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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Rub   |  

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter
Rated PG
Release Date: July 15, 2009

With each new Harry Potter movie, one must prepare themselves to be deafened by the cries of the divide. People either want the movies to follow the books page for bloody page or they want a standalone movie that they can enjoy outright. At this stage in the game I’m afraid neither one is fully possible.

Before you walk into Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, you have to decide what it is you want out of it before you will be allowed to enjoy it for whatever it is you are looking for. The movie lover in me wants to be able to look at this or any film in the series as a singular unit and enjoy it for what it is and for what it accomplishes — as a film — but I am also a realist. The problem with this approach is that you are dealing with a canon of material that, to me, makes this an unattainable request. If you were dealing with a series of movies that simply involved central characters with a new story each time you might have a better shot at it, but the complete story of Harry Potter was told by way of seven books; each adding more layers and revealing more of the story as it goes along. You are almost forced to enjoy the arc rather than the individual pieces.

Forget the movies for a minute; if someone was going to jump into the books they are based on, you still don’t start in the middle. It’s like watching Lost or any other heavily serialized piece of media whose success is based strongly on the continued drive of the story. Your appreciation, to some degree, comes by way of your knowledge of the previous material. Adding time and space for recap for the sole purpose of allowing it to stand on its own would break the rhythm of the overall story and reek of redundancy. In other words, for my money, it seems pretty unrealistic that in the sixth movie in any series is going to have much in the way of legs to call its own. This expectation that haunts every movie in this series that it somehow needs to be better than the first is a little annoying. Moreover, the assumption that when the second, third, fourth, etc., is inferior for no reason other than it doesn’t exceed the previous one somehow also seems unfair. What about sustainability? I just think people are judging the movie on improper merit.

So the question becomes, how do you write a subjective review of a film, as a singular unit, when you are dealing with the sixth entry into a series? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince doesn’t make it easy. It jumps right into the story and allots exactly zero minutes for catching up. From word one, we are pulled back into the story as if it never stopped. If you know the story, you know the story and if you don’t it won’t much matter at this point anyway but Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and company are entering their sixth year at Hogwarts. As Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) grip on the land tightens, Harry’s fear of danger becomes increasingly substantiated while Dumbledore (Sir Michael Gambon) is determined, almost blindly, to prepare Harry for a final battle. Pretty standard stuff, but when Harry’s textbook from potions class is found to be inscribed by the previous owner, the “Half-Blood Prince,” with handwritten instructions that allow him to excel in the class, the group tries to understand its origin and determine its previous owner. Aside from that, the characters are getting older and in the interest of staying true to their ages they are all not only involved in all the matters of wizardry but matters of every normal teenager. They start acknowledging the opposite sex. It’s got its charm I suppose and serves the purpose of adding another emotional dimension to the story. Which is to say the dynamic doesn’t get in the way.

If I took issue with any part of the film, it is with the last 20 minutes or so — and not because it left out so much of the original story (which it did). The final half hour is easily the most exciting in terms of action and development, but it falls short in serving its proper purpose of transition to the final story (which will be split into two separate movies). Bear in mind, this is all from the perspective of ignorance regarding anything related to the final book; only what is assumed to be the final showdown that Dumbledore has warned Harry about for the last six movies.

Technically, the movie is very well made. Very dark, very slick and well acted. I am comfortable with the remainder of the series being in the more than capable hands of director David Yates, but when it’s all said and done will I pick this one from the stack of the eight movies and watch it just because…? Maybe, maybe not. I liked Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for what it is — another piece of a great story that is nearing its end — and for what this piece of the story will represent when the full story is finally told.

And there’s the rub.

  • Jerry

    Once again, you said it best!!
    Great review!!

  • http://DevonGrey.com Devon

    so if you were to give this movie a star rating or compare it to the previous Harry Potter movies (like most reviewers do), what say you?

  • scott

    the problem is, as everything, money. if the movies didnt sell, they would not be made. when a new Harry Potter movie comes out, we all know its going to be a blockbuster. what really, really sucked about the last half hour, was it was boring. you could easily fall asleep during it. im rather pissed off that the people who made this movie, spent not a single cent on making the last half hour as action packed as the book, but had no problem depositing the money i spent to see it in thier bank account. talk about a cheap azz way to make a buck. the story was fine up until then, but man, did they make a killing from us all, and spent nothing in return.

  • Verna

    It is unfortunate that, in desiring to keep the movie to a marketable length, the “meat” of the tale was reduced to a trickle instead of a flood. The tension was weak, the danger level lowered to an almost PG rating, and the true flow of the tale highly disturbed. I cannot but believe that, even with omitting several layers of background, the story could not have remained more in tact. Good grief! This is the beginning of a major war, as evil and as comprehensive as any of the Muggle World Wars, with even more serious repercussions. As in LOR, sometimes the tale must be served by such omissions. However, another twenty to thirty minutes of film could and, indeed, would have served this purpose admirably.

  • J

    To me the movie seemed to focus more on the kids relationships (too much on Ron and Lavender not as much on Harry and Ginny as they should have), More on Slughorn than what happened with Dumbledore, Also i was excited to see the awesome battle in Hogwarts at the end that NEVER came to be. The least they could have done was have a funeral before the credits. HP&THBP was better made for a younger crowd & anyone not familiar with the book.

  • Erin

    I agree with you about the last 20 mins. It fell WAAAAY short what the character deserved. I understand that the scene might not be like the book, but it was so anti-climactic. After the movie was over I just sat in the theater thinking “seriously..that was it?!”

    They could have done better but it would be a blockbuster no matter what they did to it.

  • Ron

    The producers decided to cut the Battle of HogWarts scene because they thought it would be a repeat in the last film. This would have mad ethe last 20 minutes much more exiciting. With thinking like that these same people would cut the first battle Bull Run (manassas) out of a civil war epic. Or cut WW1 from a history of the twentith century.

    Also why leave the funeral out. The book ends as a downer and does not leave you with much optimistic.

  • Jack

    Also why leave the funeral out. The book ends as a downer and does not leave you with much optimistic.

    umm the last word should be optimism.

    sorry.

    but i totally agree with you anyhow.

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