Sunday, September 20, 2009

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince Review

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince:
Directed by David Yates
Released in 2009

There is always room for growth in a series that continues to flourish and mature after each outing. With Order of the Phoenix director David Yates at the helm and screenwriter Steve Kloves back after a short hiatus (he was the true source of the last film's weakness), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a fantastic film that is brimming with comedy, drama, love, and loss. As of this moment, I would count it as the best Harry Potter film yet, a quite significant word of praise considering how great each installment has been to this point.

Opening with a shot of Dumbledore and Harry surrounded by reporters during the aftermath of the previous movie's ending and with a high-pitch, barely audible scream of Bellatrix Lestrange, I couldn't have imagined a better way to start this film. It suggested a more confident, risky approach at film-making and it sets the movie off at a perfect tone. Yates and Kloves have hit a stride in their work and now are perfectly complementing each other.

One immediate, noticeable key to this film's success is its seamless transitions between the Muggle and Wizard world. A bright spot of my other favorite Potter film (Prisoner of Azkaban), the incorporation of the "other" world into their own makes the storytelling that much more believable, as well as display some truly spectacular special effects. A scene of the Death Eaters flying through various landmarks of London and causing havoc along the way is truly eye-opening. The cinematography remains extremely strong throughout and the general lack of much color and glamor suggests this newer, even more mature tone.

Of course, not everything in Hogwarts is dark and tragic; J.K. Rowling knows when to have fun. Romance is a new aspect of the teen's lives that is a huge focus for many scenes. Ron is feeling growing feelings for the always faithful Hermione, feelings that are tantamount or even more so. However, the horny, obsessive Lavender Brown gets in the way and steals Ron from his true partner, causing a feud between the two. Meanwhile, Harry starts to feel love for another person that should be deemed taboo to him, Ron's sister, Ginny. What follows is a typical teen love story that is made the more interesting by the actors' talents and the best part is that this is just one aspect of the film, not its leading cynosure.
The acting also continues to impress, unsurprisingly. Daniel Radcliffe still remains the Harry Potter, even if his character may be overshadowed by the other, more interesting supporting characters. That is no slight to the leading man, of course. It just shows how rich of a world Rowling created and the breadth of talent and detail her books and the films hold. Rupert Grint is given a more comical outlook this time, usually providing the comic relief when the going gets tough. A particular scene with a overly strong love potion was hilarious to say the least, and even after a close encounter with death, Ron always has a lighthearted one-liner to deliver. Emma Watson returns as a more mature actress with looks to match the talent. Hermione has always been great, but the scenes involving her jealousy with Ron and the conflicting feelings she has show her peak so far, a benchmark that will surely be surpassed in the next film. After a while you wonder why Ron is stupid enough to look over the prettiest girl in the school but the end of the film can only foretell positive feelings for the future.

Many other characters continue to remain strong, such as Evanna Lynch's perfect rendition of Luna Lovegood as well as Tom Felton's haunting Draco Malfoy. Draco is given a heightened focus in this installment and his task assigned by Voldemort really defines who he has become. In addition, the Weasley family remains strong, even after a loss that was not in the book midway through the movie. Seasoned readers (such as myself) have been surprised. Hagrid, by Robbie Coltrane, returns all too briefly, but it is just a sign that the kids don't have much time to hang out with the big, lovable half-giant anymore. They need to grow up. Furthermore, Alan Rickman's Severus Snape remains wordlessly perfect, embodying the best character of the series with almost little noticeable effort. His work in the last film will be legendary if he continues along this path and with Rowling's source material. I have faith that he will not disappoint, a perfectly reasonable assumption for one of the greatest living actors at the moment.

Two characters are given the spotlight even more than most aforementioned ones in this installment. Dumbledore, played by Michael Gambon in a way that surpasses the late Richard Harris's standards (no disrespect to that excellent actor however), is an amazing character in every sense of the word. His vast knowledge and magical prowess have always made him a fascinating character with a rich history. Here, in one of his final acts, he once again leads Harry on this path to vanquish, once and for all, the dark lord, Lord Voldemort. Gambon brings so much charisma and energy to the role that the images of Rowling's descriptions and his acting go hand-in-hand. The fate of his character provides for a truly beautiful scene at the end.

The other character is none other than Professor Horace Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent. Jim is a seasoned British actor and has won an Academy Award in the past, but out of every movie I have seen him act in so far, this is by far his best role yet. Slughorn's persona is improved upon with Broadbent, a compliment considering how much detail Rowling put into it herself. He provides many moments of hilarity, probably to hide his ashamed past. His role with Tom Riddle in years past haunts him years later; Harry has a task to see through the smoke screen and extract this vital info. However, Broadbent's character is not this dark in the long run. He loves to throw parties and cherish his prized students, hoping to gain fame or fortune from being a part of their progression. It may seem despicable but Broadbent makes Slughorn such a charming, somewhat hapless character that you can't help but root for him all along the way.

As mentioned earlier, the special effects are one of the showcases of the film, but thankfully not the film's main trait like the last one. Dumbledore's battle with the Inferni is epic to say the least, and the Death Eater assault on the Burrow is quite frightening. Even the Quidditch match is exciting!! An establishment in the series I usually am quite passive about, Quidditch is given a new outlook with its seamless special effects and concise editing. The visual effects department shone again with this installment but thankfully it is just a complement to every other bright, shining aspect this film has to offer.

In the end, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince may as well be the best film in the series yet. Forget about any number or rating assigned to this; I believe it is the best movie of the summer. There are a few qualms that can be had such as the fact that nothing essential to the plot occurs until the very end, but this is petty carping that tarnishes an otherwise pristine crown.
The soul of this film is character development, and it succeeds in that area strongly. If you are a fan of the series, you will love it. If not, you will be entranced and possibly hooked to J.K. Rowling's magical world, maybe enough to read the excellent books. For the first, real time, the film matches the artistic merit of its counterpart.

Final Verdict:
4.5 Stars out of 5


Metal_Gear_Sunny said...

God, reading your blog reminds me that my blog is outdated and shitty.

Zachary Zahos said...

Haha, thank you? I am currently struggling to try and put, of all things, pictures on my blogs. I just got it with my most recent post but editing older ones is not working for me for some reason.