Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Plot: Harry Potter returns for his sixth year at Hogwarts.  Meanwhile, Voldemort and his followers grow in numbers, causing mayhem in both the wizarding world and muggle world.  Harry and Dumbledore attempt to unlock Voldemort’s dark past in order to learn how to defeat him.

To be able to produce six movies of quality in the same series in less than ten years is pretty damn impressive.  I like some better than others, but there has never been a bad Harry Potter movie.  Although, some of them have hovered around the line of greatness, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince gets pretty close to finally breaking it.  This is my favorite of the series so far.  The movie has its share of problems, but the good outweighs the bad by a lot.

Now I don’t consider myself a die hard Potter head, but I’m a pretty big fan.  There are a lot of diehards who always complain about how much is taken out of the books.  This annoys me a great deal because I think they do a remarkable job of adapting these 700 page epics into a solid two and a half hour movie.  This one was no different.  People need to realize that what works in a book may not work on film.  The filmmakers certainly took their share of liberties with the ending to Half-Blood Prince, and I loved it.

The climax is beautiful.  Its subtlety really works for the movie, where the book’s ending was more glorified and had a larger cast of characters.  That worked for the book, but this works for the movie.  The fact that they cut out a lot of characters and events in the film’s climax makes the tension between the characters that much stronger.  This is all credit to the director, David Yates, who also directed the previous installment.  The ending was strong in that one as well, and he delivers once again here.  I’m thrilled he’s attached to the final film.

There were some minor disappointments of scenes they cut from the book that I want to mention.  For example, there is no Defense against the Dark Arts classes with Professor Snape as he tries to teach Harry and company how to use magical spells by thinking them.  This was a nice part in the book and I think it would have made the ongoing Harry/Snape conflict even stronger.

The movie’s biggest weakness though is that its main plot suffers from too much time spent on teenage romance.  Not that they didn’t do a good job with the adolescent shenanigans, because they do, but it should have been cut down to focus more on the main story, which is Dumbledore and Harry exploring Voldemort’s past through memories.  When Yates does focus on this story, he does a great job.  We do learn about one of Voldemort’s dark secrets, but it’s not enough.  They really needed to incorporate one or two more memories from the book to clearly show what Harry needs to do in order to rectify Voldemort’s wrong doings.  It will seem a bit confusing to the outsiders who only watch the movies.  Also, there are scenes from the book that further develop Voldemort’s character, which were unfortunately cut.

So what’s the best part about this movie?  The acting is phenomenal.  The acting has always been good in the Potter flicks, but everyone really steps it up here.  Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter has always been strong, but this is his best yet.  Newcomer Jim Broadbent as potions Professor Horace Slughorn was brilliant.  He’s crucial as his character essentially drives the film’s main plot.  Whether he’s being jovial or remorseful, Broadbent really nails all sides of the character.  More screen time with Alan Rickman as Professor Snape is always a good idea, which we get here.

The man who really steals the show though is Michael Gambon as Professor Dumbledore.  His run as Dumbledore through out the series has been inconsistent and uneven, but he makes up for it here.  One scene I’ll remember for a while is when he is forced to drink a potion.  It’s a very intense performance.

Fans and non-fans will like this one quite a bit.  I do have to warn you though, if you are a casual Potter fan, make sure you have seen all the previous movies and pay attention to this one.  Like I said, I have been very impressed with this series.  I love that the same actors have remained throughout all six movies and will return for the last one.  I have very high hopes for the final, which is split in two parts.  Unfortunately, if the finale fails the entire series will fail, but I am confident David Yates and company will deliver a knockout.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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