It has been nearly two years since fans last witnessed Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), battle the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). At long last, J.K. Rowling’s beloved saga continues with “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”. The film picks up a year after the events of the previous film with the evil Death Eaters wreaking havoc in both the magica and Muggle (non-wizard) world. Their wave of terror is so complete that parents are afraid to send their students back to Hogwarts to complete their studies.
As Harry waits to return to school, he is visited by his headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who takes Harry to meet an old friend named Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Professor Slughorn is reluctant to return to Hogwarts, wanting to keep a low profile like most of the Wizarding world, to avoid the unwanted attention of Voldemort’s legions Despite his reservations, Slughorn agrees to travel to Hogwarts, intrigued by the notion of adding Harry, the prophesized “Chosen One” to his collection of prominent former students.
Harry is reunited with his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson), injecting the movie with lighthearted, comical moments. But the mirth is balanced by the dour as Harry suspects Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), is up to no good. Draco, still spiteful but now tormented by his father’s incarceration, is spotted consorting with suspicious characters and spends much of the movie alone and tooling with a mysterious cabinet.
Harry obliges Dumbledore’s request to ingratiate himself with Professor Slughorn to help Dumbledore obtain a key memory to figure out Voldemort’s powers. Harry comes across a Potions textbook signed by a former student calling himself the Half-Blood Prince. The book is filled with helpful notes, and allows Harry to usurp Hermione from her position as the teacher’s pet.
As if Voldemort and school were not enough to keep Harry busy, he must also contend with romantic entanglements as Ron and Hermione spar back and forth, while an ardent admirer latches on to Ron. Hermione tries to to hide her feelings, dragging Harry into the middle of the fray to mediate. At the same time, he must deal with his own growing fondness for Ron’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright).
Harry and Professor Dumbledore work together to unlock the missing memory of professor Slugworth that holds a key to how to defeat Voldemort. This leads the two on a dangerous quest that will challenge Harry and his friends and force them to face the greatest danger they have ever known.
The new film is a visual masterpiece that contains the magical setting of the story despite losing much of the lavish color and whimsy that marked much of the earlier films. That is understandable as this is a much darker and serious time the characters find themselves in. The merriment and humor of the film is found only when the kids are allowed to be kids.
While the movie digests and changes quite af few of elements that made the book entertaining, the core cast remains strong and the camaraderie feels genuine. Not only are they compelling and interesting characters, watching them come of age and deal with such mature times and themes is quite poignant. The supporting work by Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and Robbie Coltrane were, as always, a delight, but sadly they are not given much screen time in the film.
My biggest issue with the film was the lack of any sustained action and intensity in the film. The film spends the better part of two hours setting up the final forty minutes which tease but do not deliver the grand payout. This is not to say this is a bad film, simply the only thing that I could find any fault with. The film is a technically brilliant film and Director David Yates clearly understands that despite the magic and wonder, this is a character driven story.
All in all an enjoyable film that sets the stage well for the two part finale.
4.5 stars out of 5