Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

21 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

After being somewhat disappointed by “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which was the fifth film in the popular “Harry Potter” series, I found myself pleased with the sixth film, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.” This film sets up the final act (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which is released in two parts—part 1 in November 2010 and part 2 in July 2011) and leaves us enchantment, terror, and a few laughs along the way.

Everyone in the Hogwarts world is now convinced that the evil Lord Voldemort has returned. We all know that there must be a huge climactic battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. But before that happens, we get “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” in which Harry and headmaster Dumbledore must receive information from the past in order to find a way to vanquish Voldemort. But it can be assured that the battle will not begin here—in fact, Voldemort doesn’t even appear in this film. Instead, he has his army of Death Eaters to make sure things are going according to plan. And there is a plan, mind you.

The whole movie is a foreboding of what may occur in the final entry (or entries, considering the seventh and final book in the series is going to be adapted into two films instead of one). But this is necessary—you have to pay attention to what is happening so what you’ll see in the final entries will make more sense.

The Death Eaters are on the move and are on the path of destruction. As the movie opens, we see that they are the cause of a bridge collapsing with many innocent Muggles walking along it. Then we cut to Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) reading a newspaper in a subway diner—the headline reads, “Is Harry Potter the Chosen One?” “Who’s Harry Potter,” a cute waitress asks Harry. Harry has a crush on this girl and just says that Harry Potter is nobody. She tells him she’ll be off work at 11. But a possible date will have to wait because Dumbledore awaits Harry nearby.

Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) gives Harry an important assignment for Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts—to retrieve any kind of information from Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) about what he has told Tom Riddle a long time ago. Tom Riddle, as you recall, was the young wizard who became Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore shows Harry a collection of memories from Voldemort’s past as a boy—when Dumbledore first met him and a distorted discussion of forbidden magic between the boy and Slughorn. Dumbledore leaves Harry to the task of befriending Slughorn and somehow getting him to reveal what Slughorn has told him. This information could be useful in the final entries. It contains a key as to how Voldemort can be defeated.

Meanwhile, Harry’s student enemy Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is being initiated into joining Voldemort’s army of Death Eaters. But that’s not all—Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) is making sure nothing bad happens to him. Snape has joined the army as well, but still, Dumbledore trusts him. This is a sign that Dumbledore is reaching his weak points. Also back is Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), who killed someone very important to Harry and is continuing to raise hell. But at school, while Harry is trying to persuade Slughorn, he and his friends are faced with teenage angst. Harry is attracted to Ron’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright); Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is in a relationship with the school vixen; and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) is jealous because she has developed somewhat of a crush on Ron, though she won’t admit it. I love that Harry’s best friends are interesting again, seeing as how they were basic bystanders in the previous film.

The whole movie is a setup, but we’re interested because we have grown to love these characters after five movies and we just can’t wait to see what happens here before we can’t wait to see what happens in the final entries. Jim Broadbent is an absolute delight as Slughorn—he’s a brilliant character actor and somehow I had the feeling he’d show up in a Harry Potter film sooner or later. The stuff with the kids is interesting because it gives us more rooting interest and Dumbledore has become even more appealing than Harry in this film. Michael Gambon plays Dumbledore as a wizard of action (a la Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings”) and is given much more to do than before. Also given more to do than before is Alan Rickman as Snape—his character is more chilling this time around. The final half is amazing—it takes place in a dark cavern where danger awaits, and then it returns back to Hogwarts in a great conclusion that reaches the emotional impact of the tone. Also, the cinematography in that cave is truly amazing. “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” ends with a bang, although a “To Be Continued” sign would have been appropriate.

And in the final entries—“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” and “Part 2”—it will be Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the three engaging wizards we care about, in the mix of something bigger awaiting. But in the end, it will be Harry Potter alone, dead or alive. What will happen?

NOTE: Don’t let the PG rating fool you—the “Harry Potter” films get darker and darker. This is no exception.

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