The penultimate book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” marks the largest turning point in the Harry Potter franchise. The teen wizards have suffered tragedy and triumph in their battle against the Dark Lord Voldemort and his minions. Now they must grow up quickly as their situation becomes grim at Hogwort’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This film more than captures the tone and gravity of the book, even if it does leave out some crucial details.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), wisked away by Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) after Voldemort’s Death Eaters destroy a London bridge, quickly folds into the protection of his friends at Hogwarts. As Harry and Dumbledore work to discover the secret of Voldemort’s power from the bumbling Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) struggles with his inner demons. Voldemort has assigned Malfoy a vile task with Snape (Alan Rickman) as his handler, and only Harry seems suspicious of their activities. Meanwhile, Harry and his friends struggle with blossoming romances and the random terror attacks of the Death Eaters.
This “Harry Potter” movie is the first to sidestep the action to focus almost entirely on drama. Director Peter Yates eliminated most of the exciting moments from the book, like the Quiddich championships as well as the rousing final battle between the Order of the Phoenix teens and the Death Eaters. I suppose he felt those moments were too similar to scenes in the last 3 films. Instead he brought the relationships and inner conflicts into the forefront, making this the most mature “Potter” movie yet. While I appreciated the brooding, I really missed the action.
The performances made the film. All of the young actors have grown so much since 2001, both in height and acting ability. Radcliffe plays a range unseen before in his previous films, taking some much-welcomed chances. Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, once again gets the majority of the laughs, but also shows some seasoned skill as his character juggles the affection of two women. Bonnie Wright plays Ginny Weasley with a staggering amount of acumen and sensuality as Harry’s new love interest. Not even she knew she had won such an important role when she first appeared on screen at the tender age of 10 (J.K. Rowling had not written that far into the series yet). What a strange journey and fantastic journey it must’ve been for her to start the “Harry Potter” series as a child and to emerge a beautiful woman and a surprisingly talented actress.
The outstanding performance of the film comes from Fenton as Draco Malfoy. He spends the entire film morose and removed from his clique of cronies, only to explode in a cascade of emotion upon reaching his final test. This makes his character the most dramatic and memorable of the film.
I’m sure fans of the book would like to know how Professor Severus Snape is handled in this film (without giving away too much to the uninitiated). Unfortunately he gets only slightly more screen time than he has in the past few sequels. However, Rickman always makes the most with the time he gets. Rest assured, he will get plenty to do in the next two films.
That goes for the rest of the fans who feel so much (action and character-wise) was left out of “The Half-Blood Prince” film adaptation. Peter Yates is no fool. He knows how to consolidate time and effort and use them to the maximum effect. In fact, he will have a lot more of that precious time to play with when he directs the next two films.
You heard me right, fans. The final book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” has received the confirmed blessing of Warner Bros. Studios to split into two separate films. The first will play out like a journey film with Harry and friends on the road to complete a mission. The second film will have them return to Hogwarts for the final (and no-doubt VERY satisfying) showdown with Voldemort. Yates will have 4 + hours to give all Muggle-born “Potter” fans the big payoff they deserve.
With that in mind, I’m happy with the job Yates has done with the series and I have confidence his overall vision will ultimately balance it and bring it to a stunning conclusion. “Half-Blood Prince” is a heavy emotional weight in that balance and sets up the final domino of the series. The moment “The Deathly Hallows” movie begins, the dominos shall fall and I suspect fans will forgive the nitpicks and concerns of the previous films.
Still, as a fan, I feel the omission of some of the greatest moments in the series the most heavily in “The Half-Blood Prince.” I miss centaur professors, moments where Neville Longbottom defies expectations, Quiddich victories and lengthy goodbyes. For that, the film loses one star in my rating. But I’m not discouraged in the least. Those moments will come next year in November when “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” premieres.
4 stars out of 5
Here’s an outstanding trailer for the film…
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