Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This is a first impression review I wrote up a few years back when the film hit theatres. Originally I published it as a note on Facebook, and since I made mostly minor changes to it, anybody having read the original can move on, jump to last two sentences.

So, that’s the movie of the 6th Harry Potter novel. good, quite good. Could have been much more, a minor masterpiece even. If only …

Slight spoilers ahead

For most of the 150 minutes director Yates shows what a good [fantasy] movie should be – a human drama with some magical flourishes. He finds a lot of new images, perspectives and colours within the boundaries of the HP movieverse, nothing distracting, to the contrary they all serve the story. He also wrings the best out of his brilliant cast. All actors who’ve handled their roles very well before.

The brightes light is without question Jim Broadbent, who also has the best written role in this film. Most of the other players except for David Radcliffe are relegated to the sidelines. A lot of them don’t have more than cameos in the film, some are just extras [blink and you miss them]. Broadbent gets to show a very wide range of emotions, ticks, almost schizophrenic character changes. And he does it so well, I often sat open-mouthed in awe.

Unfortunately the script, which offers the best dialogue in any HP movie to date, has real trouble holding everything together, sacrificing a lot of the novel’s plots to get the film to a theatre-friendly length. This works very well for about three quarters of it, when everyone concentrates on the emotional turmoil of adolescents. It breaks  apart when plot becomes necessary.

The last quarter of the film feels rushed and slow at the same time. They have to put a lot of story and plot elements into place. Not least to satisfy hard-core fans [always bad]. David Yates then lingers on scenes much too long – unless you are one of those hard-core fans, who want to see every little detail from the book. Since Warner Bros. couldn’t go with a rating of 16 and over, the novel’s shocks and horrors are essentially absent from the film. One case in point is the undead water creatures.

The whole tone, pacing, and feel of the last part of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince squares badly with the rest; instead of dark it goes for some badly interpreted action-adventure Hamlet [in tone!]. Curiously it is again the changes from Rowling’s tome working best.

BTW, considering that book and film are named after one particular person, how come the solution is a throw-away line without any sensible motivation?

All in all a good entry, not quite on par with Prisoner of Azkaban or Mike Newell’s Goblet of Fire. It could and should have been better.

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