Friday, July 17, 2009


Before I start my review of Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince let me take a second to inform you of a plan I’d like to see go into effect. Tonight I went to see this movie with my beautiful fiancée and just as the lights went down three ill diggy yo yo mackin fresh word ‘em up yo yo homies started talking as though they were in their living room. When people (including myself) asked them to please be quiet they took it as an invitation to act like tough guys. When security came to ask them to shut up they kept saying they would “kick a muthafuckah down the steps”. People who do this in movies are the lowest type of human being because not only do they know what they’re doing is wrong but when you ask nicely for them to respect where they are they threaten you. I say that from now on if people do that you’re allowed to shoot them in the face until they die. Anybody with me?

OK, on to the movie.

I have an interesting relationship with Harry Potter in that it’s one of the few pop culture phenomenons that I have no vested interest in. I read the first book but never continued on to the next one and I only saw the first two movies in order to do the press junket during my MTV days. With that type of peripheral interest I’m able to watch the movies with just pure enjoyment. The week before Half Blood opened I watched the other movies and found that I liked them much more than I thought I would. The best part was having my Potter fanatic fiancée Sara filling in the gaps between the books and the movies. I’ve actually gained an interest in reading the books as well as newfound respect for JK Rowling as a storyteller.

The Half Blood Prince movie is a solid, well told and largely depressing movie that bravely stays focused on expanding the dark times in young Harry Potter’s life. Director David Yates splits the responsibility of telling this chapter in the Potter legacy in half by relying as much on visuals as on his actors. When I say visuals I don’t mean special effects but the actual visual palette of the film.

The colors in Half Blood Prince are all very muted and dark, it’s always raining or snowing and the film is shot in a very constricted way. Shots are framed tightly and there’s an air on congestion to the frames. You really begin to feel the oppressive state the characters are living in and how the fear of the dark lord is stifling everyone it touches. Yates smartly uses the many special effects to help the characters tell their tale as opposed to relying on effects to be the story.

Within this tense structure the three main characters Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are allowed to flourish. Daniel Radcliff who plays Potter does a great job of showing Harry as a warm young man with a heavy heart. Using equal parts innocence and dark eyed sadness Radcliff manages to balance the typical growing pains and amusements of a teenager with the world-saving responsibilities Potter has. You believe him as both a gawky teenager and as the chosen one and our only hope against the dark lord.

Emma Watson who portrays Hermione Granger has not only grown into a beautiful young woman but also a more confidant actress. Watson uses a lot more nuance and subtly than her counterparts and it works well as a counter weight to the two boys. Hermione’s a much more complex character here than before and Watson uses her facial expressions and tiny gestures to let the audience in on how she’s feeling. It’s especially potent when she suffers unrequited love at the hands of Ron Weasley.

Speaking of Ron Weasley I must say actor Rupert Grint is flawless in this movie. He can be funny, charming, lecherous and idiotic but he’s never unlikable. Grint keeps Weasley as a character you can root for, the guy you’d want to have a beer with after potions class. His dalliance with a completely insane young girl is one of the only light spots in the film but it doesn’t feel like a forced “comedy moment”. It’s more an example of how no matter what treachery is surrounding them teenagers will always get distracted by dating, love and the early attempts to figure out the human heart.

The Half Blood Prince supporting cast also does a great job of turning what could’ve been a simple kids film into something else by melding with their characters utterly and completely. Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape is an incredible joy to watch whenever he’s on screen as is Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore. These two and the other supporting cast members are dedicated to making the world of Harry Potter every bit as real as our own and with that comes some real tension and uneasiness about Voldemort. As complex as the plot gets it never becomes convoluted and Yates always tosses in a little action right when it seems as though the film is getting long winded.

The things that don’t work are small and not anything that would lead me to not recommend Half Blood Prince. For instance I wanted there to be more of actor Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy. Malfoy is Potter’s arch nemesis and one of the most interesting characters in the entire movie. I could’ve used a lot less (as in none) of Helena Bonham Carter cackling and way over doing her turn as one of Voldemort’s minions. I honestly don’t understand how somebody as one-note as Bonham Carter continues to work. My only other gripe is something that may have not been a problem in the books but sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie.

The title of the film is The Half Blood Prince but that whole aspect is only a small part of the movie. I kept waiting for the Half Blood Prince thing to become more central to the plot but it never does. It’s not a huge problem because everything else going on is so engrossing but it did strike me as odd. I can only assume it was an angle better explored in the books that had to be pared down for the film.

At two and a half hours Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince could have easily been a long-winded bore that only appealed to the die-hard book fans. Instead what you get is that rare breed of film that will entertain kids and adults alike. I’m sure the Potter Faithful will have a myriad of issues with the liberties taken for the film version but for the rest of us this is the strongest entry in the entire series. Let’s just hope it finishes on as strong a note when Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows opens in 2011.

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