Eric D. Snider

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Movie Review

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: A-

Released: July 15, 2009

 

Directed by:

Cast:

Even without knowing that "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is based on the next-to-last book in the series, you'd be able to tell that the story is hurtling toward a spectacular conclusion. The stakes are getting higher, the action is more dramatic, and the characters are growing up. Fittingly, so is the filmmaking. "Half-Blood Prince" might be the best installment yet, a richly entertaining adventure that adds more details to the mythology and at the same time tells a ripping good story.

Junior wand-handlers Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are in their sixth year at Hogwarts, though as usual their classes are the least of their concerns. The evil Voldemort has succeeded in recruiting followers, called Death Eaters, who struggle constantly to breach the charms and protections placed on Hogwarts. We learn early on that they may have found a way: Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), a student whose parents were loyal to Voldemort in the old days, has committed to carry out a dastardly mission of some kind, and the wormy Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) has sworn to assist him. Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the ancient and kindly headmaster, trusts Snape implicitly. But should he?

Dumbledore plays a central role in this section of the saga, recruiting Harry once again to aid him in defeating Voldemort. Dumbledore has convinced a former potions master, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), to return to teaching at Hogwarts, in part because he believes Slughorn has memories of when Voldemort himself was in school that may prove useful in the current battle. Slughorn, a daft old gentleman who first appears in the film disguised as an armchair (don't ask), has a tendency to choose favorite pupils and confide in them, and Harry seems like a shoo-in for Slughorn's confidences.

As if all that weren't enough, there is also the matter of young love, which is treated more seriously and honestly here than in the previous entries. Harry has begun to notice Ron's little sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright), while Hermione's feelings toward Ron have turned from platonic to romantic. Ron, though, is enjoying his newfound status as a quidditch champ, succumbing to the advances of Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave, perfect as a love-struck teen girl). The series regulars have grown up in these roles, and it's comforting to see Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson palling around like the dynamic trio we recognize from the books, their characters' romantic entanglements notwithstanding.

David Yates, who made "Order of the Phoenix" and will finish out the series with the two-part "Deathly Hallows," directs "Half-Blood Prince" with even greater confidence and style than last time. Even when the plot is wrapped up in down-to-earth concerns like loyalty and friendship, Yates fills the edges of the story with enough magical flourishes to remind us of its fantastical setting. (Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, and Warwick Davis don't have much to do as Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Flitwick, respectively, but they add color to the landscape.) And when magic is called for -- the quidditch match, a delightful sequence at the Weasley twins' novelty shop -- it comes to life brilliantly. A few scenes, including Dumbledore and Harry's quest to retrieve a certain artifact, are suitably frightening. The Very Bad Thing that occurs near the end of the film (which readers of the book are still reeling from) is handled with masterful eloquence, followed by great tenderness.

Jim Broadbent is such a welcome addition, and such a beloved British actor, that it's amazing he didn't turn up in the series sooner. His Horace Slughorn is a marvelously effective scene-stealer in a film full of them -- Alan Rickman's Snape just gets better and better, Michael Gambon has some sublime moments as Dumbledore, and we get a few crazy scenes with crazy Helena Bonham Carter as crazy Death eater Bellatrix Lestrange as well.

It remains to be seen whether it was a good idea to split the last book of the series into two films, but if the gambit pays off, "Half-Blood Prince" will have been an auspicious beginning for the three-part finale. Even as set-up for what's to come, "Half-Blood Prince" functions very well as a taut, well-crafted story that might make you fall in love with these characters all over again.

Grade: A-

Rated PG, mild violence and mature themes

2 hrs., 33 min.

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This item has 23 comments

  1. Bigmonkey says:

    This series has gone from "Whee! Magic!" to dealing with some very serious, and at times dark, themes. This is the best one yet.

  2. Nick says:

    "Junior wand-handler"

    - Suppressing urge to make Michael Jackson joke...

