a critiQal film review Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Plot: Lord Voldemort (Fiennes) is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and Wizard worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry (Radcliffe) suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore (Gambon) is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching.

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  • ...weaves together universal ideas of love, death and good vs. evil so artfully within it's big budget effects, it leaves the viewers enthralled and wanting more - even as the credits roll.

After having to wait an extra 6 months to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there was no way we were going to wait until this one hit DVD. While we had originally planned for an evening show on Thursday, the impressive numbers (highest-grossing Wednesday opening ever!) changed our minds, and we waited for the weekend, hoping the traffic to the theater would be a little lighter after a few days had passed. No such luck.

Even though we showed up at the theater a half hour early, there were only 14 seats available. While we knew we were going to be a little bit too up close and personal with the screen from our vantage point in the 2nd row, we didn’t want to put off seeing Harry Potter and pals again. Would the uncomfortable seating be too much for us, or would Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince be good enough to make us forget our neck strain?

Radcliffe, Grint and Watson (as Harry, Ron and Hermione, respectively) have been, literally, growing into their roles on-screen over the course of the films. By this point Radcliffe and Watson seem to have eased into their adulthood with surprising ease, while Grint still seems to be going through his awkward teen years (which is a bit silly, since they are all in their 20’s now, aren’t they?).

However, that awkward phase is perfect for his role in this latest installment, since he spends most of the film with girl problems: as his slowly budding romance with Hermione seems to be taking off, a new face literally leaps into his arms. The fun twist in the book takes on a whole new life in the film, and provides most of the comedy highlights as a lovesick Weasley tries to keep his head.

Meanwhile, Potter also gets another love interest (since Cho Chang is now out of the picture). True, he’s awkwardly shy about the whole thing, but watching these two tentatively explore their growing feelings turns out better on-screen than expected.

But while the romance takes up a large part of the film, that’s not all that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is about. As Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) leads Harry towards his future path, he reveals even more about the now-returned Lord Voldemort and sets Harry with a task concerning new Potions teacher Horace Slughorn (played rather low-key by Jim Broadbent). Meanwhile, Harry’s old nemesis Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton, looking rather grown up as well) is up to something truly nefarious…

With all this going on, it would have been easy for the filmmakers to quickly lose the audience amidst the subplots. Thankfully, that never happens, as the film easily flows from one scene to the next, leading the viewer on the path set before them even without seeming to.

Some have expressed dissatisfaction with the film, saying sequences (such as the bridge scene and the fire at the Weasley’s) are extras that weren’t in the book and weren’t needed in the film. However, each sequence does showcase a crucial point that words could have easily explained in the book. The bridge scene showcases how Voldemort’s power really is affecting the “normal” world, while the fire sequence showcase both Harry’s ineffectiveness against the dark powers against him and his new love interest’s desire for him, since she bolts out into the field after him without sparing a single care about her own safety. True, both of these could have been explained without being seen, but seeing those sequences really hammer those points home for the viewer.

While the film did stray a bit from the book at times like those mentioned above, those die-hard book fans who think each film is really going to include every little sequence are always going to be sadly disappointed. The viewer should come in thinking the films are just what they are – an adaptation of the books, not a verbatim retelling – and they should enjoy themselves tremendously.

Full of exciting action and adventure, as well as ideas of young love and the whole “good vs. evil” thing – plus a truly shocking twist for those who haven’t yet read the book series –Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince stands out as one of the best films of the series to date. While it doesn’t follow the book as closely as, say, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), it provides a solid storyline and loads of entertainment for it’s viewers…and sets up the next two films (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts I and II with ease.

For some of us, just seeing yet another good Harry Potter film not only makes us more excited about the films yet to come, it helps us forget how badly Chris Columbus started this series off. Let’s hope Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) will keep us thinking positive.

Until then, we have the DVD for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to look forward to, because this one is definitely a must-own.

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