Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Movie Review
The time is near, that when the Harry Potter franchise delivers its final whisk of the wand. The tension is starting to build, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth entry in the blockbuster franchise, is a key indicator of how the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione will end. David Yates, who also directed the previous Harry Potter film, is back at the helm - as he will be for the final two movies - but there was no certainty that the franchise would end on a high note. After sitting through two and a half hours of the latest Harry Potter, however, I can say with confidence that I can't wait for the final chapters to arrive.
I was not a fan of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth movie and the first to be directed by Yates. It was better than a lot of movies and still quite entertaining, but compared to the third and fourth entries, which were impressively strong, the fifth outing seemed too focused on visual effects and rushed on story. At the time, I blamed director Yates for being out of his depth and began to dread how this fabled franchise would end; if he messed up once, he could mess up again, again and again.
I apologize to Mr. Yates. The problems with the fifth film were not his fault - at least not in their entirety - but those of the screenwriter, Michael Goldenberg. Why do I say that? Because every Harry Potter save for Order of the Phoenix was written by Steve Kloves. Given that Kloves is back and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is as good as ever, with Yates directing, we can only look at the uncommon variable to discern who's to blame.
But alas, this isn't a review about Phoenix; it's a review about The Half-Blood Prince. The movie is much better than expected and easily one of the series' best. It's pitch-perfect in many ways, which is pretty shocking considering how uneven the previous entry was. The dynamic between the three stars has never been stronger, and Michael Gambon, reprising his role as Dumbledore, is excellent. The movie looks great and captures the maturing characters with incredible nuance.
I've read the book twice, and I never read books twice. Nevertheless, I always feared that Prince would be the hardest one to adapt into a movie. It's long, talky and lacks much action. The movie is much the same, but Kloves and Yates have done an incredible job of keeping it entertaining, interesting and suspenseful. There is very little action and there are a few parts where the film drags a tiny bit, but for the most part it's an easy to watch, enjoyable and exciting film. Interestingly, while this film is one of the darkest in the series, it may also be the funniest. The screenplay has a lot of laugh-out-loud jokes that don't at all distract from the tone of the movie, and watching a bunch of teenagers squirm about budding romance is, as I found out, particularly amusing.
The faults of the film are that it leaves some things out, what exactly I can't recall. But certain characters get cornered into minimal parts, much more substantially than in the past. At the same time, the franchise ends with Harry, and it's only natural that the focus settles on him. I've heard this film referred to as a "bridge" story in a few reviews, much like The Empire Strikes Back or The Two Towers, and it is; it neither begins where someone can just pick it up nor end where one can feel fully satisfied. It ends in a dark and foreboding way - as it should - but those expecting a complete story should be warned. Of course, for the Harry Potter fans, this is only going to make the wait all the more unbearable.
My only other issue with the movie was the budding relationship between Harry and Ginny; while both Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright turn in fine performances, their chemistry together isn't completely convincing. There needed to be more time to develop their relationship, and following their first, extremely awkward and not-at-all romantic kiss, there needed to be something more to show us that they really were falling for each other.
Oh, and the movie forgets to explain what a "half-blood prince" is exactly. Oops. It's only the title of the movie, after all.
Despite a few minor flaws, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of the most compelling entries in the series. I can't go as far as to call it the best of the movies, since I've only seen it once (compared to dozens of times for the other films), but it is a possibility. As long as it is viewed as the "calm before the storm," Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an excellent, well-made adventure story that blends good-versus-evil themes, teenage romance and a coming-of-age story incredibly well.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.