  3. Clumpy says:

    Ah, good. I loved 3 and 5, and I'm glad this one seems a worthy successor. It's a testament to the great story and characterizations that I'm very familiar with the story but still looking forward to it. Watchmen seemed rote and plodding at times while the Potter adaptations bring some fresh cinematography to the table. Just hoping for a minimum of marble-mouthed Radcliffe trying to show emotion this time, though.

  4. Jenn says:

    Just got back from the theater & I have to say that I think this is by far the best of the series. I don't think I've laughed so hard or enjoyed one of these movies, as I did tonight. Imagine what these films would have been like, had David Yates helmed them from the start? My only complaint was that there was not enough Alan Rickman, but then, that's my complaint in any movie he's in!!

    Clumpy, I think you might actually be surprised by Daniel Radcliff this time around. He's probably the best he's been in the series. Rupert Grint pretty much steals the movie from everyone, but it's such a great theft!!

  5. Kaydria says:

    Tom Felton really stole the show, in my opinion.

    SPOILAZ KINDA

    Alan Rickman broke my heart. Seeing Hermione tipsy and Ron and Harry high on potions was HYSTERICAL. Wow.

  6. MaddCow says:

    ***SPOILERS***


    I absolutely LOVED the movie.... until the last 15 minutes or so. Where was the fight in the school? I wanted to see that instead of them knocking one Aurer down and leaving. I was also upset that they portray Snape as being a lot more believable as a good guy/double agent than in the books. I wished that they did a tiny bit more with Dumbeldor's death scene, and where the bloody heck was his funeral and tomb? The wand that gets placed with him is slightly important in the next film. Other than that I thought it was a brilliant film, great cinematography, and a great musical soundtrack to accompany it. It definately gets the dirty taste out of my mouth after watching a lot of the other 'supposed' summer lacklusters....


    ***END SPOLIERS***

    For those of you not interested in spoilers, it's a GREAT film to watch and I really enjoyed it.

  7. Dave the Slave says:

    So does Hermione SAY EVERY LINE IN ALL CAPS like she has been doing in the last couple films? Thats the only thing that really bugged me.

  8. Phil Cardenas says:

    I for one am glad Eric is around. I have been trying to figure out for the entire week why everyone kept saying there were two films yet to be released. My mind: "But there is only one book left! Why do people keep saying 2 films left?" Finally Eric explains what others haven't. And now I'm no longer ignorant.

  9. Gary Chartier says:

    Spoilers:

    1. Definitely a loss not to see the Voldemort back-story material brought to the screen.

    2. A MUCH BIGGER LOSS: the absence of the familiar theme music was devastating. Why create new music?

  10. Adrienne says:

    I saw it and it was really great. Huge fan of the books (most of my first copies are in tatters so I have back ups of all 7)I thought Yates did a great job directing the story to keep it light when there was really bad things happening. Good review, thanks Eric!

  11. Bellatrix The Strange says:

    One word: Brilliant.

    Rupert stole every scene he was in.
    I loved when he said, "So did you do it?" and Harry, stunned says, "What?" Or something along the lines of that. It was hysterical watching Harry on Felix Felicis. I think there should have been more Snape and Draco, but other than that, it was a phenomenal movie, and I can't wait till numbers 7 and 8.

  12. John Doe says:

    Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but left disappointed. It felt like the movie touched on a lot from the book, but nothing more than that. It told you stuff rather than actually showing. Would it take that much more effort to show Harry rocking at potions and making Hermione jealous?

    If you've liked all the previous movies, then you'll like this one. But it felt like it could've been a lot better by cutting out some stuff and going deeper with the importance of the potions book and Snape. I did like Malfoy and the way the trio interacted. Luna still steals the movie.

  13. David Manning says:

    "Junior wand-handler" is the most hilarious phrase I've heard in a long time. I will now use it whenever and wherever I can, always in a filthy context!

