Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

When a subtitle means almost nothing.

July 20, 2009 – The Harry Potter series has always been about maturing, or growing up. The Author’s skills as a writer matured with each book. The themes, and how they were approached, matured with each book. Of course the characters matured with each book, as they progressed one year in their lives at a time. And the audience has matured with each book, growing older. Children who first went to school with Harry in their backpacks, may have very well ended with Harry as young adults in their dorm rooms at college. I know I did, though I was a little late to the party for the first three books.

In much the same way, the movies have been maturing as well, though perhaps not as successfully as all other aspects and arenas of the series. Goodness knows, some films have taken very definite steps backward in terms of quality (I’m looking at you, Order of the Phoenix). But if there is an argument to be made for the progressive nature of the films maturity, the sixth film in the franchise is the one. The Half-Blood Prince takes a far less flashy approach to storytelling in favor of character interaction and growth, which is unfortunately novel in a film franchise that supposedly takes its cues from a book series that managed to build characters far better than the films ever have. This bold, less kiddy-pleasing approach is applaudable and, despite some missteps, is one of the films two greatest strengths.

The other great strength of the film is the trifecta of cinematography, editing and design. I lump those three together for this because I believe they all build the same thing: a look and feel that is not only effective, but often gorgeous. As Harry says at the end of the film, that he never really saw how beautiful Hogwarts was, so too has the audience never seen it as well portrayed as this film. Certain shots add atmosphere that carry scenes almost by itself. The castle looks far less like a Disney World ride, and much more like a real place, if at the expense of some of the superfluous magical elements that, as much as they add flavor to the books, would only clutter the film. It matches the more brooding tone of the movie, a black calm before the storm.

The acting is also stronger across the board, except for certain noticeable hitches that I will get to in a moment. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all do better in their respective roles, with Watson’s performance taking an especially encouraging upturn after the last film. It’s so much an improvement as to lead me to believe the lapses in the previous film were rather a problem of bad writing. The older actors all do excellent jobs as well, with guest actor Jim Broadbent doing a particularly splendid job as Professor Horace Slughorn. Many reviews have derided Tom Felton’s performance as Draco Malfoy, and Bonnie Wright’s performance as Ginny Weasley. Mrs. Wright does, unfortunately, have the distinction of being the worst performance in the film, being wooden and stiff in even those scenes that needed her to be the most natural feeling, particularly the scene alone with Harry in the Room of Requirement. That scene in particular is one of the few weak scenes before the ending, and though the writing in that segment wasn’t golden, she could have sold it with good acting. Felton, on the other hand, does an admirable job playing Draco, and I don’t know what everyone else is talking about. He portrays his character’s inner conflict well, and if he acts mechanical, or nervous, it is only in his character’s nature to be so given the circumstances. And as for his pathetic weeping, the audience is supposed to feel his character as somewhat pitiable and sad. He does a better job of conveying sadness and depression than most of the other characters.

This brings me to the great weakness of the film. As good as the acting, writing and directing was up until the end, once Harry and Dumbledore return from the cave it all falls apart. When Harry is told to wait downstairs as Dumbledore faces his opponents alone, his willingness to do so, and remain hidden, even after

*SPOILERS*

Dumbledore’s death, is entirely out of character for the “Chosen One.” There’s a reason Rowling had Harry tied down by magic when it happened in the book, and it wouldn’t have hurt the movie any. It could only have made it stronger.

Furthermore the sadness of the other characters at Dumbledore’s death was entirely unbelievable, unrealistic, and nearly non-existent. This lack of sadness is also apparent at the burial scene of the giant spider, Aragog. Hagrid barely sounds depressed, except for one line. Only Hermione and Draco seem to express any real depression in the entire film. The lack of drama made the ending horribly anti-climactic, and combined with the lack of a battle scene as the invaders leave Hogwarts, it is a disservice to an otherwise amazing film.

*SPOILERS*

All other complaints I have with the movie are purely based on my love of the books. Changes that were necessary to allow the film to flow as well as it did still hurt my fan-heart. And for all that the subtitle says “Half-Blood Prince,” the potion textbook, and the identity of the Prince, didn’t seem at all as large a part of the film as it did the book. This ultimately leaves the revelation of the Half-Blood Prince with no real narrative power. It doesn’t kill the movie, but it does reveal a difference in focus between the book and the film.

Closing Comments:

Despite my qualms with the film, “The Half-Blood Prince” still stands as one of the very best, if not the best of the series. A lackluster ending cannot take the first 5/6ths of the movie from me, and most of that was a rare brew of cinema magic.

Rating out of 10     Description

8.5/10 Story: Not as enrapturing as the book, the narrative is nonetheless

well made for the silver screen, despite some minor hiccups.

7.5/10 Character: Much improved acting is a welcome change, but when

it comes to showing sadness or depression the film stutters

and fairs poorly. Characters are well realized, though Ginny

is particularly flat and unbelievable.

10/10 Look: Excellent design, color palate, and atmosphere. Eschewing

flashiness for tangibility was a smart move for this film.

10/10   Cinematography: This movie was so brilliantly shot at times it

makes me want to own it as a reference for other films.

9/10     Audio: Just as atmospheric and tone setting as the first time I

heard it, which means it’s as excellent and iconic as ever.

7/10     The Spark: It’s not often I want to give two different “Spark”

ratings to two different parts of a movie. The first 5/6ths

of the film should deserve a 10. They were the most

satisfying portions of Harry Potter cinema I’ve ever had.

But then the ending comes along and saps all the “Spark”

out of it. I can’t give a low score. I liked the first bits too

much. But I simply can’t give this category as high as I

wanted.

OVERALL:  8.6/10 (Not an Average)

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One thought on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

  1. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review
    Edward’s Reviews” ended up being a wonderful post. If solely there were more web blogs like this particular one in the actual cyberspace. Anyways, thanks for ur time, Philomena

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