Aug 28, 2015

[Movies] Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

This may be the last of my catch-up reviews for the Harry Potter movie franchise. I'm pretty sure I have reviews for both of the Deathly Hallows movies, so it's nice to have addressed this little gap in the record. I'm not at all obsessive, you know.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the fifth movie in the franchise and the one that felt a little confusing both as a movie and as a book. The end result is a fairly drastic rush to a twist at the end that sort of makes sense in hindsight, but was still rather shocking. That can be taken as either a good thing or a bad thing, really.

As mentioned when I reviewed the prior movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the movies in this second half of the franchise certainly feel a lot darker, and this movie almost feels akin to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to some extent. Its definitely a rather dark chapter in the whole franchise, especially after Harry's losses in the last movie, but of course there's still that glimmer of hope guiding everyone forward.

Synopsis: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the fifth movie in the Harry Potter franchise and is based on the J.K. Rowling novel of the same name. The movie was directed by David Yates with a screenplay by Steve Kloves.

At the start of the movie, we find that Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) continues to spread his darkness across both the wizarding and muggle worlds. To this end, he entrusts Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) with a secret mission and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) swears an Unbreakable Vow with his mother to ensure that Draco is kept safe and and to complete the mission should he fail. The nature of this task is unknown to the viewer initially, although we are repeatedly shown scenes of Malfoy trying to perform a certain feat of magic in line with his orders.

In a bit of an interlude, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) accompanies Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to meet former potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Dumbledore intends to ask him to teach at Hogwarts once more and he eventually agrees because of the "celebrity" associated with Harry Potter. And when the school year begins, Harry and his friends end up needing to borrow older Potions textbooks for Slughorn's class. Harry ends up with a book that once belonged to a "Half-Blood Prince" and the marginal notes end up allowing him to advance quite well in Slughorn's class despite his past failures in Potions under Snape. But of course there's bound to be more to this book that is initially apparent, plus more and more Harry is involved in some of Dumbledore's secret missions outside Hogwarts.

Whether we're talking about the book or the movie, admittedly I had trouble with the plot since it seemed like things slowed down a bit. Sure, the pacing was more suited for the sort of cloak and dagger work that largely defines the story in this episode in the franchise. It's just a rather stark shift to things, starting from how we get a glimpse of how Voldemort is handling his returned Death Eaters.

A lot of the movie focuses on the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore, which makes sense given how things end. As much as Dumbledore has been pretty much a guiding presence in Harry's life for some time now, he has also been mostly a behind the scenes sort of character who only really comes back into play at the end of the movie. You know what I mean - that trope of s scene where Dumbledore explains more of what has been really going on and thus providing explanations for some of his more peculiar behavior. But here it's like Harry can hardly shake off Dumbledore as the two have all these secret meetings and eventually longer journeys outside the castle.

The movie also represents how the trinity of Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) wasn't quite as solid this time around. There was some exploration of the budding romance between Ron and Hermione, something that had always seemed better foreshadowed in the movies versus the books. I know, I know, things were always meant to turn out this way, but it's just something that irked me a little for some reason.

A lot of the movie felt like a lot of slow-paced spy action of a sort with the gang trying to get closer to Slughorn and all that jazz. But in the end the bigger concern had more to do with Malfoy's mission, that that particular plot thread only really came to make more sense towards the very end of the adventure. And waiting for that final reveal was pretty frustrating, and somewhat underwhelming towards the very end of things. But oh well.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the stranger part of the franchise that didn't seem to fit in quite right. Sure, it got a lot done from a narrative perspective and but it just felt like a rather different movie versus the others. So the movie can only really get 3.5 dinners hosted by Slughorn out of a possible 5.

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