Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince might just be one of the better Harry Potter films released thus far. Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves took the novel and translated the spirit and integrity of the story into moving images. Like the book it is more of a character piece than an adventure film, but the greater emphasis on character makes the emotional climax have a greater deal of resonance.

I see no real need in simply rehashing the story because my words couldn't do it justice. David Yates has improved a great deal since the previous film. He draws the focus on the characters so perfectly that you often forget all that is going on in the world. Yates has scaled the story down to its very essence. Probably any other director would try and make the film feel as epic as they can, but Yates takes a more subtle approach that serves the story beautifully.  On top of that, the acting is possibly be the best work from the Potter ensemble yet.

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have all grown as actors since the last film and are truly transforming into very fine actors with promising careers ahead of them. As well, Michael Gambon turns in a performance that could rival Richard Harris's Dumbledore, being a deeply affecting performance that genuinely comes through in the cave scene. Plus, Jim Broadbent is superb as the new Potions Professor Horace Slughorn, playing the character with the right amounts of wit, charm, and tragedy. Though the actor that surprised me the most was Tom Felton as
Draco Malfoy. Tom hasn't had much to do in the previous Potter films, so we've never really been able to tell if he could pull off more than just the bully role, but he manages to achieve success and he plays his conflicted part here very well.  Of course, acting aside, I think it is safe to say that this is probably the prettiest Harry Potter film to date.

Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel does a superb job giving back a sense of fantasy to this world. The film looks very much like a painting and every image within is a genuine work of art. As well the special effects are taken up a notch this time around. ILM has done a wonderful job with the effects work, but it's how Yates utilizes the effects to service the story that truly makes them pop. Never does Yates do an in your face effects shot, to where you clearly know that you aren't looking at a real thing. Yates weaves the effects seamlessly within this world and you never truly think about them while watching, and that's the magic of cinema.  Though the biggest props on the film should go to Steve Kloves.

After sitting out the fifth film, Kloves returns to pen this installment of the franchise and what a welcome return it is. He has come back with a new energy that genuinely comes through in the script. He has trimmed much material from the 600 page book, but has left all of the major points to the story in tact, weaving them together and connecting the dots into a film that flows very fluidly from scene to scene. However Kloves' greatest accomplishment is how he brings out the humanity of J.K. Rowling's characters in his writing.  Half-Blood Prince is arguably the most human installment of Harry Potter to date. Some casual moviegoers may be disappointed to learn that this is not an action film, but rather a character piece that just happens to have a few thrilling sequences within, but those few sequences are electrifying. The Quidditch match is brutal and exciting, the attack on the Burrow is a fast-paced chase scene, the bathroom blow out is exquisitely realized, and the cave sequence is tense and frightening.  Plus, there are many moments of simple awe and wonder within this film, such as the scene where Dumbledore creates the ring of fire to fend off the inferi, or some of the sweeping shots of Hogwarts. Of course it's the emotional scenes that steal the show, such as the one between Harry and Hermione on the stairs, or the scene in Hagrid's Hut near the end. There are just too many great moments to mention them all.

When all is said and done, Half-Blood Prince is one of the more
satisfying filmgoing experiences I've had in a while. It's a beautiful
film that is actually quite funny, but is also quite moving at the same time.
It's definitely on my list of favorite films of the year. I can't
wait for Deathly Hallows. I'm extremely glad the duo of Yates and
Kloves are returning to finish out the series.

I give Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince an excellent 9 out of

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