Friday, 24 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

With the entire World and their mums having seen the new Harry Potter film, I thought I'd better weigh in, lest I become defunct or something...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Jesus Christ, are we really six films into the series? God, I feel so old. I remember seeing Philosopher's Stone back in 2001 and being blown away by the special effects and the scale of it all. 8 years later, I'm pleased to say that it happened all over again.

"I can make things move without touching them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me. I can speak to snakes too. They find me... whisper things."

There is so much plot carried over from Order of the Phoenix I felt that this film would collapse under the weight of it all, but it didn't. However, this film doesn't make allowances for Muggles not up to speed with all things Potter, so my advice is to watch Order of the Phoenix before driving to your local cinematorium. So, here's the rundown for Half-Blood Prince- Death Eaters are on the rampage, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has a task for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has a secret mission for Voldemort, adolescent hormones are raging, Harry inherits an old school text with notes in the margins from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince and Hogwarts gains a new professor in the form of Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Also Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are there too. Half-Blood Prince is a leviathan of a film, keeping so many different threads going at any one time. The main cast are solid, with the three leads building on their Order of the Phoenix successes. I was really impressed with Felton's Draco Malfoy who still acts rings around the Three Stooges, even if he does seem to be going through a bit of a Gerard Way phase. Gambon is especially great as Dumbledore this time round and Broadbent is brilliant as Slughorn. Special mention to the two actors playing Tom Riddle. Hero Fiennes-Tiffin (yes, nephew of Ralph "Voldemort" Fiennes) and Frank Dillane. They're both incredibly creepy performances.

I enjoyed Half-Blood Prince a lot more that I thought I would. Since it's been a while since I read the book, I didn't have a problem with the majority of the things they changed. After all, the book itself is thick enough to knock out a toddler and trying to cram all that information into 150 minutes would have been a stupid idea. A good example of all this is the Death Eater attack on The Burrow. In the book, there are numerous attacks reported but none actually happen to Harry. The decision to have one happen to him was a sound one in my book.

A lot of reviews I've read and people I've spoken to remark on the film being a lot funnier than previous installments. Whilst this is true, I felt it jarred with some of the darker themes being explored. Yes, the joke count has been upped to counteract the darkness of it all, but why? I am certain that every kid in the screening I went to see had already read the book, probably multiple times. Kids can handle the darkest shit out there, always have been able to and always will.

In terms of favourite scenes, I had quite a few. I loved the fact that Quidditch made a roaring comeback for one. I liked the lower-key scenes with Draco skulking around and the fight between him and Harry in the bathroom. Any scene with Snape is a joy to watch, but that's always been the case. I really, really liked the scene where Harry and Dumbledore are in a cave and some great role-reversal takes place, with Harry feeding some bastardly potion to Dumbledore. It's genuinely moving and a credit to the two actors. I also loved the cinematography in general, with its use of close-ups and sweeping views of Hogwarts.

The one thing I didn't buy about Half-Blood Prince was all the teen romance. It seemed to me to be played as comedic, rather than anything serious, which I found to be patronising- especially when the film is so desperate to convey that Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown up. I felt they could have done more with Hermione's love for Ron and played it on the subtle side of things instead of mallet-in-the-face obvious. I can't remember how it was done in the book, but I'm sure it was done better.

Oh- and THAT moment. Christ. (Invisotexted for spoilers) Dumbledore's death is changed considerably from the book and I'm not sure why. In the book, Harry is paralysed and forced to watch his mentor die, whereas here, he's in hiding and watches the whole thing. There's even a line later on where Harry laments that he just stood there. Why change it? Maybe they wanted to add more guilt for Harry to feel, but it just doesn't work. Whilst this change doesn't spoil the film, it's a glaring dent on the classic Jag that is this film.

"Times like these, dark times, they do funny things to people. They can tear them apart."

So, Half-Blood Prince is very good indeed. Probably on par with my personal favourite, Prisoner of Azkaban. Recommended.

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