Jun 5, 2015

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


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was David Yates' first experience to Harry Potter and with the Half-Blood Prince he had the opportunity to really put his stamp on the series. That he did. Critics responded well to the ever-darkening tale of "the chosen one" and so did audiences to the tune of $934,416,487 worldwide. It was the second highest grossing movie of the year behind the unbeatable Avatar, but I get the feeling that Harry Potter book loyalists weren't particularly happy with HPatHBP.

The book the movie is based on is full to the brim with background information regarding characters and past events, making it an impossible task to truly adapt everything into a movie that's under three hours. While it's too bad having so much cut out, Steve Kloves didn't really have much of a choice. While it might be easy to say that the book is better, cutting out material doesn't necessarily make an adaptation worse than its book counterpart. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is proof of that.

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At a Glance


Genre: adventure, family, fantasy
Directed by: David Yates
Produced by: David Barron, David Heyman, Lionel Wigram, etc.
Written by: Steve Kloves
Music by: Nicholas Hooper
Running time: 153 minutes
Production company: Warner Bros., Heyday Films
Distributed by: Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Karo Premiere, etc.
Country: United Kingdom, United States
Language: English
Budget: $250,000,000
Box office: $934,416,487 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Dave Legeno, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, Matthew Lewis, Devon Murray, Mark Williams, Oliver Phelps, James Phelps, Freddie Stroma, Jessie Cave, Alfred Enoch, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Frank Dillane

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Synopsis


Not even the muggle world is safe from Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his followers. Following an attack in London that kills several muggles, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) brings Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) along with him to convince Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to return as a teacher of Hogwarts. Although a good teacher, the real reason for Slughorn's hiring is to get him to divulge a dark secret regarding Lord Voldemort's past which could be the key to defeating him.


Review


Kind of strange how IMDb insists on categorizing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as a family film eh? I really don't think it fits the bill as the other movies have since we're clearly out of childhood and "teenagehood" here. There are some legitimate creepy/scary moments in the film and you'd think that the sun was going out for how constantly dark it is. You could sort of say that it is because there's almost never a moment where the sky isn't covered up by dark clouds which probably do have something to do with Voldemort. I suppose he doesn't like getting his tan on.

With all this stylish darkness all over the place, it's surprising how funny and sweet Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince can be. There are all sorts of goofy and amusing scenes like Ron's Quidditch tryout for example that manage to thankfully not feel out of place. The same goes for all the romantic escapades of Harry, Ron and Hermione which are pleasing bookmarks to the real meat of this movie. After all, you can't forget that the trio are still teenagers and they've got more than just saving the world on their minds.

Half-Blood Prince goes into the past quite a bit and trust me, it needs to. There are a lot more twists and turns to this continuing story then ever before. Yes there is a lot that's cut out from the book, but everything that is absolutely needed is there. Unfortunately, it's even harder to follow than any other Harry Potter movie if you haven't read the books before. It's possible to enjoy the movie without a Harry Potter translator beside you, but you'll be scratching your head a lot more if you don't. A Wikipedia trip after watching is another option too of course.

While Half-Blood Prince continues to follow Harry and his journey, there's a surprising new and welcome focus on Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). For most of the series, he's mostly been the spineless, greasy-haired bully that's been fun to watch. But no more. With his father a confirmed Death Eater, where else do you actually think Draco's loyalties lie? He's given a mission by Lord Voldemort himself and his journey is very interesting to watch. You thought you'd never sympathize with Draco Malfoy? Think again.

The fantasy action of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is top-notch and it's amazing just how stylish and hauntingly beautiful it looks as a film. Special effects also look amazing. It looks every bit its $250 million price tag and you can't really ask for more. Even with all the digital wizardry going on, there's never a lack of danger for the characters involved which isn't always the easiest thing to do. I also want to highlight just how good Nicholas Hooper's score is. I liked his work on Order of the Phoenix for how different it sounded compared to the scores of John Williams and Patrick Doyle, but I think he truly found his footing for HPatHBP.


Thrilling, funny and at times very moving, few fantasy films can match what Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince delivers. While it cuts away quite a bit of material from the book, there's more than an adequate skeleton here. There's no doubt that a person that has read the book will be better served than someone who hasn't though. That's just an unavoidable reality, but I do think that David Yates and his team have balanced things out nicely for readers and non-readers. In my mind, there's no doubt that this is one of my favourites of the entire series.

Rating

8.5/10

Related Reviews:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)