Directed by David Yates
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.
Seeing a new Harry Potter movie is like revisiting old friends. It was even more special for me this time around because my daughter recently discovered the books and movies. She eagerly attended the screening with me and was bouncing in her chair in anticipation of the sixth “Potter” film.
With each Potter movie, I look for several things. How does it compare with the book? How does it fit with the previous movies? How does it break new ground? As the movie started, I came to the realization that I had almost completely forgotten what happened in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” I read it so long ago that I only had vague recollections of what happened. The opening scenes didn’t help matters because as we’re being treated to amazing scenes of Death Eaters flying over London and destroying a bridge, I couldn’t remember it happening in the book (except maybe in a throwaway line). But as soon as the main story kicked in and Slughorn was introduced, the plot came back to me. While the script has the usual embellishments and deletions, I think it overall captured the heart of the story. It’s a solid adaptation of the book.
The main cast, as usual, is excellent. I don’t think I have to say much about Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, or Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. They do fantastic performances and they’re what I envision in my head of the characters when I read the books now. The same goes for Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as McGonagall, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, and Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. This time around Tom Felton stands out as Draco Malfoy because he’s given significantly more to do. He does a good job showing Draco’s inner torment to the point you start feeling sorry for him. Bonnie Wright also returns as Ginny Weasley. While she isn’t quite the polished actress that many of the other cast members are, it’s satisfying to see the continuity between the films when she’s used. Her familiar face makes a lot of the stiff performance entirely forgivable.
The only significant addition to the cast is Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn. He does a great job with the character by making him endearing yet flawed. He’s quite friendly and an excellent teacher, yet he’s infatuated with popularity and flattery. And despite the fact that he inadvertently aids Voldemort in his quest for invincibility, Broadbent still manages to make him likable and you forgive him for his mistake.
As for the visual effects, there are a couple of great Quidditch matches with some great scenes. The Death Eaters that turn into columns of smoke are also quite impressive and scary. Scenes where Harry views captured memories are impressive as they are created from what looks like ink in water. It’s a beautiful effect. But one of the most memorable scenes in the film is when dead bodies coming out of a lake attack Harry and Dumbledore. It’s a frightening scene with incredible visuals.
What Didn’t Work:
I think several things contribute to this overall dull feeling. First of all, it ends on a downer. As you know if you read the book, a major character dies. The conclusion of the film is very muted and melancholy. It’s not necessarily how you want to walk out of a big summer movie. Second, there’s not a major memorable moment in the film. The previous movies had big Quidditch scenes, the unveiling of the creepy looking Voldemort, the Hippogriff, or any other number of cool moments. This movie doesn’t have that. Instead, we have the final dulling thing the scenes of young love. We’re treated to endless scenes of Potter being awkward, Ron being smothered by Lavender Brown, and Hermione pining over Ron. It’s a lot of fun at first, but it ends up being done so much that you begin to realize it’s the centerpiece of the story. If it were between watching teens flirting or some magical beast attacking people, I’d rather see CG mayhem.
The Bottom Line: