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Should I Watch..? Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
What's the big deal?
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince is an action fantasy film released in 2009 and is the sixth film in the Harry Potter series. Adapted from the novel of the same name by J.K. Rowling, the film is directed once again by David Yates and sees Harry discover the secret to defeating Voldemort as the Dark Lord's forces begin to wage war on wizards and Muggles alike. Like the previous films in the series, it was a commercial and critical success and went to become the second highest grossing movie of the year behind James Cameron's sci-fi juggernaut Avatar (1). It grossed more than £934 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful movies of all time behind fellow Harry Potter films The Order Of The Phoenix (2), The Philosopher's Stone (3) and both parts of The Deathly Hallows which conclude the series.
What's it about?
Harry accompanies Professor Dumbledore to recruit a new Potions professor, Horace Slughorn, after Professor Snape is promoted to Defence Against The Dark Arts. But Harry's attention is diverted when he believes that Voldemort has made Draco Malfoy into a Death Eater, despite the scepticism of friends Hermione and Ron. As their sixth year at Hogwarts begins, Harry stumbles across an old textbook belonging to someone calling themselves 'the Half-Blood Prince' which contains instructions and notes which benefit Harry enormously. Meanwhile, Ron finally becomes a Quidditch star player and begins a relationship with a girl called Lavender Brown - which upsets Hermione.
Dumbledore later reveals to Harry that Slughorn contains powerful memories which might prove useful in the fight against Voldemort but the pair of them are running out of time. With the Dark Lord preparing to launch an assault on Hogwarts itself, can Harry unlock the secret to defeating Voldemort or will all hope be lost?
Professor Albus Dumbledore
Professor Severus Snape
Helena Bonham Carter
Professor Horace Slughorn
Steve Kloves *
Release Date (UK)
15th July, 2009
Action, Fantasy, Mystery
Academy Award Nomination
What's to like?
Well, you can't deny that the films certainly look the business now although they've always looked good. Spreading beyond the enchanted walls of Hogwarts makes The Half-Blood Prince feel a bit more grand in scale, hinting at the rising stakes in the story. Costumes and set design all match the previously established standards and those of you fed up of keeping tabs on all the new characters will be pleased to know that such additions to the cast are kept to a minimum. Broadbent feels at home as the absent-minded Slughorn but personally, the film's MVP is Felton who really steps up and becomes much more than the annoying kid we knew in The Chamber Of Secrets(4). Finally given some significant screen-time, Felton has quietly become one of the series' most reliable performers and this is definitely his finest hour.
The film makes good use of the story's foreboding atmosphere, with scenes shot in a dark and almost colourless hue. And the story is brilliantly written as it ties up the unnecessary loose ends but without spoiling the epic finale - indeed, it continues to raise the stakes from beginning to shocking conclusion.
- Death Eaters destroy London's Millennium Bridge in the film but in the book, it's Brockdale Bridge. This is due to the novel taking place in 1996-1997, a few years before construction began on the Millennium Bridge.
- This is only the second film that does not feature Harry's relatives the Dursleys, despite them appearing in the book. The first film without them was Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (5).
- Out of all the Potter films, this was Daniel Radcliffe's least favourite performance of his.
What's not to like?
Gathering clouds are all well and good but not if you're waiting for a full-on storm. The Half-Blood Prince offers us a brief glimpse of the sort of action we can expect from the two-parter conclusion but it does feel like a two hour-plus trailer for The Deathly Hallows. I wanted more from it than yet more backstory and the odd magical shoot-out but it sticks too closely to the tried-and-tested formula of previous Harry Potters.
There are also too many characters in the series now so a lot of your old favourites (like Mad-Eye Moody, for example) are notable by their absence. And for me, this film doesn't push on into becoming something greater. Maybe these films are getting too generic - I'll let you into a little secret. I actually watched this before I saw The Order Of The Phoenix and wasn't aware of that until about halfway through. Although it works hard to concentrate on the forthcoming Harry vs Voldemort conflict, it still feels bogged down by backstory and classroom antics.
Should I watch it?
Despite concerns about excessive padding, The Half-Blood Prince is still a worthy addition to the series. It may only be a precursor to The Deathly Hallows (6) but this film offers enough action, intrigue and plot twists to make sure we'll be around for the final chapter. The Harry Potter films are becoming a bit like Swiss watches - beautifully made and wonderfully reliable but you struggle to tell one apart from another...
Great For: patient action fans, Potter lovers, Goths
Not So Great For: people waiting for the final films, younger viewers
What else should I watch?
There's no denying that The Half-Blood Prince leads on into the final chapters of the series as well as it could do, making the forthcoming showdown more personal and intense than ever before. The final two films comprising The Deathly Hallows heavily indulge the action fans out there (like me) with plenty of battle scenes and action sequences including the long-awaiting Battle of Hogwarts.
The contrast between these later movies and the family-friendly lightness of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone could not be much greater. The first film is a riot of colour, spectacle and fun - the darkest that film gets is Snape sneering in class. These later films, by contrast, aren't as much fun but offer a deeper and more satisfying narrative and feature much more assured performances from the young cast.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox