Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
★★★★ / ★★★★
It’s strange because “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” written J.K. Rowling, was the book that I thought was the weakest out of the whole series, but it turned out that the film adaptation, directed by David Yates, was arguably one of the best. I liked that it started off not with the Dursleys but with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) all grown up and hitting on a girl even though his methods and reactions were still quite awkward. The parallel between the teenagers’ raging hormones and the destruction that the Death Eaters were willing to inflict for the sake of causing chaos was immediately established. That template provided great pacing and an exciting mix of comedy and magical wonder.
In this installment, love (and lust) was in the air. Harry was becoming more attracted to Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and vice-versa, Hermione (Emma Watson) could not keep his eyes off Ron (Rupert Grint) but frustrated with the fact that Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) was all over him as if she was in heat. And Hermione won a new admirer named Cormac McLaggen (Freddie Stroma) but she thought he was creepy and way too eager to please despite his athletic abilities and charming outer appearance. Such scenes that dealt with the intricacies of the politics of friendship and awkward sentences with double entendres were genuinely funny without trying; it was all very real even though it was set in a wizarding world. The scenes involving Harry and Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and their quest to sort through memories in order to find Voldermort’s weakness were nothing short of revealing and sometimes downright chilling. The flashback scenes were outstanding, particularly the dreamy look of it. I felt like I was watching something I was not supposed to see and that enhanced the film’s mystique. Lastly, the bit about Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and his mission was both fascinating and horrifying. I was glad to see Draco to be featured on this one a lot more than any of the previous installments because, even though I love to hate him, he always increased the drama whenever he was around. It was also quite excellent to see many familiar faces such as Snape (Alan Rickman), McGonagall (Dame Maggie Smith), the Weasley twins (Oliver Phelps and James Phelps), Molly Weasley, (Julie Walters), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and others we met from previous installments used in an efficient and ultimately effective way. These three fronts were juggled quite effectively, which was a surprise because Yates’ direction in the fifth movie felt rushed. On this one, in the beginning all three did not feel as connected but by the last thirty minutes, they were traveling the same path and it felt like it reached an entirely new level that the series has never gone before.
As for the negatives, I honestly did not have much of a problem with it. Aside from the film leaving out some crucial battles scenes, such as when the Death Eaters were leaving Hogwarts after they finished their mission, I thought everything else was well-done. Even the alterations for the convenience of the plot did not bother me (even though I read the books). I’ve read some fan reviews and I believe they made an all-too-common mistake of expecting the picture to be exactly like the book. Following the book exactly is not what I look for in the movies’ interpretations. While it is completely understandable to be disappointed (such as my disappointment–and yes, even sadness and anger–toward the fifth movie having failed to show the Brain Room in the Ministry of Magic), it is unfair to expect everything to be included and unaltered. When extracting from a primary source, inconsistencies are almost always present. It is even more unfair to give movie an “F” or a “D” rating because the film is “disloyal” toward the novel. I don’t think the filmmakers are being disloyal at all. On the contrary, in every frame, I felt like they wanted to give the us something beyond imagination while at the same time they wanted to give us something different compared to the its predecessors.
Needless to say, I say “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” was a success and a great addition to the empire. It proved to be a nice transition for the war that was to unfold in the two-parter “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” And, hopefully (though unlikely), those who need to have everything exactly the same between the novel and the film will be satisfied. Or at least realize that a few alterations and leaving out certain details do not necessarily make a bad film. Having seen all six movies in order in a span of one week, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” just might be the crowning achievement.