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August 22, 2009

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Movie Review

The second movie we saw in our movie double-header last night was the new Harry Potter movie, figuring if we were going to see it in the theater, we should go soon. We're both big fans of the books, so we've seen all the movies as they've come out (well, at least since #3, at least).

It was definitely the best movie since #3, though that's not saying much.

The first good thing director David Yates did was restore the length of these Potter movies to how long they should be, especially considering how much material they're adapting from the last four books. The Order of the Phoenix was atrociously cut to be the shortest of all the Potter movies, and it was the biggest book to have been adapted at the time! With a running time of 2.5 hours, Half-Blood Prince does not have that problem, and it's all the better for it.

This is definitely the darkest movie in the series, as it was with the books as well. Yates does a good job of portraying that by having large parts of it take place in washed-out greyness, while more "normal" scenes that take place at Hogwarts during the school year even have some kind of colour effect that makes them seem a little bit off, but in a good way. These are dark times at Hogwarts and throughout England as the bad guys are making themselves known to the general populace.

But it's not all darkness in Hogwarts, or at least not all fantastical darkness. These kids are growing up, being around 17 now, and romance is starting to bloom and wither away. Like most teenagers, awkward romance is the name of the game, and it's starting to develop among most of the students at the school. One bit of imagery I found hilarious was towards the end, as a climactic scene was approaching and one character was storming down the hallway to complete a mission, off to the side were a few kids in the shadows, snogging away!

Yates divides the movie's time pretty evenly between these character bits and the overarching story of Dumbledore and Harry trying to get a very important memory from Professor Slughorn so that they can figure out just what kind of magic Voldemort was asking about. Readers of the book may be disappointed to find out that Dumbledore only takes Harry down Voldemort's memory lane twice in the movie, since there were many such sequences in the book. I'm undecided whether that was a bad thing or not, cutting many of them out. One could say that those scenes contained a lot of character backstory that wasn't really necessary to the movie.

I was impressed by the acting in the movie as well. Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson do a great job as Harry and Hermione, but Rupert Grint's Ron continues to be the weakest of the trio (though he's not bad). The wonderfully-talented Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) gets a lot more to do this time around, and he runs with the ball beautifully. The other character who rises to prominence is Draco Malfoy (played by Tom Felton). He does a pretty good job with the increased importance of his character, though there were times he grated on my nerves.

And, of course, I can't say enough about Alan Rickman as Snape. Nobody can say as much with just a glare as Rickman can. I especially love how he bites off the ends of his sentences like they were a chocolate bar, adding menace to everything he says, even "hello." And the way he often pauses....before....each...word in that clipped manner of disdain is just brilliant. I wish there had been more Snape in this movie, though thankfully there is a bit more than usual.

Lots of stuff happens in Half-Blood Prince, leading into the final movies (they're splitting the final book into two movies) and the viewer is left with a sense of foreboding that is almost overpowering. This is an excellent movie, and well worth your money.

And nobody had to put a curse on me to get me to say that, either.


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