Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Grade: B-

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth movie in the Harry Potter franchise based, of course, on the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts is about to start and there are beginning to be more and more attacks by Death Eaters, Lord Voldemort’s followers, in both the muggle and wizarding world. Dumbledore shows up and takes Harry with him to help recruit a new potions teacher, Horace Slughorn. Then, soon after it, is back to Hogwarts with Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger. At school Harry finds an old potions book labeled “property of the Half-Blood Prince” with many scribblings that help him succeed in class and has mysterious unknown spells written in it as well. On top of this Dumbledore is trying to teach Harry more about Voldemort’s past by showing him memories so that he has a better understanding of who Voldemort is and might have a better chance at fighting him. This is when we learn why Dumbledore was so determined to have Professor Slughorn return, he has a very important memory that Harry needs to get to get a full understanding of Voldemort’s powers. We also see that Draco Malfoy is on a mission from the dark lord himself and his mother is fearful of his life because of it. While all of this is going on there are budding romances going on all over the school amongst many of the characters.

I know, there is a lot going on in this movie, as there was a lot going on in the book as well. The writer’s and director had their work cut out trying to condense down the content of the 672 page book into a 153 minute movie. They did a decent job but I feel they could have done better. I’m going to try to keep the comparisons to a minimum but some stuff is kind of important. I mean, after Order of the Phoenix when Voldemort makes a come back with a vengance, this movie should have been awesome but they somehow and for some reason turned it into a romantic comedy about witches and wizards and all the Voldemort stuff is kind of background.

Director David Yates (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) did a decent job depicting the dark tones of the story. The movie looked great and the sets were beautiful as they have always been with these movies. Steve Kloves, who adapted the first four movies from the books into screenplays, I feel, did not do his best job adapting Half-Blood Prince. The book was riddled with dark overtones and focused mostly on Harry learning the secrets of Voldemort’s past and trying to convince everyone that Draco Malfoy was now a Death Eater and that he was up to something and that Professor Snape was evil. The movie, however, focuses mostly on the lighter side of things, showing Ron’s new relationship with Lavender Brown, Hermione being upset by this, Harry’s new found interest in Ginny and the overall romantic and comedic events that take place in the book. While the movie was still enjoyable, I feel that they were focusing too much on some of the less important material, I get it, Ron and Hermione like each other and Harry and Ginny like each other as well, but does it have to be the main story. We also never really see some of the other characters that we grew to love in the past movies, Neville has maybe one line and Luna Lovegood only shows up briefly as well. They took out most of the excitement from the book (the biggest tragedy being the end) because, as I found out from an interview I read with David Yates, they felt that the movies based on the seventh books were going to be full of action that this movie didn’t really need it. On top of all of this, the movie was almost confusing, and this is coming from somebody who read the book, I can only imagine how people who have only been watching the movies feel. There are several new characters that show up in this movie but they are never really introduced, unless you pay very close attention and are reading every newspaper article they show and looking closely at the posters in the background. Also, some random events occur with little to no explanation. Overall it’s just a packed and at times confusing movie.

Daniel Radcliff returns as the boy who lived, Harry Potter. He does another great job portraying the intricacies of the character, showing that Harry just wants to be normal but he never really can be because of his past. Rupert Grint returns as the lovable Ron Weasly. In this movie we really get to see a different side to his character as he both becomes a star on the Gryffindor Quidditch team and gets into an almost bizarre relationship with Lavender Brown. Emily Watson returns as the brilliant Hermione Granger and does a great job as well. In Half-Blood Prince we see her true feelings for Ron. Michael Gambon (Layer Cake, Sleepy Hallow) returns as the great Professor Dumbledore. Many people seem to have preferred Richard Harris as Dumbledore in the first two movies but I really prefer Gambon, he has more of a presence and a powerful voice, much like how I feel Dumbledore should. Alan Rickman (Die Hard, Love Actually) is back as Severus Snape and does a wonderful job. I feel that this has always been perfect casting for this role. Rickman really does well with Snape’s personality and gives perfect delivery. Jim Broadbent (Inkheart, Hot Fuzz) is brought in to play Horace Slughorn and he does a great job. Horace is drawn towards greatness and is very weary of his past relationship with Tom Riddle, who later becomes Lord Voldemort and Broadbent does great at portraying this. Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeny Todd, Fight Club) returns as Bellatrix Lestrange. Her performances as this character are brilliant, she truly does a wonderful job portraying just how insane the woman is and I can't wait to see more of her in the final movies. The rest of the regulars from the previous movies are back as well but unfortunately we don’t really see much of them in this movie.

I did enjoy this movie I just felt that it could have been much better. I just feel that they were focusing on the wrong parts of the story. I understand that they want it to be lighthearted but the previous movies were lighthearted while still maintaining the serious aspects of the story as well. I liked seeing the interactions between Draco and Harry as you really see their hatred for each other grow, but I would have liked to see more of it. After everything they showed and set up in Order of the Phoenix my expectations for this movie were very high and I just feel a little let down. If you are a fan of the Harry Potter franchise go see this movie, you will enjoy it, but don’t let your expectations get too high and if you’ve read the book really don’t let your expectations get high. It was good and will serve as a great transition into the seventh and final chapter of the saga, that’s been split into two movies. The movie is rated PG but as a fair warning it is still dark when it needs to be and there is a fair bit of violence and blood.

Great quote: "Potter, take Weasley with you. He looks far too happy over there. "

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