Movie Review: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

July 16, 2009 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

HP6 is very much Daniel Radcliffe's movie

HP6 is very much Daniel Radcliffe's movie

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (HP6) is a difficult film to review.  As part of the overall Harry Potter series, it’s perhaps one of the better ones.  But as a standalone film in its own right, it is rather weak.  Nevertheless, I’m sure it will satisfy the millions of Potter fans worldwide that are still crazy about the series even though it has been a couple of years since the final book.

Like the previous film, HP6 is directed by David Yates.  However, unlike most of the previous films (at least from memory), there’s no initial padding this time, no new introduction to the characters.  Yates wastes no time and gets right into the story from the get-go.  Hence if you are seeing a Harry Potter film for the first time (as unlikely as that may be) or if you are not a fanatic and some of the details in the series are a bit fuzzy (much more likely), it may take you a while to figure out or remember what the heck is going on and who everyone is.  I suppose if you are watching the 6th film of a series as the first, you deserve to be confused, but for people like me who have read the books and seen the earlier films once each and is not nuts about it, you kind of wish there would be a little padding at the start to get you up to speed.

HP6 is a reflection of the coming of age of the characters and the dark times they live in.  Yates recognises the tone of the story he is working with and that the majority of fans that have grown up reading Harry Potter have become a lot more mature.  I’m sure if you go and watch the first couple of films in the series you’d be shocked how different they are.

Visually and stylistically, it’s probably my favourite of the series.  It’s incredibly dark, grey and gloomy, with almost a complete absence of warm colours.  At times, the mood of the film plays out like a horror movie, and for the first time in memory, there are seriously creepy moments (that may even frighten adults).  There are a couple of scenes I can definitely see giving younger children nightmares.

That said, Yates has still injected some of that typical JK Rowling humour into the film, and I’m surprised to say that it has blended in rather well, particularly in the middle parts.  There are also the inevitable romances that have no choice but to come into play, though Yates does his best to make them seem less forced.

It’s been too long since I read the book to recall if the film is completely faithful to it, but I believe the main touchstones are there.  However, whilst in the book series you have to wait until the final book to learn the truth about the titular character’s (the Half-Blood Prince, not Harry Potter) intentions, in the film it is made pretty clear from the start.  The hints were too obvious.  At least they were to me.

As for the acting, I don’t know what is going on, but for the first time in the series I can honestly say Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were all decent.  Same as for Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy, Jessie Cave who plays Lavender Brown and Evanna Lynch who plays Luna Lovegood (who does a particularly good job).  Seems like the kids have learned how to act, although I cannot help but say that most of the kids who have been mainstays on the series (with the exception of Emma Watson) must have been hit with either a weird, ugly or awkward stick while growing up (in some sad cases all three).  Let’s just say there were quite a few ‘what happened to him?’ moments.

One thing I should mention is that HP6 is really Daniel Radcliffe’s film.  From memory, he’s never had to carry a film like he had to in this one (having always had Grint and Watson to share the load).  This time, he has substantially more screen time than the other two and he takes it in his stride.  I’m not sure a younger or less experienced Radcliffe would have been able pull it off, so full credit to him.

As for the adults, new Potions teacher Professor Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent, dominates the film along with Michael Gambon’s Albus Dumbledore and Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape.  All three do a solid job.  Unfortunately this means that most of the other adults have little more than cameos.

So that’s the reaction of the minor fan in me to the film.  However, the truth is, HP6 is a film that has no proper beginning and no real end, starting and finishing with unattended loose ends.  It’s also a film with a story where, let’s face it, nothing really happens.  It’s not much more than just a filler for the final film(s).  And if you really think about it, not enough of the film is focused on the Half-Blood Prince for him to be the titular character.  Apart from the mandatory Quidditch sequences, a short scene in the middle and the final climax, there is actually very little action.  Much of the film is focused on the personal growth of the children, their hormones and their relationships.  Hence I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people found the film boring or pointless.

Nevertheless, even if there are some glaring issues with it, as a semi-Potter fan, I found the film rather enjoyable.

3 out of 5 stars