Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
About halfway through it really dawned on me, what a remarkable achievement this series is. I can’t think of a single thing in the history of cinema to compare it to. By that I don’t mean that this series is the best that’s ever been done—though it is damn good—but that we’ve never seen a trio of actors grow from children to adolescents to young adults playing the same parts! Can you think of another example? (There have been examples on television, like little Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show,” but that’s different.) They’ve been at it for nine years now (filming began in September 2000 for a November 2001 release), and will be shooting right into 2010 … they are, in fact, shooting right now on the two-part final installment, due out in the summers of 2010 and 2011). Remember what little Daniel Radcliffe looked like? Little Emma Watson? They’re grown up now. And the filmmakers got lucky, because all three of the friends turned out to be competent actors as adults. Pretty much everybody in the British theater has appeared in one role or another, and of them, only Richard Harris has died. His replacement, Michael Gambon, was an excellent choice; I hardly notice the difference.
I hunted around for a few other numbers, money numbers, and they are staggering. Not counting whatever they will spend on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts One and Two (and it will probably be in the neighborhood of $400,000,000), the six films have cost about $850,000,000 to produce. Yikes! But they have returned one and a half billion dollars domestically … and a mind-boggling five billion dollars world-wide. That’s not even counting the thousands of tie-ins: computer games, stuffed toys, action figures, clothing, any-flavored gumdrops, etc. Oh, and don’t forget the books. J.K. Rowling’s share has made her a billionaire. I’m going to guess and say that, when it is all added up, all things Harry Potter will have generated around 25 billion dollars. (I think it may be more than that, but let’s not quibble.) That is more than the Gross Domestic Product of 100 of the world’s 190 nations as listed by the CIA World Factbook. Not bad for an idea dreamed up by a 25-year-old welfare mother on a train trip from Manchester to London, huh? And she’s given away many millions to charities. Who says nice gals finish last?
Oh, and the movie? It’s a great relief to see a summer movie that isn’t just a series of stupid action scenes, like Transformers. There is an actual plot (though with a year between them, it might be a good idea to see the last couple before seeing this one; we were confused from time to time), and actual characters that grow, and that you care about. I’m very impressed that they have maintained a high standard through six films now, and I look forward eagerly to 7A and 7B. And one day (or I should say, one week and a day) in the future, it might be fun to watch all eight films in a row. So far, we have just over 15 hours of Harry Potter. If the next two are as long as the average 150 minutes, we will have 20 hours when it’s all done …