Monday, 20 July 2009

Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The sixth Harry Potter movie - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - started somewhat at a disadvantage for me, in that it was based on my least favourite book of the series. This didn't of course mean that I would automatically be unimpressed with the film, so I went with an open mind. For the record, at the time of writing this I still haven't seen the first three Harry Potter movies; I thought Goblet of Fire was pretty mediocre, and loved Order of the Phoenix.

Directed by David Yates, who was also at the helm for Order of the Phoenix and has signed on for both Deathly Hallows films, it began weakly, grew in momentum and then faded again. There are some changes and additions to the book, though obviously it sticks mainly to the book; it starts out with Dumbledore and Harry going to meet an old friend of Dumbledore's and progresses into the school year at Hogwarts. The feeling of menace and attacks from the Voldemort's supporters grows, Draco Malfoy is clearly up to something, Severus Snape is clearly up to something, Albus Dumbledore is either being extremely stupid or amazingly wise, and lots of teenage angst exists between Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermoine and some other kids. Oh, and lots of snogging - very important, the snogging, try not to forget that.

With the familiar cast members all there, I found the acting for the most part good or very good. Unlike some I really liked Michael Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore, and the regular crew of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as Harry, Hermoine and Ron all give solid performances; albeit Harry's attempts at humour in the first 20 minutes or so of the film almost invariably fell flat, and sometimes they struggle to look as young as the characters they're portraying. Most of the other characters manage only a cameo appearance - Neville, Luna, Remus, Tonks, the other Weasleys, even to a large extent Snape and McGonagall. Even given the book is mainly about Harry & Dumbledore / Harry, Ron & Hermoine, considering the film has two major scenes not in the book, there was surely space to get these characters some more screen time. However there were a couple of flashbacks featuring a young Tom Riddle, and I thought these were very well done.

The addition of Jim Broadbent to the cast in the role of Professor Slughorn, a former teacher at Hogwarts who has a secret that must be found out, was a great move. Broadbent has always been one of my favourite actors and he's is extremely good in this role. Helena Bonham Carter is genuinely unsettling as the insanely evil Bellatrix Lestrange; but then, she always gives me the creeps a bit. For some reason I found Bonnie Wright as Ginny rather annoying in every single scene she appeared in. Jessie Cave as Lavender was quite scary for a different reason - she was all over Ron every time she saw him. She certainly was an enthusiastic kisser... sorry, snogger.

The movie seemed to be so focused on a small handful of characters though that everyone else was there merely to make up the numbers; for me the acting itself wasn't a disappointment, but the use of characters definitely was.

The plot itself was okay... it had lots of visual spectacle, but little emotional impact. The mystery of Draco and his strange obsession with a cupboard was rather too drawn out and there were few parts of the film where I felt what was going on was actually interesting. A couple of things seemed a bit contradictory - I can't really remember whether I got the same impression from the book or not. While it's all done quite stylishly and the special effects are (mostly) extremely good, it just didn't have the right mix of characters, action, suspense and humour that made Order of the Phoenix so enjoyable. The music score was quite fun, but more effective in the jolly scenes than the dramatic - then again the film was much more effective when it was poking fun at teenagers than trying to create a serious fantasy backdrop. There just isn't enough storyline here to make the drama work.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy any of the film - while most of it left me unmoved though not actively disliking it, I really, really enjoyed Rupert Grint's performance as Ron this time round. The scenes of him playing quidditch and when he'd fallen under the influence of a love potion were often hilarious, easily the best parts of the movie for me. There were some other good comedic moments involving Gambon, Radcliffe, Watson or Broadbent as well.

The whole "Half-Blood Prince" aspect was kind of washed over entirely; when the revelation of who the self-styled prince actually was came, it might as well have had the words "So what?" appear in large letters on the screen. Even though I can't remember the book all that well, it felt as though important plot elements had been cut out in favour of a few more scenes of angst.

Overall I enjoyed some parts of The Half-Blood Prince immensely, but most of it left me rather unmoved. Whatever anyone says isn't going to stop it from becoming one of the biggest-grossing films of all time, of course, but it really felt like a missed opportunity. I actually wouldn't particularly recommend this one overall, but I don't suppose that's going to stop you from going to watch it! I'm hoping that the Deathly Hallows will be more along the lines of Order of the Phoenix... we shall find out next year.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog


Faith Cooper said...

I enjoy watching this movie. I can't imagine this is going to be that great!

I'm a big fan of HP and I even collect dvds movies of it.

Good post! Waiting for new Harry Potter movie.

Zach said...

I enjoyed this one, although I though Order of the Phoenix was better. This film served as more of a bridge for the Deathly Hallows.