7.21.2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent
Directed By: David Yates
Written By: Steve Kloves (from the novel by J.K. Rowling)
Warner Bros., 2008
PG; 153 minutes
2.5 stars (out of 5)

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SPOILERS! DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT PLOT DETAILS REVEALED TO YOU!

My initial impression of the sixth Harry Potter movie was exactly thus: that it was disjointed in a way that made parts of it almost dreamlike--you know, the way dreams jump around or abruptly change? I don't know if this is a result of the writing or editing or directing or all of the above. It seems that perhaps the whole of the crew was trying to be all things to all viewers--that they were trying to include the cute and funny adolescent love/angst as well as advance the plot--and so they put all the elements in some kind of cinematic blender and we ended up with a strange smoothie of a movie.

Half-Blood Prince has, for one thing, a fair bit of humor, mostly stemming from the budding emotions of its principle characters. Harry is starting to realize he likes Ron's sister Ginny as more than just, er, his best friend's sister. And while Hermione has acknowledged to herself (and eventually Harry) her warm feelings for Ron, it takes Ron a little longer to begin to sort things out. In fact, by the end of the movie it hasn't yet become clear to him that maybe Hermione is more than a really good friend.

Yet one of the most humorous scenes involves Harry's getting high on a luck potion that is designed to ensure his success is getting some information from Potions professor Horace Slughorn (played to perfection by Broadbent). Radcliffe plays Harry as punchy and carefree, sort of a side to Harry everyone has always wanted to see; the boy as he would have been if such heavy cares had not been pressed upon him. The scene is a fun turn.

Meanwhile, Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy finally gets a chance at some real acting in Half-Blood Prince, managing to portray the almost paralyzing fear that Draco endures as he attempts to carry out Voldemort's orders. For not having many lines, Felton uses his facial expressions and body language to full extent and allows the audience to almost sympathize--while still maintaining the distance required from the character. Not even in the book is it quite as clear that Draco has the opportunity to become the next, or another, Voldemort--that he's standing on the precipice of a chasm and it's a question of whether he'll step back or fall in.

Alan Rickman, too, did well with his few scenes; in the moment he is forced to kill Dumbledore, his delivery is especially keen.

That all said, much is lacking in Half-Blood Prince, including cohesion. I've mentioned the jumpy aspect of the way the movie is pieced together. Another problem is the fact that the more "real" elements--the character development and interaction, including Draco's anxiety and the lovesick drama/humor of the others--simply is far more interesting here than the plot line. The audience is supposed to be curious about Draco and the Vanishing Chest, but we really aren't. The mystery of who the Half-Blood Prince really is gets tossed aside into one throw-away line by Rickman's Snape, in which he informs Harry that he is the Half-Blood Prince. Should we care why he gave himself such a moniker? Evidently not. Even the core story of Harry looking at memories of Voldemort's time at Hogwarts and getting information from Slughorn so that he and Dumbledore can go in search of the horcruxes stutters in intermittent fashion until the near end of this long film, only to have it all come up short in the last scene, in which Harry reveals the horcrux he and Dumbledore went to collect is a fraud. And Dumbledore's funeral, which was a touching scene in the book, has been eliminated from the film.

In the end, Half-Blood Prince works only as a bridge to the saga's looming end (said to be coming in two final movies as they divide Rowling's Deathly Hallows). It does not stand on its own merit, and its singular entertainment value is decidedly limited.

1 comment:

Christine said...

I completely agree with you. All the important parts didn't seem that important in the film. I liked it, but was frustrated with the fact that the important plot points weren't brought out or even there! I was especially disappointed there was no fight at Hogwarts at the end. I was really looking forward to that. I also wanted to see the big bad wolf, Greyback, do something bad other than look mean and sniff the air. I think all the kids have matured into fine young actors, though.