Harry Potter no longer lives in the light-headed, PG fluff fantasy world that he occupied in the early Potter films. As the very first shot of the film suggests simply by its color palette, this film is rather bleak. It centers on the raging hormones of the teenagers at the magical academy, but also builds a feeling of dread for the inevitable confrontation with the evil Lord Voldemort. Another thing the film gets right? It displays flashbacks to when he was a young, troubled although brilliant wizard. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a blend of compelling drama, comedic relief, and the characters that we have grown to love over 8 years, Harry, Ron and Hermione.
A brief summary for those unfamiliar to Harry Potter. (though the existence of such a person is doubtful) In an alternate universe parallel to ours, there’s a magical school called Hogwarts. Voldemort is an evil former student, bent on destroying anything and everything. In their sixth year at Hogwarts, the three friends Harry, Ron and Hermione face a new terror considered evil to many: Romance. Love is in the air at Hogwarts, wrecking friendships along with it. The school’s headmaster Dumbledore, who faced death with Harry the previous year wants Harry to retrieve a memory from a teacher, that could help them defeat Voldemort.
Lots of names and places named in that summary will likely be hard to understand for those unfamiliar with Potter. Although all the Potter die-hards (and there are millions) know that a strong-suit of the series is how it juggles different characters, places, spells and stories and remains coherent. Since we have practically watched these actors grow up, ‘Half-Blood Prince’ really makes you realize what an achievement in film filming this series of books is. Not just simply all the action sequences, sets and such, but making you care for these people, even so much as a minor character like Hagrid or Neville. Throughout all the different directors the series has employed, they all let the characters develop and progress over time without it seeming arbitrary. You become so engrossed in the series, seeing a place like the Great Hall being demolished (minor spoilers) in this film makes you sort of wince.
The actors are all getting better and better. This is the first film since ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ to really focus primarily on the emotions of the characters, instead of events they are put through. Because of this, the material they are given has more weight to it. Not just relationship troubles (and there are many) but troubles accepting who they are and what they inevitably must do. Draco Malfoy, Harry’s nemesis who in the other movies was an annoying brat here matures, and is the revelation of the film. Here he does more than sneer and brag, but is actually a central part of the plot.
I think proof-reading this review made me realize just how much I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. There’s not much more to be said, except that I simply cannot wait for the 5-hour, 2-part final installment of this series. November 19, 2010 can’t come any longer. A