Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Rating – ***1/2

half_blood_prince

Half Blood seems like a fitting description for this film. In many ways it’s the best Potter film so far. But there are also frequent reminders of why the franchise has never achieved true greatness. Still, this is a far cry from the original Columbus helmed entries, no more day-glow primary colours, wobbly sets, or CBBC quality Quidditch effects.

The characters are what give the film its soul, they just really work. The interactions and comic timing of the young cast are frequently pitch-perfect. They deliver a rewarding mixture of bitter sweet romance, surreal slapstick, and also quite touching personal frustrations and tragedy. This is what the film does best, isolate these scenes and you’ve got a really good 90 minute comedy drama with gothic horror elements. Many of the visual effects are brilliant too, especially the realistic and quite brutal Quidditch matches. They bring back horrible memories of compulsory school rugby on freezing winter mornings where the mud has crystallised into knee grazing razor sharp edges and your fingers are too numb to function, let alone catch a ludicrously shaped spinning ball! …..um, anyway you get the idea. This feels like a dangerous world where you can get seriously hurt. Several moments might actually traumatise younger viewers (always a bonus!)

My misgivings about the film are similar to the previous entry, also directed by David Yates. I’ve only ever read one of the Harry Potter books (Azkaban, it was great) but since the fifth film I was painfully aware of details being lost or muddled to a point where I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. For example, when the eponymous “Half Blood Prince” is finally revealed, there is no explanation. It’s simply “Ah ha, yes it is I. I’m the Half Blood Prince!”. Oh really, why? Is that an official royal title, do you get Hogwarts parking privileges? But nobody explains it further. Too many peripheral characters crop up with no overriding clarity. It probably works in the books because you read at a different pace. When condensed to a films running time it creates a lazy randomness which detracts from the far more interesting main characters. Much of the plot hinges on picking up a new clue or potion that will open a door to the next one etc. Again, I’m sure these work in a novel but they could easily be slashed from the screenplay to create a more streamlined and focused narrative. I’m sure hardcore Potter fans can clear this up, but….. what does Voldemort actually want? What’s his motivation? Why is he evil? I’d like to think there’s a more interesting explanation than good ol’ fashioned pantomime villainy. Or is he just a racist towards muggles?

As far as I’m concerned, Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban is still the most accomplished entry in the series. Despite it’s weaknesses, much of Half Blood Prince actually surpasses it, so hopefully the final two part climax will get the balance of ingredients just right. Thus, creating a magical potion Professor Horace Slughorn himself would be proud of.

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~ by thewholebuffalo on July 20, 2009.

One Response to “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”

  1. having read all the books, though a while back, there is a distinct lack of half-blood prince in the film which is an opportunity lost. The details of this are importnat becasue it does remove some of the illusions that Harry has about how perfect his parents were and the events surrounding them when they were at Hogwarts.
    I did like the film, but the lack of detail was disappointing, like they are trying to make everything seem too black and white/good and evil. Tom Felton did really well in this and gave some nice depth to Draco and i think maybe out of all of them he has the best future in film (but then he has been acting longer (Anna and the king)
    Nevertheless it was funny, the teen angst was handled well and one particular moment of ‘horror’ actually gave me goosebumps. 😉

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