|Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)|
|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Daniel Hirshleifer|
|Thursday, 16 July 2009|
It seems like a million years ago when tiny Daniel Radcliffe took a wide-eyed step into the world of wizarding as Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone if you live anywhere outside of America), and the world has collectively watched little Harry and his compatriots grow right in front of our eyes. Well, Harry and the crew are back for yet another installment of the unstoppable pop culture juggernaut, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is without a doubt the darkest and bleakest Harry Potter entry thus far.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were, in my mind, the weakest of the Harry Potter books. Phoenix was overly long and dense, with many dull passages that could have been excised, while Prince felt like one long setup for the seventh and final book in the series. So it’s all the more impressive that director David Yates has managed to turn these two slogfests into the two best Harry Potter films since Prisoner of Azkaban. And while Yates doesn’t have the authorial touch of Alfonso Cuaron, he does have the best handle on the meat of the material of any of the series’ directors. Visually, he pushes even further than he did on Phoenix, with several stunning shots that are set to impress. Less interesting is his continued infatuation with draining most of the color from his shots, and flattening the image so it almost looks like the actors are blending into the sets. I’m not really sure the reason for such a stylistic choice, but when the film runs over two hours it gets to be a little much.
The plot of the movie feels slightly episodic, as there’s not one main villain to defeat, or even a singular goal such as the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Instead, the film mainly focuses on the romantic relationships of the leads, including many humorous scenes between Ron, Hermione, and another student named Lavender. Somewhat surprisingly, Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves decided to shy away from the mystery that gives the picture its title: A potions book with notes scribbled on it by a mysterious ex-student named the Half-Blood Prince. While the book and its contents played a major role in the novel, in the movie it’s merely an afterthought. The book itself is tossed away before the third act begins and is not mentioned again until the end in an abrupt reveal. It’s a strange move and had the plot not contributed to the title I wonder if it might have been excised completely.
Still, these are nitpics, as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is easily in the top tier of the Potter series, along with its predecessor and Azkaban. The majority of its shortcomings stem from the source material, and Yates and company have once again done their very best to bring the series to life. The movie is set to make about a gazillion dollars at the box office, but unlike its recent blockbuster brethren, Half-Blood Prince is actually enjoyable.