Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Film review by: Witney Seibold

Half-Blood Prince Broadbent

This is the sixth film in the “Harry Potter” film series, and is fresher and more fun than any sixth film in any long-running film series has a right to be. The first two “Harry Potter” films were rife with wonder and mystery and awe. The third was a muddy and confusing thriller. The fourth was fun and bright, but little more than an exciting thriller. The fifth was a confusing and turgid mess. This sixth actually seems to be more about Harry’s interpersonal relationships than about some grand conspiracy about the wicked wizard Voldemort (Frank Dillane in flashbacks). Peraphs the return of series regular screenwriter Steve Kloves has much to do with the clarity and freshness of this film (he had taken the fifth film off). While the world of Harry Potter has become dark and threatening, and not as vast or intriguing or rife with possibilities as the first two films suggested, we at least can dwell quietly in it again without having to suffer through those compulsory showdowns between good and evil that every fantasy film always boils down to.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is 16 years old, returning for his 6th year at Hogward School for Witchcraft and Wizardy. He has been taken under the wing of the school’s headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), and Dumbledore has enlisted Harry to suck up to the school’s potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent, excellent as always). Slughorn, you see, has some vital secrets about an old student of his named Tom Riddle, who would grow up to be Lord Voldemort, but hasn’t been forthcoming about them because of some guilt.

Harry’s friend Hermione (Emma Watson) has fallen properly in love with their mutual friend Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), but Ron is too clueless to see what’s going on, and starts dating another girl, much to Hermione’s chagrin. Harry has also displayed a strong attraction to Ron’s little sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright), and they clearly want to be making out, but are too shy to do anything about it.

Half-Blood Prince Kids

The scenes of adolescent romantic frustration were actually the film’s strongest. They remind us that these characters, for all their magic skills and floating spells, are still just teenagers dealing with the usual teenage stuff. The romance scenes have a sweetness that the previous few films have lacked.

Half-Blood Prince kiss

There’s also a trio of Voldemort’s bad wizards (led by Helena Bonham Carter) charging about London (and the wizard world) wreaking havoc, it seems for the sake of it. Harry’s school rival Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is up to something unsavory involving a mysterious wooden cabinet hidden in an attic. And Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is seen doing some uncharacteristically untrustworthy things himself.

Half-Blood Prince Felton

There are cameo roles from most of the characters from the previous films, including an amusing Evanna Lynch as the school’s weird girl (and it takes a lot to be the weird girl in a school of wizards), as well as Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, and Julie Walters. What British actor has not yet appeared in this series? I can think of a few (Tim Roth leaps to mind for some reason, as does Helen Mirren), but there are two more films planned, so perhaps by the end, we’ll have seen every acclaimed actor in the Isles.

Has the entire “Harry Potter” series only been boiling down to a battle royale? It seems like it. Luckily, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a good film along the way, and is refreshingly free of extraneous action scenes. It was smaller than it needed to be, and didn’t try to incorporate a Grand Mythology; it was more concerned with character and less with canon. This is a good thing. Director David Yates seems more comfortable with the material, and is slated to direct the remaining two “Harry Potter” films. Perhaps they will only improve.

N.B. We do eventually learn who the Half-Blood Prince is, but we don’t learn the significance of the term.

Published in: on August 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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