Thursday, July 09, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

"Once again Harry, I must ask too much of you"

Written by: Steve Kloves

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman.

My rating: 9/10

Many years ago, when the Harry Potter phenomenon had first begun, I made a promise to myself that I would stick to the medium of film and enjoy the films as they emerged, without reading the books first. I am pleased to say I have stuck to this and having really enjoyed the films I find it frustrating at times to resist the temptation of picking up a book and continuing the story instead of waiting for the next cinematic instalment. However, given the overall quality of the films, it has definitely been worth my while. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a definite pay-off for those of us who use the films as our way of learning Harry’s story.

Half Blood Prince picks up almost immediately after The Order of the Phoenix left off. It highlights Harry’s celebrity status and the fact that it is now widely accepted that he is the one chosen to destroy Lord Voldemort. The film follows Harry in his quest to stop creepy emo kid Draco Malfoy from carrying out Lord Voldemort’s wishes. There are many distractions in the form of raging hormones for all concerned. Ron has become a sports star and is now therefore surrounded by women. He learns the hard way that girlfriends are more trouble than they’re worth. Meanwhile, Hermione is not happy to see Ron enjoying the attentions of other girls and Harry has his own distraction in the form of Ron’s sister, Ginny.

This film stands out as one of the stronger of the series, not only because it balances so nicely the darkness and bleakness of the story with the cutesy teenager antics, but also because it truly is a well-made film. The Harry Potter films in general tend to suffer from the fact that they are very obviously adapted from books, often leaving the audience to fill in some blanks that there just wasn’t time to fill. This film has that vibe somewhat, but it still tells a very strong story and never loses its way structurally. The introduction of new character Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) was well executed and he is a welcome addition to the weird and wonderful elite faculty at Hogwarths.

It seems to me that as the years progress, the young actors involved have really honed their acting skills. Each of the lead actors here are dealing with difficult material and are dealing with it well, convincing us of their sense of peril, their acceptance of the very real threats to their lives, and also convincing us of their chemistry as a group of friends. Harry’s relationship with Dumbledore progresses nicely and his fatherly presence in Harry’s life is enhanced, and Dumbledore’s respect and admiration for Harry is one of the film’s more touching elements.

The cinematography and design of the film is outstanding, it’s colour palette recalling that of Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Dull grey, green and blue hues give the film a magical, murky and beautiful look throughout. David Yates does a great job of creating the world of Hogwarths and never patronises his audience or his characters. It is clear that as the series continues the characters are allowed to grow up and the situations are allowed to become progressively more dire with each instalment.

This is a grown-up children’s movie with enough depth to keep the adults involved and enough magic and wonder to prevent the kids from being left out, though they may be left traumatised by the rather grim third act. Definitely worth a watch! A thrilling, emotional, scary, wonderous and delightfully wicked sixth instalment of an ever-improving franchise.

-Charlene Lydon 9/07/09

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