Friday, February 14, 2014

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009, Movie Review)

       So now where up to film sixth in the Harry Potter series titled “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and this time, my feelings are really mixed. When I first saw this movie for its opening night back in 2009, I didn’t like it at all. However, unlike “Goblet of Fire”, this film has actually grown on me over the years, and I find myself liking it a little more every time I watch it. As of now, I consider “Half-Blood Prince” to be a good movie in the series, I don’t think it’s great, but definitely good.

       Before I talk about the contexts of movie, I do want to say that the opening to this film is awesome, in fact I think it’s the coolest opening sequence to any of the Harry Potter movies. I love how it starts with quick flashbacks on the events from the last film, then the title shows up in the most epic title screen of the series and then where treated to this awesome opening scene with evil apparitions in flight, attacking the city and destroying a bridge. The scene is complete with camera shots zooming through ales and crashing through walls, it’s almost like a simulated theme park ride and it starts things off on a very high note. Also, the music composed and conducted by Nicholas Hooper is fantastic. He also did a really good job with the music in the last movie “Order of the Phoenix”, but in this film, he really nails the score, making it sound both beautiful and haunting all at once. Regrettably “Order of the Phoenix” and “Half-Blood Prince” are the only Harry Potter movies that involved Nicholas Hooper’s musical talents. Compared to John Williams, Hooper is definitely the next best composer for the series. 

     The premise for the film goes like this, dark forces are stirring in the wizard word and Harry Potter prepares to fight his greatest enemy by learning as much about the evil wizard Voldemort as possible. So with the help of his head master Dumbledore, he explores the dark wizards past in an effort to learn how to defeat him in the present. On the side lines, Harry, along with his best friends attend classes for their sixth year at Hogwarts School and honestly, that’s really all that happens in this film. There’s a subplot involving Harries rival Draco as he’s up to some mysterious task, plus Professor Snap has some secrets of his own that will change his character throughout the series, and there’s a phew other little things that I’ll go into more detail on, but not much. It’s mostly just Harry and company having a regular, laid back year at school, there’s no mystery that needs to be solved, no curse attacking the castle that needs to be stopped, no magical adventure to embark on, and no enemy that needs to be defeated, at least until the end. Voldemort never even makes an appearance, with the exception of his younger self that’s seen in flashbacks and by that premise, you can probably tell why my feelings toured this film are mixed.

      On the down side, there really isn’t a whole lot going on in this film, the plot doesn’t amount to much, there are hardly any elements of action or adventure, Harry only learns one vital thing about his enemy over the cores of the film and when the movie concludes, it just leaves you feeling like there should have been more to it. Now on the plus side, it’s actually kind of refreshing to just have a simple, quiet year with our hero’s. The following two movies won’t take place during a school year and the characters certainly won’t be having any fun, so this is really our last chance to have a good time with these characters that we’ve really grown to enjoy. It’s like a calm before the storm, and in this regard, the films great. While there isn’t much going on in the plot, there are still plenty of fun things happening on screen. I think this film really nails the friendship between the three main characters and their simple interactions are wonderful. There’s also a lot of comedy in this movie, more than any other film is the series, and for the most part, it’s actually quite funny, and the actors are clearly having a lot of fun in this film. 

    Daniel Radcliffe delivers his liveliest performance in the role of Harry Potter yet and completely steals the show. He’s full of energy and he’s enjoying every second he has on screen and that fun transcends on to the audience so nicely. Draco Malfoy gets a lot more attention in this movie then he has in many of the previous films, and his story arch is surprisingly complex. Well, it feels complex because Tom Felton is incredible in the role, bringing the character to life with natural, nerves energy. The always terrific Jim Broadbent joins the cast as a new potions teacher named Horace Slughorn, this is another character that I really liked and the scenes he shares with Harry come off as very genuine. But the biggest surprise was Michal Gambon in the role of Dumbledore. Now, I’ve complained about his performance in some of my earlier reviews, particularly with regards to “Goblet of Fire”, but he completely redeems himself in this film. Not only does he bring the character to life with charisma and genuine humbleness but he also has a subtle sense of hummer that was really welcome.

      The one thing that I still have a lot of problems with is the new lovers relationship between Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. I wasn’t too pleased with how suddenly Harry broke up with his first girl friend in the last movie and now the film acts like Harry and Ginny have had some relationship building over the series, when they really haven’t. Sure, Harry rescued her in one of the early films, but they never shared a single scene together before this film, they never bonded over anything before, they don't have any real chemistry and their relationship in this film doesn’t amount to much. Nothing ever happens between these two that makes us care, they really don’t say anything to each other, they don’t do anything together, and when they do interact with one another, the film resorts to the most typical, romantic teen movie clichés you’ll ever see. Seriously, this is all they do in the film, Ginny feeds him a cupcake, she ties Harries loose shoelace and it all feels like one big, missed opportunity. I would love to see Harry develop a real relationship with her because I like these characters and on some general level it’s pleasant to see them together, and Bonnie Wright is actually a sweet young actress. Unfortunately, the series never makes this relationship anything special, it’s just average and could have been so much nicer than this.

       The tone of the movie is mostly upbeat and pleasant but the look of the film is completely depressing. Actually the cinematography is very good and the sets are really impressive spectacles but there’s just no color in this film at all. Everything is shot in this really ugly, murky lighting and it diminishes the novelty of being submersed in this magical universe. I like the passing of the film, nothing feels rushed, but nothing feels that exciting either. There really aren’t any action scenes in the film and the movie doesn’t even have much of a climax. There’s a lot of build up involving a plot to sneak Draco Malfoy’s evil aunt Bellatrix, (who’s played very well again by Helena Bonham Carter) and a small team of Death Eaters into the castle but it amounts to very little. One of the main characters tragically dies, but then the villains just leave and our main cast of hero’s have nothing to do but morn their fallen teacher.     

      Overall, “Half-Blood Prince” is kind of like the black sheep of the Harry Potter series. It certainly isn’t a terrible movie, it’s still fun to watch, it’s great to spend time with this cast of characters in a way that’s mostly positive and the film ultimately leaves me feeling good in the end. It’s just not a film that excites me or thrills me like many of the others do. It feels less like a magical journey film and more like a romantic teen comedy, but that still has its place. If you want a Harry Potter movie that’s either more magical or more action packed, this probably isn’t the film for you but if a simple, sweet time with these characters is enough for your taste, then this film won’t disappoint.

                              I give “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” 3 ½ stars out of 5.                            

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