Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

Posted: August 1, 2009 in Review
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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

As the Potter novels grew bigger, bolder and more adult, so too have the films. After the tricky first two stuck rigidly to the words on the page but produced nothing remotely memorable, fresher directors have added their own unique twist to the franchise, seeing every successive film become bigger, bolder and more adult. After the unexpectedly brilliant Order of the Phoenix – the worst book – was turned into the best film by the best director so far, surely the best book under the guiding hand of the same man would be a no-brainer?

Beginning with a short reminder of what went down in Harry’s last year (i.e., Sirius died, Harry’s life is in very serious danger), the film quickly picks up the pace to get things moving for the new school year as Dumbledore recruits new teacher Slughorn (the always excellent Jim Broadbent on fine form). Things get complicated for Harry as he struggles to uncover arch-rival Malfoy’s nefarious midnight activities, figure out who the ancient Potions book belongs to (the titular ‘Half-Blood Prince’) and get his tongue – sorry, his head – around his feelings for Ginny Weasley.

It’s all a bit of a let-down, to be honest. The mystery, thrills and suspense that so deeply soaked every page of the novel have been cut to make way for snogging and more bloody games of Quidditch. It even feels less magical compared to the other films – the staircases don’t move, the paintings aren’t alive, there is no background magic to speak of: the only things that mark this out are the occasional moving newspapers.

Instead of having a tightly wrought thriller oozing with tension, the filmmakers instead ignore the page-turning guessing game and show us every step of what’s going on behind the scenes. Malfoy’s plan is shown in detail from the early stages, unfolding into face-palming levels of obviousness later on, while the riddle of the Horcruxes and Voldemort’s intriguing past are skipped over and ignored. By the end of the film, the stakes for the next instalment are completely unknown, with the Horcruxes not even getting properly explained. Even the proper climax is cut – making the formation of Dumbledore’s Army irrelevant because they don’t even get to battle the Death Eaters.

That said, when it gets going, Half-Blood Prince can go it with the best of them. Alan Rickman’s extended screentime is used to maximum thespian-ness, while Jessie Cave outclasses all the other younger actors in the sizeable boots of Lavender Brown. Helena Bonham Carter’s bonkers Bellatrix Lestrange camps it up brilliantly and the inclusion of an additional attack on The Burrow is exciting, if annoying that it comes at the expense of the battle proper.

All in all, Half-Blood Prince is easily the most disappointing of all the films since Chamber of Secrets and we can only hope that the decision to turn a wizard-based thriller into a rom-com snog-fest is because director David Yates is holding all his trump cards for next time: Deathly Hallows Part One.

2 stars.

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