Rating: Rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.
Release: July 15, 2009
Running Time: 2 hrs 33 mins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright… IMDB listing
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is an amazing cinematic experience worth every penny of the price of seeing it on the big screen. It’s far and away the most fast-paced and visually stunning entry yet released in the Harry Potter series, which is, in itself, a monumental feat.
However, judged strictly as an adaptation of a novel, this movie is a monumental failure. The movie’s storyline doesn’t simply abridge the novel, it mutilates it nearly past the point of recognition. Most of the book’s best scenes, including Dumbledore’s visit to Privet Drive and the book’s climactic battle between the Deatheaters and the Order of the Phoenix inside Hogwarts, have been completely cut. Worse, the movie actually includes new scenes (which won’t be spoiled here) that not only grossly diverge from the flow of the series but also violate the spirit of the novel.
Sadly, with the movie’s mise en scène and script both likely to illicit strong but opposing opinions from fans of the Harry Potter novels, it’s difficult to say whether this is going down in history as the best or worst movie the series. Hardcore Potter loyalists are likely to love to hate this movie for the liberties it takes with story, but moviegoers simply looking for some big screen thrills and those fans who have followed Harry’s adventure only on the big screen are going to emerge from theaters with a smile.
Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort’s defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn, whom he believes holds crucial information. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself more and more drawn to Ginny, but so is Dean Thomas. And Lavender Brown has decided that Ron is the one for her, only she hadn’t counted on Romilda Vane’s chocolates! And then there’s Hermione, simpering with jealously but determined not to show her feelings. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince fails to tell a cohesive story unless one comes in having read the book. This series has never excelled at convincingly portraying the passage of time, and, in this entry in the series, that shortcoming is more apparent than ever. It’s storyline is more like a highlight reel than a narrative, with frequent, sudden jumps forward and very little in the way of transitions. The effect makes for a very rapid pace but very poor story-telling.
While it’s understandable that the an adaptation of a novel as long as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince had to be compressed, it is utterly baffling why the threads of the novels which were played out in the movie were chosen while others were not.
Throughout the entire movie, I could hear the audience around me whispering their disappointment and puzzlement as one anticipated scene after another approached and unfolded entirely differently than expected. Gone are the scenes with the Dursleys, all of the puzzling over the identity of the “Half Blood Prince,” nearly all the Quiditch, every scene with Fleur, the action of the book’s final chapters, and Dumbledore’s funeral. In their place, the movie interjects sexual tension and awkward teenage moments in spades, in what feels like an attempt to transform the Half Blood Prince into a coming of age film.
The pity of it is that the novel the movie is based on was the strongest, most suspenseful entry in the novel series. Though it wasn’t the big finish, it contained many of the answers readers had been waiting for. The movie, on the other hand, offers very few explanations as to the plot of the series. This may have been done by design, seeing as how the vast majority of audience will already have read the novel before seeing the movie. Still, it’s distracting.
The cast of this film are outstanding. Returning members of the supporting cast give some of their best, if briefest, performances of the series. The newest additions characters – Fenrir Greyback, Professor Horace Slughorn, and Lavender Brown – are each pitch perfect in their roles. Jim Broadbent, in particular, repeatedly steals scenes in his role as the fusty and expressive Professor Slughorn.
Meanwhile, Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson shine like never before. Their rapid shifts between the newly emerged humor of this movie and the dark suspicion that has been a mainstay of the series finally allow the three young actors to demonstrate the full range of their acting abilities.
There were many stiff moments, but they feel more like good actors choking on badly written dialog than bad acting and they come infrequently enough not to ruin the flow of the film.
Amazing. Every scene of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a feast for eyes, from the iconic Warner Brothers production symbol, right through to the closing shot. Not only does the movie introduce new sets and settings, like Fred and George’s lively Diagon alley shop, it also makes drastic improvements on old favorites like the Weasleys’ Burrough.
The special effects are also superb. In the weeks running up to the movie’s premiere, there were countless news stories and promotional documentaries on the topic of the cutting edge technology behind the movie. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that all of the hype was well-deserved. Every aspect of the film was vibrant and seemless, from the characters’ spell to what was the first good Quiditch match of the series.
The final result is that not only is it the most visual of the Harry Potter films, it’s one of the richest fantasy films ever released.
Don’t miss seeing Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in theaters. It’s value as an adaptation may be virtually nil, but it’s entertainment value is off the charts. So, buy a ticket, try to forget you ever read the novel, and enjoy.
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