Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the latest in the Harry Potter franchise – year six and there is now no doubt that Lord Voldemort is back. The opening scene ties in directly with the climax of the last film (Order of the Phoenix) which *I think* has been the best so far in this franchise. Order of the Phoenix was also the first to be directed by David Yates and by the looks of his imdb profile his first major movie following mostly TV work, and I think his visual interpretation of the Potter-world is excellent in particular the way wizards fought, using apparation, flying, hexes and spells exploding and colliding… I found visually stunning.
This visual interpretation of the books runs very deep in the Half-Blood Prince where there is a constant feeling of foreboding with many scenes in darkness and washed out colours. Even the usual train trip to Hogwarts isn’t the usual upbeat episode but begins with a flypast of the train in wild landscape of dark lochs (reminded me of Glen Coe but I’m not sure where it was).
The other thing which plays a massive role in this movie is the Hormones! After all, we can’t forget that this is about teenagers at a mixed boarding school and by year six they are finally starting to notice each other in a “different way”. This leads to a lot of the laughs in the movie but isn’t a distraction from the pace or plot in any way. Actually I think this is the best paced Harry Potter movie so far as most tend to slow down too much in the middle which I didn’t feel with this film.
A few of the highlights for me were seeing more of Luna Lovegood who is a fantastically quirky character, the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry which has always been lacking in the movies, and the development of Draco Malfoy’s character (outstandingly performed by Tom Felton). I also really enjoyed any scene that shows the death eaters in action… a perfect balance of looking ‘cool’ and ultimate evil. I’ve never really been a fan of Helena Bonham Carter before, but the Bellatrix Lestrange character is great, always stealing the scenes she appears in.
There has been some controversy and moans from fans over the sections of the book which have been changed or left out. I must admit that I was also disappointed about the end (I’m trying to avoid any spoilers here) but on reading more about the decision I can see why they changed it(*). I would say that this does leave the film with a weak ending which doesn’t really make sense. But this doesn’t take away from a very good film and not just another Harry Potter movie but another David Yates Harry Potter film which brings a depth to his visual interpretation of the books which I don’t think was fully realized in the earlier films.
Albus Dumbledore: You must be wondering why I brought you here.
Harry Potter: Actually sir, after all these years I just sort of go with it.
(*) Here Be Spoilers!!
If you have read the books you will, as I was, have been expecting to see a major battle take place in Hogwarts after the Death Eaters manage to get into the school – a task that Draco Malfoy has been working on all year. Apparently the decision to leave this out was in order to avoid repetition with the Battle of Hogwarts which we should see in the next movie(s) ( Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is released 2010, Part 2 in 2011).
Personally I think this really leaves a lot of questions and leaves big holes in the plot of this movie. The Death Eaters don’t seem necessary to Draco’s attempt on “someone’s” life nor of Snape’s “assistance” in that task so why all the fuss about getting them there. The main thing happening at Hogwarts during the year is Draco’s activity enabling the Death Eaters to get into Hogwarts, not having them do anything once there makes this meaningless. After the scene in the tower they for no apparent reason head off to Hagrid’s cottage, attack it, then wander off… it really is an anti-climax other than the fact that there is the other climax in this movie.