Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Untitled-1Harry’s world is growing darker. I’ve said this in every Potter review so far. All the childish whimsy of the first two movies is gone. Quidditch is no longer a fun game between Houses; it’s a ground for heavy rain, mist, and sometimes death. The movies don’t end with smiles and applause anymore; they end with death too. It’s clear that the Potter series, though initially aimed at children, is no longer afraid of killing off its characters, and Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince kills off its biggest one. Besides Harry of course.

Oh don’t worry, I won’t tell you who. Though, to be sure, this movie came out in 2009, so it’s safe to assume that anyone reading this has already seen it. But for those of you who haven’t, the spoiler will remain a secret. What I can instead talk about is the plot, which has doubled in complexity since the last movie. We are reaching the end. Harry is gonna have to face Voldemort sooner or later. We know it. We’ve been waiting for it. Voldemort knows it too; he’s prepared a little surprise for Harry that should set him back a few steps. Now, I don’t know if mentioning this surprise counts as a spoiler too — it’s pretty big — so I think it’s wise to not mention it at all. I’ll just say that there are seven of these surprises, one of which you’ve already seen in an earlier movie.

What does that leave me with? Characters? Visual effects? The Half-Blood Prince? Who is this half-blood prince anyway? I mean, I know who he his — the movie tells us — but so what? His handbook helps Harry cheat at his Potions class, but again so what? He teaches Harry a new offensive spell. So… what…? He has no relevance to the story nor is the revelation of his true identity all that shocking. I think there’s a loophole somewhere, or something’s not been adapted accurately from the novel. I suspect the novel explains this in much more detail.

The visual effects are awesome as always. They have not let us down since the first movie, and here they flex their visual muscle by creating vivid memories out of ink that’s mixed with water. At least I think it’s ink and water. Who knows anymore? There’s also an impressive sequence in a cliffside cave that involves an army of Gollums, and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) wielding a column of fire from his almighty wand. Very pretty. And then there’s the usual batch of stock effects — Disapparations, spells and curses, possessions, and Hogwarts. Every year Hogwarts seems to grow, and the land around it seems to shift and move as if reaching for an itch. I’ve given up trying to draw a mental map of the grounds. Hagrid’s cottage used to be on the fringe of the Dark Forest, now it’s on a slope somewhere. The Whomping Willow can uproot itself and travel wherever it likes. And the Quidditch pitch I think can appear and disappear when needed. That’s that. It’s all magical, and magic needs no explanation. Right?

At the beginning of the movie, after a few Death Eaters terrorise downtown London and destroy a wonky pedestrian bridge, Dumbledore brings Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to a quaint neighbourhood. There they find one Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), a former Hogwarts teacher who has grown weary of the world and now spends his days living in other people’s houses while they’re out of town. He is needed by Dumbledore to return to Hogwarts not particularly for his teaching expertise, but for memories of Voldemort long suppressed. These memories, Dumbledore hopes, will help bring the Dark Lord down. Yes, all this leads back to the spoiler surprises.

There’s a lot going on in this movie, and some plot strands are less important than others. When the series started out, there was only the adventure. Nothing else. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione fought their way past flying keys and giant chess pieces, that’s all they had to worry about. Now, they have to deal with problems that come with the territory of being sixth years, and 16-year olds. The awkward relationship between Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) only becomes more awkward after Ron, recently a Quidditch star, starts snogging another girl. Hermione of course responds with disgust, and Watson does a marvellous job of overacting and underachieving, almost to the point of annoyance. And the more I see Ron Weasley, and the more I consider his character, the more pointless he becomes. Even Harry, designed to be the star of the show, has never meant anything more to me than a placeholder, a face for viewers to connect with. He is boring, rigid, and completely devoid of charisma. Although, in his defence, it’s tough to shine when competing against veteran Brits, all of whom are exceptional.

There isn’t much left to talk about. I’ve pointed out three separate spoilers in this review, and that’s more than enough for the whole series. Let it be known that Half-Blood Prince is still a good movie, despite its silly title and empty subplots. It delivers what ordinary viewers can absorb happily, and what diehard Potter fans can digest and break down with all their might. I’m probably somewhere in the middle, and for me, that’s a good place to be.

Best Moment | Can’t think of one.

Worst Moment | Again, it’s that incredibly irritating Emma Watson laugh. I never knew a fake laugh could be so… fake.

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