Yesterday Lou and I went to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince at the Vue Cinema in Plymouth. The film was pretty good although inevitably some chunks had to be cut out to squeeze the 768 page book into an acceptable length. Even so, the film runs for 153 minutes plus the inevitable half hour prelude of Perl and Dean. That’s a long time for even an adult to sit still and concentrate. As the majority of the audience weren’t close to being adults, some inevitable problems ensued.
When J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series of books, the plan was to match the complexity and degree of darkness with the age of her audience. The first book, Philosopher’s Stone was released in 1997 with Half Blood Prince coming in 2005. Hence, her initial audience had aged 8 years between the two. The kids who read the first novel aged, (say) thirteen, read the sixth at twenty-one. When the first film was released in 2001, they were seventeen and when the sixth was released in 2009, they were 25. Doesn’t time fly!
The problem with Harry Potter is it’s ongoing appeal to younger children who don’t have to wait over a decade from first exposure until viewing film six. The cinema yesterday was packed with children younger than ten, despite its 12A classification. The 12A rating actually means nothing at all. It’s a great rating for absolving responsibility whilst not actually enforcing anything; you can take a five year old to see a 12A classification providing the parent deems it fit for their child. The result was the inevitable onset of boredom. There was a perpetual stream of parents taking children to the toilet and for the last half-hour, the mobile phones were unleashed by the young teen contingent. Levels of general chit-chat increased as time went by until in the end there was an almost continuous background noise to contend with. In short, the length and content of the film was incompatible with the majority of its audience.
Vue Cinemas clearly anticipated this problem with Half Blood Prince as there are showings for over eighteens only. The problem with these is that they all start at 8:20pm. That means a finish of well after 11pm which doesn’t really appeal to me, (or I suspect many others). I guess what I’m getting around to saying is that the film is badly classified. It might not be unsuitable for young children from the perspective of violence or sexual content but from an enjoyment perspective the younger audience aren’t going to like it and consequently they’ll ruin it for the older ones.