I had planned on writing this prior to seeing the film, but I got sidetracked with other things and couldn’t find the time. Instead, I will do my best to write my most unbiased opinions of what I expected from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince based solely on the novel, which I haven’t read in its entirety since it was released. Everything in this post will deal with the book and how I felt about it and what I wanted to see in the film, not what I actually saw. That will come in part 2.
Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts was my favorite of all, even after Deathly Hallows was released. I was one of the people who started rooting for the bad guy at an early age, and by the time Half-Blood Prince came out and I read it, there was enough evidence that my hope for Harry Potter’s death in Book 7 might not be vain. It was a dark book which did very little in the way of stand-alone story (there was no new, unique Defense Against the Dark Arts professor this year, after all), but it was a perfect bridge in the series which allowed J.K. Rowling to uncover darker parts of her mythology that would be integral to the series drawing to a solid conclusion.
My favorite parts of the book when I read it back in ye olde 2005 were definitely the flashbacks about Voldemort’s past as Tom Riddle. For such a wonderfully monstrous character, Half-Blood Prince made him three dimensional to me. He was no longer just the big bad of the series; he had a past and motivations that readers could relate to. Even though he was still He Who Must Not Be Named to most characters in the Harry Potter universe, readers understood him a little better. Some of us might have even felt sorry for him. I did. I certainly looked forward (especially after the trailers) to seeing the wonderful pensieve scenes.
My next most anticipated element of HBP? Horcruxes! These utilitarian phylacteries took up a great deal of my mental processes a few years ago. They were so much more involved than the lich-bound items found in Dungeons and Dragons, and they had so much potential. Reading Half-Blood Prince was like reading a mystery novel, finding out that this piece of the puzzle was a red-herring while that piece over there was really important later on. Learning the where why and how of Voldemort’s immortality and power intrigued me like little else in the series ever has. I was fine not having a big bad of the novel as per usual because I now had the biggest bad giving me a mystery to unravel. It was fun. I expected to see a lot of backstory involving their creation and Harry’s realization that he’d already come into contact with some of them.
And then there was the tone of the book, which I fully went into the theater expecting because the trailers told me it was there. From the very first teaser with Dumbledore saying, “Once again, I’m afraid I must ask too much of you, Harry,” I was hooked on the darkness. I loved this part of the novel, and I could not wait to see it explored more fully on screen. Every book of the series had gotten progressively darker until HBP, which I actually think is darker than Deathly Hallows despite all the death and misery. HBP ends on a down note as they say in Clerks, while DH rounds off the series with the Boy Who Lived…well…living. I thought David Yates did a great job with getting the feel of Order of the Phoenix (it is my favorite of the films), and I expected going in to feel the weight of the war on my shoulders, too. And that was okay because the heavy, serious tone is what made me love it.
I also expected to see a relatively lively cast of characters with threads of relationship exposition being woven between them all. It was in this novel that the teenage crushes between Harry and Ginny as well as Hermione and Ron begin to take center stage, and I went in fully expecting to see them take up some screen time. I didn’t mind that assumption because the Harry Potter franchise is built around character dynamics more than anything else (well, maybe carefully structured prose), so seeing the relationships bloom in HBP to fully flower in DH would be a natural inclusion. On top of the teenage relationships strengthening, Harry and Dumbledore become much closer to being friends in this novel and begin to transcend the student/teacher relationship. I looked forward to seeing scenes of Harry’s private lessons with the headmaster, as well as seeing how the rest of the Order of the Phoenix and supporting characters’ were represented. I wanted to see Bill and Fleur’s relationship making the Burrow uncomfortable as well as Tonks and Lupin having a little discord. Even if I only got to see a line or two about it or a casual mention, my expectation was high that the tone of the film would be dark yet characterized, if that makes sense.
I also expected Dumbledore’s death scene to be incredibly powerful and moving. When it came in the book, there was such a feeling of despair that I really couldn’t wait to see the scene on film. I know it sounds morbid to actively want to watch the death scene of my favorite character in the series, but I wanted to see the differences in adaptation as well as how much the knowledge readers gained from Deathly Hallows changes the scene when seen on screen.
And the last thing I expected was a little explanation about who exactly the Half-Blood Prince was. There was some build up through flashbacks in the novel that revealed it to be Severus Snape, but I always found that the novel was a little lacking in that department. For such a huge mystery, the climax in the book where Harry found out it was Snape after Dumbledore died was a letdown for me. I was hoping that I would go into the theater and have that part developed a little more.
And to be honest, that was about all I remember from Half-Blood Prince. I loved the book, don’t get me wrong, and I do consider it to be my favorite of all the HP series, but I don’t remember a whole lot of details about it. These are the things have shaped my memory of the novel over the last four years, so it is quite natural in my mind that they are the elements I most cared about being adapted adequately.