Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Movie Review
By Janey Pancake
I feel that I need to preface this review with a disclaimer of sorts. For those of you who are just interested in reading about the newest Harry Potter film, please proceed to the following paragraph. So, I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and as such, there are things that transpire in the books that I often long to see in the movies. As the books have grown more complex, detailed and lengthy, the task of translating them to film becomes an enormous, if not impossible, challenge. Consequently, those specific events described in the novels that I look forward to seeing rendered by the camera’s lens are often simplified, compressed or completely forsaken altogether. The comparison of two drastically different mediums often leads to disappointment in one way or another, so I am not going to make comparisons between the two in this review. I can say, in earnest, that, there was nary a whiff of disappointment to be found in the film based on that book. Lo, it was wonderful.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, directed by David Yates – as well as of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is the sixth and penultimate film in the popular series. Starting roughly where the fifth film left off, Harry and Dumbledore are shown being photographed after their battle in the lobby of the Ministry of Magic and from there the film proceeds to reveal that the dark wizards of the magical world are crossing over into the “muggle” world (the one as we know it) to wreak havoc there as well. The film is darker in tone than it’s predecessors and doesn’t waste any time getting right to the point. Clues about Harry Potter’s destiny (and his connection to his nemesis, Voldemort) have been laid in place from the beginning of the film’s series and finally begin to reveal themselves here – only to create additional mysteries that add to the greater puzzle. The stakes have been raised with each film – particularly since the fourth installment of the franchise, as having a beloved character perish reminds the viewer that no one is safe from bodily harm or even death.
Harry, Hermione and Ron (reprised by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) are permitted – even in the face of morbid danger – to experience their adolescence appropriately, full of awkward crushes, unrequited love and lusty snogging – to use their vernacular. These very relatable experiences are fodder for much of the humor of the film and, if I may say so, I was delighted to see that the original cast members have matured into attractive, charming and quite gifted actors. In addition to the horrific trials of being a teenager with a heart full of break, the students of Hogwarts must navigate through their wizardry classes including the daunting Potions class, during which Harry acquires a used text book – which claims to be the property of The Half-Blood Prince. The previous owner of said book remains a mystery through most of the film – the book itself contains hand-written incantations and corrections to spells, all of which aid Harry in excelling in a course he lacks talent in. The game of Quidditch makes a welcome return and injects the film with light-hearted wonder and humor so vital to the film’s portrayal of a magical world that feels as if it truly exists.
Speaking of magical things, holy cats the cinematography is a wonder to behold. The director of photography was none other than Bruno Delbonnel (A Very Long Engagement and Amelie) and the film is positively gorgeous as a result. Beautifully lit and assisted by a lavishly detailed set design (for example, each of the memory vials used in the Pensieve scenes are unique unto themselves – with hand-cut paper labels written in pen and ink calligraphy; gold-leafed archways in the Potion’s classroom with Alchemy spells etched in stone; and Dumbledore’s beautifully decorated study, replete with ornate tapestries and elaborately carved, wooden furniture.) The film is visually stunning and features organic-seeming special effects that enhance the story telling – rather than overpower it.
The very pacing of the film is fantastic as well, executed like a perfectly-timed dance of precision, there isn’t a wasted moment to be found. As the characters go about their business through another school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, there are underlying story arcs that push and pull the film along toward a sinister, frightening and tragic conclusion. I am loathe to give anything more away – as little of the plot as I have described, I am still afraid that I may have said too much already. Each HP film has grown darker and more ominous (I would argue since Alfono Cuaron’s magnificent direction of the third installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), in keeping with the growing maturity of the principle character’s themselves as they handle ever more stark and dangerous situations.
Steven Kloves performs the remarkable task of translating a complex story based on a much beloved novel into the film’s screenplay and the actors involved are up to the task at hand. Bonnie Wright, Robert Coltrane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham-Carter reprise their roles (Ginny “Hot” Weasley, Draco, Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Snape and Bellatrix, respectively.) Jim Broadbent joins the cast as Horace Slughorn along with new faces Jesse Cave (hilarious as Lavender Brown), Freddie Stroma (also hilarious as Cormac McLaggen) and Frank Dillane as a wonderfully disturbing, 16 year old Tom Riddle.
For so many reasons, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is my second favorite movie of the six. My frothy rating is 7/10 and I will tell you why. This film features something near and dear to my flapjack heart: Re-animated corpses! (Also known as Inferi to my fellow Potterphiles, or zombies if you like horror. Holla!)
Frothygirlz rating 7/10