  14. CoolBoy says:

    ~~~GIANT SPOILERS~~~


    I thought that the way they gutted the ending sort of invalidated Draco's whole plan. If Harry wasn't going to suspect Malfoy the night they went to the cave, if there wasn't going to be a huge fight, and the pack of Death Eaters were just going to walk away at the end, what was the point of the cabinet in the first place? They could have had Draco/Snape do the deed any old that Dumbledore was alone.

  15. awesomest says:

    DEATHLY HALLOWS SPOILERS

    Well Dumbledore already knew he was going to die that night so it wasn't a suprise. Snape told him. It will all make since if you read deathly hallows.

  16. mommy says:

    I found the movie disjointed. What is the point of showing Draco ALL movie with the cabinet and then the bad guys come in to mess up the dining room? really? why include random things when time could have been spent making a more cohesive story.

    Parts of it were really slow for me.

    Two movies of camping seriously?

  17. Andrew D says:

    Along the lines of #12, #14, and #16, I didn't like this one very much. I've never been a fan of the books, and though the performances were exceptional, the story didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I remember the last movie being somewhat entertaining, but this one seemed content to show just enough from the books to keep fans entertained. Even the title of the book/movie had no significance for me. Harry finds the mysterious textbook, discovers its secretive stuff, notices it is the property of the Half-Blood Prince, which Snape later reveals himself as. I would have marked that as a spoiler, but that revelation carried absolutely no weight for me. My wife (who has read all of the books) said "it's explained better in the book". That was the response I got after a lot of my questions following the movie... quite the disappointment.

  18. Kelsey F. says:

    Read the book. You get ten times as much plot and five times less failed teen romance. This movie went beyond bare-bones storytelling: it stripped the plot to it's bones, cut the skeleton in half, and burned them, throwing out whatever chunks were left in the ashes as a movie. It was two and a half hours long, but it felt like absolutely nothing happened. The special effects were the only thing worth seeing, and even they weren't great.

  19. JS says:

    I thought the movie was too long, and dragged on occasionally. And the cornfield scene? What the crap was that? I don't so much care that it wasn't in the book, but it didn't make any sense. A bunch of Death Eaters show up and lure everybody outside so they can burn down the house without hurting anyone, then fly away cackling? They make an almost-complete circle of fire around the house so Harry and Ginny can sprint through it for no discernable reason at all? Seriously, what was that about? And doesn't the Burrow figure into the last book? Are they just going to rebuild it offscreen or what?

  20. Olivia says:

    A response to JS: I concur with your remark about the Burrow scene; furthermore, couldn't they quite simply repair it with magic?

  21. Dan Smith says:

    Overall, I thought it was great. Michael Gambon continues to be a disappointing Dumbledore -- everything he says just seems to come out wrong. Luna was great, although not as good as last time. Snape, as usual, was perfect, and he actually got something to do this time.

  22. Melissa says:

    Oh I generally agree with you on movie reviews but this one is way off. I thought this was the worst book to movie of the entire series and I really hope that the director does a better job with the last two. I am glad they are splitting it in two because there is so much to do but I hope he avoids adding scenes that weren't even in the book and put in more scenes that were i.e. burning the burrow scene.

  23. Brian says:

    Never picked up the books, so lets get that out of the way now.
    As for the movies, I have always been pleseantly surprised with just how good they really are! Watched Order of the Phoenix a few days before seeing this and I gotta say....what a let-down. Maybe my hopes were too high, but this movie seemed to be more of a filler than anything, save the one major event near the end.

    While Empire Strikes Back was also a bridge of sorts, the movie had purpose and the title made sense! The value of the Half-Blood Prince himself is completely lost and has no relevancy to the story. Its a plot device at best and a shallow attempt to keep the viewer interested at worst. The movie has glimpses of plot development, such as a great scene with the necklace, but these are only to offer doorways to plot points which are dragged out for far too long and whose impacts were trivial at best.

    I am hoping that this movie was simply the calm before the storm and that the next one will be a little less phoned-in and little more focused.

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