Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter 6

Review by Patrick Hodges

When all is said and done, the Harry Potter series of stories – both the literary works and the large-screen adaptations made from them – will go down as quite possibly the most successful and lucrative series of all time.  This is not in dispute.

Consider where we started:  in 2001, The Sorcerer’s Stone introduced moviegoers of all ages to Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), the boy wizard, and his two best friends, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson).  We marveled, much as they did, as J.K. Rowling’s universe unfolded, enveloping us in a world where magic was a way of life.

But it is now eight years later, and the penultimate chapter of the series, The Half-Blood Prince, is upon us.  Gone are the adorable preteens; our heroes have grown into mature young adults.  Gone is the childish innocence and whimsy; it has been replaced by raging hormones and bucketfuls of teenage awkwardness.  And gone is the mere appearance of peril, when the most dangerous endeavor was winning a game of life-sized chess; it has grown to almost cataclysmic levels, where the throes of the evil Lord Voldemort’s masterplan have ramifications in the “real” world as well.

The story focuses mostly on the collaborative effort of Harry and Hogwart’s headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who are searching for a way to counter Voldemort’s growing power.  One key piece of this puzzle is the return of Dumbledore’s old friend and former teacher Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), who possesses locked-away memories that may prove vital in the coming struggle.

And I should perhaps have put a heavy accent on the word “coming”, because, as you may expect with the second-to-last chapter of such an epic story, there are no major action sequences or fight scenes.  Half-Blood Prince is very much a platform, setting the table for what will surely be the most-anticipated film of the next decade, The Deathly Hallows (which, due to its length, will be split into two different chapters, scheduled for release in the winters of 2010 and 2011). 

The pace of this movie is very slow, almost annoyingly so.  It is refreshing that director David Yates did not use the film’s two-and-a-half-hour running length to bother explaining developments and character references to us - honestly, if we who are watching this film don’t know what’s going on by NOW, it is pointless to try to explain – but even so, there were are few places where the film seemed to drag.  Most of HBP’s humor comes from the aforementioned giddy awkwardness, as most of the main characters explore various ill-timed romantic relationships.

I found myself, during the last half-hour of this movie, comparing it to The Empire Strikes Back.  That film, too, was more of a set-up for the finale than anything; and in place of a pulse-pounded climax, there was a revelation or plot twist that left the audience shocked and stunned, as certain character developments take a sharp dramatic turn.  (I won’t say any more than that.)

In conclusion, The Half-Blood Prince probably will not rank among the very top of my favorite chapters of the series, but it did what it was supposed to do… it evolved the story, the mythology, the substance of the story, and whetted our appetites for the beginning of the end, which is now in sight (a mere year and a half down the road).

4 / 5 stars


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