatly diverted, but not for the right reasons, although the movie has a few belly laughs in it. It was just so wonderful to see so many solid members of the British acting profession appearing with straight faces in what must be known by now as the greatest cash-cow of its day. Alan Rickman as Professor Snape is on to a very solid gig in this; ditto Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon (mind you, King Lear, Top Gear, mistress called Philippa – he’s excused). Good grief, all Timothy Spall does in this one is open a door, and for this he gets almost top billing. 

Jim Broadbent has now joined the pigs at the trough, and looks sheepish throughout as a result. He plays Professor Picklewarts or Slugfest or some such amusingly Harry Potteresque name, and turns out to be a colossal brown-noser. I won’t tell you about the plot, because there isn’t really one; or at least, I had trouble finding one because I haven’t read the book. But suffice to say that some loose ends are tied up and a lot more mysteriously appear, because after all that’s where sequels come from, isn’t it. At the very end, there’s a duel between Harry Potter and Snape which got my hopes up: Snape leans over Harry’s recumbent form and hisses, ‘Yes, Harry, I – ‘ – is he his father? Is Hermione his sister? Will Snape cut Harry’s hand off? No such luck – ‘am the Half Blood Prince.’ 

There, I’ve gone and spoiled it for you. But really, the whole Half Blood Prince thing gets lost among all the other detail, like Voldemort, and the Dark Side, and all those shameless actors milking this movie for all it’s worth. Julie Walters is winsome and heroic and red-haired; Helena Bonham Carter dresses up in corsets and does her by-now-patented mad girl routine (Hamlet, Fight Club, Sweeney Todd, etc etc etc). Michael Gambon was the cause of some serious sniggering with his faintly paedophilic visit to the young Voldemort’s ghastly orphanage, where he explains to the lad that he’s ‘different’, too, just like young Voldemort. (Thank goodness Sir Ian McKellen wasn’t playing Dumbledore, or I would have had to be carried out of the cinema.) I’m also worried about Alan Rickman, who appears to be in the first stages of Robert-Hardy-itis. This is an affliction suffered by many English actors in later middle age, where they begin to break up their – sentences in places where you – don’t normally break them up, andthenrushtherestofthesentenceoutinonego. 

There have been complaints about the amount of teenage romance in this movie. I didn’t find it tiresome or intrusive at all; in fact, it was rather sweet, compared to teenage romance in most movies now (sexually transmitted diseases and serial killings). Given the apparently endless procession of Harry Potter movies in the pipeline, all we need do is sit back and let nature take its course. I’m rather looking forward to Harry Potter and the Sweet Transvestite, in which the Hogwarts Express breaks down near an old castle during a thunderstorm, and when Harry and Hermione go to get help, they are greeted by a hunchbacked major-domo (Timothy Spall, opening another door for good money), and later by Professor Snape in heavy make-up and fishnets. I very much see Robbie Coltrane in the Meatloaf role here …