Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is my least favourite of the HP movies. It often feels slow, and most of the action in the movie feels rushed and in the end, kind of pointless. Besides the plot, it’s a teenaged drama that has an overall depressing tone. Teenage dramas are fine, but they kind of need a more optimistic feel, which is almost completely absent in the movie. A few jokes here and there and a fun Quidditch game don’t cut it. Yet so far, Half-Blood Prince is my favourite book in the novel series.
Since both the book and the movie have been out for a while, I’ll mostly talk about the differences between the two.
Don’t get me wrong about the movie – it has good storytelling qualities. The mystery going on with the Half-Blood Prince, Draco Malfroy’s plans and Voldemort’s history saved the movie. All of that is still present in this book, with a lot more detail. You’ll learn a lot more about Voldemort’s past in the book than the movie. These memories further paint a picture of Voldemort’s slow rise to power, his subtlety (which you don’t see in the movies) and more about why he chose each object for his Hocruxes. These extra tidbits about Voldomort’s past also help tie everything in the plot together. In the movie, the mysteries unravel without the same kind of connection. Even Snape’s past is explored more in the book, further suggesting that he’s a villain even before his act toward the end. Sure, I know spoiling his actions was a very popular thing online for a while, but I still won’t talk about that just yet.
Not only do the additional plot details make this book more interesting than the movie, but it also balances the darker storytelling with fun. There are more jokes behind the teenage drama, whether it’s the rising indication that Ron feels trapped by his girlfriend, Lavender Brown, or the awkward internal arguments Harry has with Ron regarding Ginny. And of course there were several moments where I laughed out loud, both during Quidditch matches. Luna being the commentator on the second game is a brilliant moment. Another moment I really liked was when we finally learn what Harry, Ron and Hermione’s OWL scores are. I still think they should have been in Order of the Phoenix, but it’s a nice moment. The movie isn’t without its humour, but the movie is less enjoyable as it goes on.
Possibly the most important difference between the book and the movie is the action. The book gives us a lot more Quidditch for one, and every one of these scenes is at least entertaining for different reasons. There’s also a full-on battle at the end of the book, which didn’t happen in the movie at all. The battle of the Astronomy Tower alone makes this book worth reading. Although the Battle at the Ministry in book 5 started the Second Wizardry war, the Astronomy Battle is where it really started to pick up. Even the duel between Snape and Harry feels more intense than the movie, where it ended way too quickly. Instead the movie tossed in an extra action scene that doesn’t add anything to the plot, and because it takes place in tall grass at night, you can’t see much anyway.
Spoiler time in case, for some reason, you haven’t either read the book or watched the movie.
In addition to an actual battle, the book gives us a proper funeral for Dumbledore, whereas in the movie a bunch of students and teachers simply shoot light in the air. The extra chapters at the end of the book are much more detailed in how everyone feels about the headmaster’s passing. It gives the book a much stronger sense of closure. Furthermore, the added look into Snape’s past only intensifies the hatred Harry feels after the event. That’s not to mention the detentions Snape gives Potter over the course of the year, most importantly for using Sectumsempra in the bathroom fight (which is practically never mentioned again in the movie). The one fight scene in the movie is handled well though.
I can’t think of a bad thing to say about this book. Especially compared to the movie, it’s more fun, it’s more intense and the story is much richer. Nothing that bothered me about the fifth book is here; there’s much less time wasted on characters whining. And more so than any of the books so far, everything in this book fits together in the end, one way or another. If you’ve only watched the movies, I would argue this is the most essential book to read because of how much it adds to the overall story.