Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Having viewed the first five films in this series at the cinema, it was predictable that I would want to see this one as well in the best circumstances. However, it was something of a disappointment and perhaps does not bode well for the seventh novel which is being filmed in two parts. Despite its two and a half hour running time, this movie seemed largely a preview for the final chapters of the tale and its mix-and-match approach managed to leave out some of the novel's best action and to focus on some of the least rewarding. This is the "bitch" from someone who has read the book, but anyone who has not might well be at a disadvantage to understand what is being shown. In no way is this movie a stand-alone story.

We join Daniel Radcliffe's Harry and his best friends Hermione and Ron in their penultimate year at Hogwarts although all of them are getting just a wee bit long in the tooth for their roles. Most of the regular characters that we have known and loved like Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith aren't given much to do here; the focus is on Dumbledore's quest to educate Harry (aka "The Chosen One") to destroy the so-called Dark Lord and on evil young Draco Malfoy who has been selected to stop the kindly Headmaster. There is not even much screen time for Helena Bonham-Carter's Beatrix Lestrange or for Alan Rickman's Snape. Instead we are given an overabundance of Jim Broadbent as Slughorn, the new Potions master, whom Dumbledore tempts back to Hogwarts so that Harry can cosy up to him and extract some hidden memories of Tom Riddle, the teenaged Voldemort. We first encounter Slughorn disguised as an armchair which is pretty amusing, but it is downhill after that.

Too much time is spent on the students' teenaged rampaging hormones and frustrated crushes to move the story along, although Ron's ingesting a disastrous love potion has its humourous moments. There's an exciting Quidditch match, far better than previous ones, but this hardly helps the overall action and time is taken out to mourn the death of Hagrid's giant spider. It seems as if the director has tried to incorporate bits of the book's excitement by idly sticking in unconnected episodes, such as the fun of the Weasley brothers' new magic shop and the destruction of their family farm over the Christmas hols. Unfortunately very little of it seems to hold together and it all just seems to be a come-on for the final films, with the death of one of the main characters being tragically underplayed. Even the big reveal of the Half-Blood Prince's identity fizzles into something of an unexplained anti-climax.

You can take bets that I shall visit the cinema to see the final films as well. I only hope that they prove more satisfying than this outing.
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