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Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Written by: Tom Hardej, Special to CC2K

Everything comes together in this, the strongest installment of the series to date.

ImageThere’s a moment in the opening scenes of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where, after being in the muggle world maybe for a few days, Harry returns with Dumbledore and the entire contents of the inside of a destroyed house are put together around him. Broken pieces of glass reattach; bits of a chandelier fly around his head until they’re back where they’re supposed to be. And he has this look on his face of utter amazement and surprise, even entering his sixth year at Hogwarts. It’s a bit how I felt too in that moment. After two years away from the series (the final book and the previous movie both came out in July 2007), it’s really easy to forget how, uh, magical Harry’s story really is. It was a great feeling to have at the start of, what I think is, the best movie out of the bunch so far.

It’s actually really hard to judge any of the films accurately since they each build so heavily upon the previous films and rely upon so much from knowledge of the books. The movie version of Half-Blood Prince leaves a lot out. It has to, of course, because even at 153 minutes, there’s hardly room for everything. It’s lacking some of the characterization that the other films had. It’s assumed and taken for granted that we know who all of these characters are already, so except for Ron, who has the best scenes really, we don’t really know more about Harry and Hermione by the end of the film. Hermione, in particular, loses a little of her edge, focusing more on angst than magic. In the book they spend a lot of time wondering who the Half-Blood Prince is, and clues build. In the movie, it’s almost an after thought, and if not for the title, we probably wouldn’t care at all. Knowledge of the book helps fill in those pieces. I can say almost definitely that if I hadn’t been a fan already, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. But the point of these films has never really been to make something separate. It’s a nice bonus when the movie is actually good, of course.

None of the other films have been bad per se. I would say that the first two are probably the least imaginative, and are probably my least favorite. The third is the most stylish. The fourth and fifth mostly just build towards the sixth. Everything finally comes together, I think, in this new one. The three kid have grown up a bit and are more confident in their surroundings, but in working together. And who’s going to have anything bad to say about Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, or Julie Walters except to ask why they get so little screen time? The effects are all perfect, except for a weird habit director David Yates has of adding a weird lens once in a while. It makes sense when Harry and Draco (played again by Tom Felton, who is actually quite good in this one too) duel, but it wasn’t consistent through the movie, and felt kind of out of place. The Quidditch match, which was seriously missed in the last one, is fantastic, of course, too.

The story, like I said, leaves a bit out, but is still really well done. The teenage angst stuff (boyfriends, girlfriends, etc.) is wacky, but mostly believable. As for the Voldemort, the stakes are higher here than they ever have been before. He is back, though he doesn’t make an appearance in this film. The Deatheaters have reassembled and are lashing out not just on the wizarding world, but also on the muggles, destroying a bridge in London. Despite all of that, Hogwarts goes on, and Dumbledore is secretly training Harry for what he must to do to eventually defeat Voldemort. Harry is done coming to terms with who he is and how he fits into this world, and he knows it’s time for action. No one quite knows what the Deatheaters are capable of truly until the end, in what is truly the most affecting sequence in the whole of the movies (and maybe in all of the books). For the two people out there who don’t know what happens, I won’t ruin it, but it’s an ending that brings forth a number of emotions, not the least of which is anxiety and anticipation for the final chapter of the films (which will be split up in two parts). Next year we see how the end begins, and it can’t come soon enough. Here’s hoping that Yates is able to maintain the high quality of this film and resolve the series in the way it deserves.