Eight years have passed since Harry Potter first leapt onto the big screen, and in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film based on the popular book series from J.K. Rowling, Harrys adventures are more riveting than ever before.
Picking up where 2007s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix left off, evil wizards led by Lord Voldemort have orchestrated attacks on both the wizard and Muggle – – or non-magical – – worlds. Meanwhile, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) recruits Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to help unlock a secret to Voldemorts past by befriending Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent).
Despite the fantastical world in which they live, the films main characters are all in their mid-teens, and Half-Blood Prince does a fine job of balancing the personal drama and confusion of adolescence with the larger tale of good versus evil. Fans will be pleased that the latent romance between Harrys best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) finally begins to bubble to the surface, and the film quite brilliantly — and humorously – – deals with the flip-flopping of affections among its main characters.
In fact, Half-Blood Prince features the most character development of any of the previous entries in the series. For instance, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), Harrys longtime rival at Hogwarts school, finally finds his place in the conflict between Harry and Voldemort. Given a secret mission early on in the film, Malfoys plot also sheds some light on the true intentions of the mysterious Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), with whom Harry has constantly clashed since arriving at Hogwarts.
With Half-Blood Prince, director David Yates shows a tremendous increase in skill from his work on Order of the Phoenix. He has grown noticeably more comfortable working in this world, and it is apparent onscreen. Harry and Dumbledores voyage off-campus late in the film is certainly among the most impressive sequences.
Against all odds, Half-Blood Prince has emerged as the finest Harry Potter yet. The film also effectively sets the stage for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the two-part finale set for release in 2010 and 2011.
Half-Blood Prince is the first film in the series to truly touch upon cinematic greatness, and if it is any indication, its sequels should only cement Harry Potter as one of the best fantasy series ever put to film.
Whereas Order of the Phoenix seemed to gloss over some of its more intriguing plot points, Half-Blood Prince features a far superior pace, wherein the various subplots are more fully developed, resulting in a tighter and more emotionally satisfying film. Every single scene in Half-Blood Prince drives the story and characters forward, and so the film moves at a breakneck pace. Credit for this belongs to returning screenwriter Steve Kloves, who wrote the first four films in the series but sat out Order of the Phoenix.
Even more impressive, Half-Blood Prince takes advantage of the rich mythology established in the previous films. Since nearly all the characters have already been established, no time is wasted on backstory, though the film does include several references to the past.
Although the first two films feel light years away from the dark saga of its later counterparts, Half-Blood Prince goes a long way in tying the series together. For the first time, the Harry Potter story feels less episodic in nature and more like a single interconnected story, as if its all been building to something.
Furthermore, the theme of moral ambiquity that has run throughout the series truly takes shape in Half-Blood Prince. While characters like Dumbledore and Voldemort may be distinctly good or evil, the Harry Potter films frequently feature characters, such as Malfoy, Snape and Slughorn, who are not what they seem. These three, in many ways, form the crux of the story, as they all have a critical role in its central mystery.
Broadbent in particular delivers a strong performance, as the only new major character in the film. He brings a touch of unhinged lunacy to the role and lends the film some much-needed comic relief, given the dark nature of the main plot.
In fact, from its trio of protagonists to veteran actors like Gambon and Rickman, everyone is at the top of their game in Half-Blood Prince. Its astonishing to see just how much the young cast of the series has grown through the years, and their acting skills have matured accordingly.
Finally, although both Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince feature a major character death in their final acts, the latter wisely uses the opportunity to pay tribute to the character, creating a poignant moment of farewell befitting this particular character.
What Didn’t Work
Although many of his followers figure prominently in Half-Blood Prince, it wouldve been nice for Voldemort to make even a small appearance in this film. Viewers do get glimpses into the dark wizards past, as seen through memories, but Fiennesphysical presence would have elevated the film a bit more.
Still, there is so much going on in Half-Blood Prince that audiences are unlikely to even realize he doesnt appear until after the credits roll.
In addition, part of the intricate plot in Half-Blood Prince revolves around the unnamed owner of a textbook that Harry finds. If this feels a bit familiar to audiences, perhaps its because the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, dealt with a mysterious diary that Harry stumbles across. This similarity doesnt detract from the movie at all, though, as the films are entirely different animals in every other respect.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Michael Gambon. It was directed by David Yates and written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling.
It is in theaters now.