Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Review by Jack Foley
THE sixth film in the Harry Potter franchise has plenty to recommend it even though the best is probably yet to come.
The Half-Blood Prince is darker and more mature in places, yet the decision to inject more humour proves both welcome and distracting from the main event.
David Yates’ second film as franchise director is a marked improvement on the lacklustre Order Of The Phoenix, but it does suffer from an unnecessarily lengthy running time and as many growing pains as the central characters themselves.
The film opens spectacularly, with a Death Eater attack on London that owes more to Roland Emmerich than JK Rowling, and then slow builds towards the death of a key character that will pre-empt the final confrontation between Harry and Lord Voldemort in two-part finale, The Deathly Hallows.
Along the way, it pauses to examine some coming-of-age stuff, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) get to grips with their burgeoning sexuality and feelings for each other.
Ironically, while humorous, these hormonal interludes make The Half-Blood Prince feel drawn out and more than a little indulgent, thereby detracting from the more serious stuff that most fans are waiting for.
When concentrating on the tension surrounding Voldemort’s impending return, however, the film plays much stronger as Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) entices former colleague Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to return to Hogwarts to help Harry gain crucial revelations about Voldemort’s intentions and the role that Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has to play in proceedings.
Such sequences afford Radcliffe the opportunity to tap into a much more mature version of Harry and the young star copes admirably, sharing some poignant scenes with both Gambon (excellent) and Broadbent (brilliant) in the process.
Tom Felton also gets to enjoy some meatier scenes, which he rises to well, while the various plot machinations also enable Alan Rickman’s slippery Severus Snape to enjoy more screen time and stoke up the ambiguity surrounding his loyalties.
Helena Bonham Carter and Timothy Spall still feel under-used, and there’s no Ralph Fiennes this time around, but Yates does at least ensure that their presence is felt.
Indeed, the director has fun building the tension throughout and also gets to indulge in some cracking set pieces, not least of which is the opening Death Eater attack, and the final, emotionally-charged half an hour.
For once, the death of a key character is given the emotional impact it deserves and provides one of the franchise’s most lasting sequences, while the repercussions of the final few minutes suitably raise anticipation of the final two chapters.
So, while The Half-Blood Prince does feel bloated towards its middle section, there’s enough to justify the hype and expectation surrounding it, while keeping fans of all ages suitably gripped ahead of the big finale.
Running time: 156mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 7, 2009
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