The Week in Film by Robert Mann – Week Starting 17/7/09

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ****

Harry Potter fans, the wait is finally over. The highly anticipated sixth film in the series has finally hit cinemas after its release was postponed by eight months from its original release date in November 2008, despite the film actually being completed on schedule. As angry and frustrated as many fans have become because of this, however, the delay has only heightened excitement surrounding the film’s eventual release. But with this eight month delay (on top of all the time that fans had already waited) having set anticipation to such a sky high level, does the film actually manage to live up to expectations and does it manage to restore some of the magic that many (although not this critic) felt was missing from the last instalment of the series? The answer will likely vary from person to person but for this critic is it mostly yes.

Emboldened by the return of Lord Voldemort, the Death Eaters are wreaking havoc in both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) suspects that new dangers may lie within the castle, but Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. He needs Harry to help him uncover a vital key to unlocking Voldemort’s defenses critical information known only to Hogwarts’ former Potions Professor, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). With that in mind, Dumbledore manipulates his old colleague into returning to his previous post with promises of more money, a bigger office and the chance to teach the famous Harry Potter, who finds himself in more trouble than ever before when he gets hold of a potions books belonging to someone calling himself the Half-Blood Prince. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry’s long friendship with Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) is growing into something deeper, but standing in the way is Ginny’s boyfriend, Dean Thomas (Alfie Enoch), not to mention her big brother Ron (Rupert Grint). But Ron’s got romantic entanglements of his own to worry about, with Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) lavishing her affections on him, leaving Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) simmering with jealousy yet determined not to show her feelings. And then a box of love potion-laced chocolates ends up in the wrong hands and changes everything. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof with far more important matters on his mind. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.

With David Yates once again behind the camera (and apparently also helming the two remaining films in the series), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince gets off to a thrilling and eye-popping start with an opening sequence featuring an attack by Death Eaters on Muggle London, notably the Millennium Bridge. From this point onwards there is a sense of impending doom that is present throughout the entire film making it abundantly clear that dark times are approaching and setting the mood and atmosphere effectively. If you’re worried that the film is going to be all doom and gloom, though, then fear not as Yates effectively balances all the darker elements of the film with some light and humorous whimsical moments, many coming from the developing romances of many of the central characters. The growing relationship between Harry and Ginny is extremely sweet and convincing, although it isn’t really explored in enough detail, with Ginny not even appearing after the kissing scene. The love triangle between Lavender, Ron and Hermione, however, is handled much better, setting up for future relationship developments in the coming films. The triangle works particularly well thanks to the performance of Jessie Cave who convincingly and entertainingly portrays her character’s infatuation with Ron. The romances are given greater emphasis than in previous films but of course still take a backseat to the primary storyline events. This is where there are some significant flaws in the film. While the film does manage to entertaining and interesting for the most part, at times it is very talky and viewers may just wish for a bit more excitement, especially younger ones, and on occasions there is also a feeling that too much from the book may have been left out of the script as the narrative flow isn’t as good as in previous ‘Harry Potter’ movies and, in some ways it just feels as if the film is setting up for the final chapter (or should I say chapters – the final book is being made into two movies), rather than serving as a film in its own right. It is very likely that younger viewers may find the film too long and slow paced to hold their attention although more mature viewers will find it considerably more engaging, particularly as the dialogue heavy sequences are of great importance to developments in the plot. While the film is very talky at times, however, this isn’t to say that it isn’t doesn’t have action packed sequences, and these do deliver for the most part, helped by visual effects that are very good, if not the best you will see at the cinema this year. Another area where the film delivers successfully, almost faultlessly in fact, is of course the acting, and as with all the films in the series to date it is first rate across the board. The impressive cast of British thespians (Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Natalia Tena, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters, Mark Williams and Timothy Spall) gets even bigger still with the addition of Jim Broadbent, and all the young actors manage to stand up to their older co-stars, with great performances from Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright and Tom Felton, although it is a shame to see co-stars such as Matthew Lewis and William Melling, not to mention countless others, relegates to such small roles. Also, worth noting is a suitably creepy performance from Frank Dillane as a young Tom Riddle, a.k.a. Voldemort. All in all, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a film that certainly has its flaws but nonetheless it stands as another great addition to the series. In this critic’s opinion it is inferior to some of its preceding franchise entries but I suspect that some may well view this as being considerably better. Whatever your opinion, however, there is no denying that this is a very well made film that is both entertaining and interesting and well worth the price of a cinema ticket.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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