Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

When we last left Harry, he and Dumbledore had just defeated Voldemort in a difficult and costly battle in the lobby of the Ministry of Magic.  There were witnesses and Voldemort’s return was proven to the wizarding world at large, thus vindicating Harry. Whatever relief or joy Harry feels at that is overshadowed by the knowledge that the most powerful dark wizard in history is alive and after him.

Half Blood Prince is pretty much prelude. Harry, Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix are marshaling their forces, forging alliances and making their final moves before the epic throwdown in Deathly Hallows, knowing that the enemy is doing the same. Dumbledore guides Harry through a special research project. Using the pensieve, a device for reading memories stored in glass vials or pulled directly from someone’s brain, Harry searches through Dumbledore’s collection of memories concerning Tom Riddle, the Hogwart’s student who would become Voldemort. They search for clues as to his strategy and also for weaknesses.

In the meantime a new school year is starting and as usual there have been changes in Hogwort’s faculty. Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) has been moved over to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, a move that he has been wanting for some time. Taking his old Potions position is Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) who Dumbledore has lured out of retirement. Slughorn is an inveterate name dropper, proud of all the famous wizards he’s taught over the years. One of those former students of whom he is not so proud is Voldemort. Harry’s task is to pump the reluctant Slughorn for information about the young dark lord, more opposition research.

And of course, at the same time, Harry has to grow up himself. His interest in girls is rapidly overcoming his natural reticence and the self esteem issues pounded into him by the Dursleys. Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) is looking better to him all the time, but she’s dating someone and Ron, Harry’s best friend isn’t too keen on the idea of anyone dating his little sister. Ron is involved with the cloying Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) much to the consternation of Hermione, who has liked Ron for a few years now. This soap opera provides almost all of the humor in the film.

If I apply my usual standards to this film, I might point out that the plot is weak and the pacing is uneven at best. But of course this is a middle installment in a multipart series. It is in fact the beginning of the end of the story so allowances can be made.  I can’t imagine anybody who’s watched all these films griping about Harry and Ginny’s first kiss even if it does bring the plot to a grinding halt, or seeing Ron gooned on a love potion. Rupert Grint has developed excellent comic timing, by the way, and has a wide array of funny faces.

This of course is a testament to J.K. Rowling’s universe, which is deep and detailed. We are seeing the next generation in this world come into it’s own, even as the older one wanes. Dumbledore seems frail, as does Arthur Weasley. Remus Lupin is beaten down by the loses that have been inflicted on him by the other side. Harry, Hermione, Ron and the rest of their classmates need to step up, so all this stuff about growing up is germane to the theme.

It’s also a tribute to the actors that breathe life into Rowling’s creation. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione, Micheal Gambon as Dumbledore and the rest of the regular cast are by now old friends. Their comfort with the roles precludes anyone else from playing them and they do a great job. Newcomer, Jim Broadbent adds to the excellence. He brings Slughorn’s fawning affability to the fore. Tom Felton deserves mention for making us feel a little sorry for the bully Draco Malfoy.

Director Peter Yates gives this film a suitable atmosphere of dread. Steve Kloves’ script captures the book without slavishly following it. Bruno Delbonnel takes over the Director of Photography duties and the results are sumptuous. As the situations in the movies get more and more dire, the photography gets more muted. Parts of this fim are almost in black and white

In my review of Order of the Phoenix, I mentioned that Half Blood Prince would probably be the toughest of the books to translate into film. I suspected that the team that has gathered around this project could pull it off and I was right.

Now I can’t wait to see how they end it.


1 Response to “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”

  1. 1 david August 30, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Hi. Thought you’d like to know there are some mistakes here and there, albeit minor ones. I do dislike the perpetuating of them on the net, so be appreciative of my pointing yours out. The usual: it’s for its, a forgotten s in loses. Here and there means in your blog reviews, but I lost track and can’t tell you which (I also erased my history in the process).
    Nice insights in the movies, and nice more-than-two-syllable words (I liked slavishly).

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