One month after its release, I finally got to see “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Yeah!!!!!!!!!!
For an HP super-fan, that was quite the wait. And while I’m still thrilled to pieces that David Yates has taken the reins of the series (and will direct the last two movies), HBP wasn’t as good as “Order of the Phoenix.”
Lots to love here though.
HBP picks up where “Phoenix” left us: everyone knows that Lord Voldemort is back, and he and his gang, the Death Eaters, are having all kinds of fun blowing up bridges, killing Muggles, and inflicting pain and suffering wherever they go.
The plot, in a nutshell: Harry goes back to Hogwarts, this time fully vindicated in his claims that Voldemort is back. Our “Chosen One” is also discovering for the first time how cute his friend’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright) is, which doesn’t bode well for his long-standing friendship with Ron (Rupert Grint). Ron’s got his own girl trouble; he and Hermione (Emma Watson) seem on the verge of cementing their mutual attraction, but the uninhibited and love struck Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) gets to him first.
There’s also a new potions professor, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent); some secret meetings between Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Harry where they dive into Voldemort’s past; a deadly assignment for Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) that’s wearing them both down; and always, Quittich.
As usual in the “Harry Potter” films, there’s too much plot and not enough movie; I’ve learned to just go with it, but I imagine that if you haven’t read the books, the movies are (probably) confusing.
The best thing in HBP is Broadbent’s performance; Slughorn, a Slytherin with connections to the Death Eaters, has a secret that could help defeat Voldemort, but he’s so ashamed of it he won’t share it. Broadbent shows the conflict in this man who does not want any association with the bad guys, but who is not ready to put his life on the line for the good guys. J.K. Rowling rarely shows us the Slytherin’s in a good light, but here, we finally get to see that the house was not just filled with Death Eaters in training.
For me, the other noteworthy performance is Rickman as Snape (well, 90 percent of it anyway). I’m reasonably sure I’m alone in this opinion, but I’ve never liked Rickman’s Snape (and I say that as a longtime fan of Rickman).
Snape is a man who’s always in control, except when he’s around Harry and all the bitterness of his past comes back to the surface. I find Rickman mostly one-note, never straying from behind the mask of Snape’s severity; he plays one emotion throughout five movies, and it’s getting old. But here, we finally get to see some cracks in the faade. Snape is coming apart, and Rickman shows us as much as he can; he doesn’t go all the way, but I’ll take what I can get and hope for the best next time around.
For me, the movies have always been supplemental to the books; there’s just no way the movies are ever going to be as good or as rich as the novels, and I don’t judge them for that. This time around, in a shocker to me, I found the differences from the novel (a building’s burning, a surprise kiss, a story about a goldfish, a wand salute of lights) more satisfying then the stuff that came from the novel.
The film isn’t perfect, but its flaws are nothing we haven’t seen (and excused) in the other films. Give it a chance if you’re interested.
See you for the next ones.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009)
Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)
Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley)
Emma Watson (Hermione Granger)
Alan Rickman (Professor Snape)
Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn)
Michael Gambon (Albus Dumblebore)