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Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Half-Blood isn't half bad
By PETER KEOUGH  |  July 17, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | Directed by David Yeats | Written by Steve Kloves | Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling | with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, and Tom Felton | Warner Bros. | 153 minutes
For teenagers, everything seems like the end of the world: popularity, school, love, family, treacherous conspiracies, the war between good and evil wizards. Sometimes it's hard to keep things in perspective — as it must have been for David Yates in directing this adaptation of the penultimate volume in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, burdened as he is by the comic and tragic melodramas of his post-pubescent, hormonally confused cast — not to mention a five-volume backstory of Tolkienesque, if not Proustian, dimensions. But with the experience of the previous installment behind him and the guidance of Steve Kloves, who wrote the first four movies (among them the best, Alfonso Cuarón's The Prisoner of Azkaban), plus the talents of every major British actor requiring employment, he has rendered this episode with economy, wit, visual cogency, and darkening ambiguity.

Which means not only reducing the tedious Quidditch sequences but also the amount of gossipy chit-chat in the Hogwarts cafeteria about who's snogging whom. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), rumored as he is to be "The Chosen One" who will defeat arch-fiend Voldemort, has become a celebrity hounded by groupies. But for him it's an annoyance, since he's on the trail of toffee-nosed twit Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), whom he suspects of being "a Death-Eater," a minion of Voldemort. Harry's pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) dismiss his fears as paranoia, preoccupied as they are with their own love/hate relationship and Ron's inexplicable attractiveness to a pair of indistinguishable, predatory girls. Although this hanky-panky serves as comic relief at times and on one occasion is even touching, it mostly distracts from the grown-ups' more serious concerns.

Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), for example, needs to enlist Harry in a mysterious investigation into the intentions of Voldemort. A replay of memories collected into vials of pearly liquid reveals the wicked wizard's Dickensian origins and his reptilian rise to power as a star student at Hogwarts. But Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), Voldemort's favorite teacher, has redacted a crucial part of his contribution to the memory file, and rather than resort to waterboarding, Dumbledore has assigned Harry to sweet-talk the truth out of the waffling wizard.

This doesn't sound very exciting — and indeed, plot details threaten to overwhelm the narrative, which is already light on action. But the down time does allow actors usually overshadowed by special effects to demonstrate their skill. Alan Rickman as fishy Professor Snape is impeccable in his timing and line readings. His verbal inflections echo almost exactly those of Gambon's Dumbledore, the former sarcastic and the latter ironic.

What's more, The Half-Blood Prince's relative inertia allows for more complex and clarifying imagery, as realized by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Across the Universe). A climactic scene with Harry and Dumbledore in a seaside cave, nearly monochromatic and eerily dreamlike, evokes dread and melancholy. It combines pagan and Christian, Freudian and Jungian archetypes with somber authority, a still prelude to the final confrontation of The Deathly Hallows.

Related: Hairy Potter, The girls of summer, The last Potter, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Albus Dumbledore,  More more >
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Comments
Re: Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
David Yates (director) did a superb job just magnificent to watch, may be Alfonso Cuarón would have made them ROCK. I am a great fan of Harry Potter series. My favorite still remains HP3: Prisoner of Azkaban. But Half Blood was simply outstanding on levels. I'll be seeing it again Saturday on IMAX which will be even better as it's one of the original IMAX screens that loom up and over the audience as opposed to newer screens that are just big. Being a great fan I have collected a list of good sites and articles (may be around 200) related to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (movie information, movie schedule, movie reviews, books, games, news, wallpapers and many more). If you are interested take a look at the below link //markthispage.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-you-want-to-know-about-harry-potter.html
By ddadm09 on 07/15/2009 at 5:15:22
Re: Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I was most impressed by the powerful performance handed in by Tom Felton. As if gripped by an epiphany Felton’s worried, fearful looks reveal his doubts about his loyalty to the dark lord along with his own ability to carry out his mission. We watch him morph from the cocksure aristocratic brat of an elitist family to a young man trying to define himself in the burgeoning new world order. Draco grew up in the death-eater world without questioning its merit; but, to his horror, he begins to see his own enslavement to it. The audience has never been asked to sympathize with him before and Felton’s deft acting accomplished this. It seemed to take the film to a much higher level than it otherwise would have attained.  I look forward to seeing more of his work as he promises to be a refreshing hedge against the mundane.

By Inaframe on 07/24/2009 at 6:48:30

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