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5 reviews, 33 user ratings

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
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by Mel Valentin

"A (mostly) satisfying entry in the Harry Potter franchise."
4 stars

Directed by David Yates ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "State of Play"), "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth entry in the Harry Potter, arrives in movie theaters in a summer crowded with sequels, prequels, reboots, and reimaginings, instead of the usual, more family-friendly month of November. With "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" already past the $300 million mark in North America alone, the best "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" can aim for is second place, ahead of "Up," Pixar’s latest triumph, and "Star Trek," J.J. Abrams’ prequel-reboot of the moribund franchise. Regardless of its box-office prospects, minus some missteps and some miscues, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" delivers a satisfying combination of humor (sometimes dark, sometimes not), (teen) drama, and action (but not as much as we'd expect) over the course of its two hour and 33-minute running time.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) begin their sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry under a dark cloud. Lord Voldemort (Joseph Fiennes, seen briefly here in a flashback) and his acolytes, the Death Eaters, continue to wreak havoc on the wizard world, but as they’ve grown stronger, they’ve also grown bolder, attacking the Millennium Bridge in the Muggle, non-wizard world. Harry’s longtime mentor and friend, Professor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), asks Harry to accompany him to the home of Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), a retired professor who once, long ago, taught Tom Riddle (Frank Dillane), the troubled wizard who would become Voldemort. Slughorn holds the key to one of Riddle’s secrets, and with it, Voldemort’s weakness. With Harry as bait, Dumbledore convinces Slughorn to return to Hogwarts as the Potions instructor.

Voldemort’s allies, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Fenrir Greyback (Dave Legeno), hide in the shadows, emerging only on occasion to make mischief or in the case of Narcissa Malfoy (Helen McCrory), to plead with Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), Harry’s longtime antagonist but Dumbledore’s supposed ally, to protect her son, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), as he attempts to fulfill a task for Voldemort within the walls of the hallowed Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, have other concerns on their minds. Ron and Hermione move toward a romantic relationship in fits and starts. Harry begins to realize that he has more than brotherly feelings for Ron’s younger sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright). And there’s Quidditch, back onscreen after a noticeable absence, back again to keep the students at Hogwarts occupied again.

Over the course of six books and now six films, Harry Potter has traveled the classic hero’s journey outlined in Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. Each step forward toward maturity and adulthood has come at a price, sometimes something intangible, like innocence, and sometimes tangible, like the loss of Harry’s surrogate father and protector, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince continues the long (very long, as in seven films long), hard road Harry Potter must travel to become an independent, self-sufficient adult without the help of a mentor (or in his case, two), ultimately facing his dark mirror image, Lord Voldemort.

Defeating Voldemort and his plans for domination of the magical and the non-magical world, of course, can’t happen yet; it doesn’t and couldn't happen until the adaptation of the seventh and last novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, which Warner Bros. is splitting into two films, ostensibly out of a desire to be faithful to Rowling’s sprawling last novel, but there's no denying that Warner Bros. doesn't want to let the Harry Potter franchise go just yet, not where hundreds of millions of dollars are concerned. Not surprisingly then, the conflict between Harry (and Dumbledore) and Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince gets minimal screen time. Instead, screenwriter Steve Kloves, back again after a one-film hiatus, focuses on the teen angst between Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione to the exclusion of the larger conflict that threatens to engulf the wizard and non-wizard worlds.

The “Half-Blood Prince,” an inscription in a potions manual Harry obtains, apparently by accident, has marginal importance. The “Half-Blood Prince’s” reveals himself late in the film, but it has little dramatic consequence or emotional weight. Characters introduced in the first six films appear and disappear, usually without explanation, leaving non-fans or even casual fans of the films (as opposed to the books) repeatedly lost. Even more importantly, the elusive object that both Dumbledore and Voldemort want, a Horcrux created by dark magic, is introduced at a run, pushing the tangled romantic subplots into the background, if only temporarily. Worse, the result is a rushed, maybe even bungled climax that undercuts what should have been one of the emotional highlights of the entire series.

Fans and non-fans consider the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban the first “real” film in the franchise. Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Y Tu Mama También, The Little Princess) was the first to truly unlock the franchise’s cinematic potential. Directed by Cuarón Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban broke away from merely duplicating or replicating scenes straight from Rowling’s novel, but shaping and molding them into visually oriented scenes where the camera and not the dialogue or the production design decided where and what to emphasize. Cuarón was the first to truly unlock the franchise’s cinematic potential. After the middling Mike Newell-directed fourth entry, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Yates stepped in to reinvigorate the franchise.

Yates, a television veteran relatively unknown on North American shores, seemed like an odd choice to direct an effects- and set piece-heavy entry in the Harry Potter franchise, but he proved with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that he could handle the big, effects-driven sequences with the smaller, character- and actor-driven moments, all of which he does here with relative ease. Where Yates doesn’t succeed, however, is in striking an appropriate balance between action and romance, spending too little time on the former and not enough on the latter. Yates also includes several awkward transitions between scenes, transitions that should have been smoothed out during the screenwriting or the editing (where Yates had an extra nine months than originally planned).

While "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" has its flaws, it has its strengths too. The talented young cast has matured along with their characters; the world building is just as impeccable as ever; the cinematography (by Bruno Delbonnel), retains its epic sweep; the score by Nicholas Hooper conveys emotion without bombast; and the pieces have been finally moved into place, for the long-awaited confrontation between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort in the final, two-part entry, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." There’s not much more Harry Potter fans can or will ask for.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17091&reviewer=402
originally posted: 07/15/09 03:51:22
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User Comments

2/14/15 enicmatic al lord of the rings is far better 1 stars
7/12/12 Aimee Fontenot Finally getting better as far as the movie series goes... 5 stars
6/10/12 Gob mediocre sums it up, but it ain't aimed at me so cool for kids 2 stars
8/03/10 Lana Fun, cute, emotional, angsty and funny. followed the book closer than I had expected 4 stars
1/16/10 Dr.Lao Highlights from the book loosely strung together, perfect for those with no attention span 3 stars
1/15/10 jethro Finally, the writers have foregone the imbecilic pacing of the previous 3 films. Bravo. 5 stars
12/13/09 Micah They replaced nonstop action with some effective drama so that's a worthy enough entry. 4 stars
9/01/09 charles ive lost so much respect for peter after reading this. 1 stars
8/18/09 Night1836 So-So. Was different from the book but leads to the same place. 4 stars
8/09/09 David A. mediocre to the max! 3 stars
7/31/09 MP Bartley Beautifully filmed with a sense of craft so often lacking in kids' films. 4 stars
7/29/09 Kay Funny, dark, wonderful. Lots of lines directly from the book, too. 5 stars
7/29/09 Knightfox21 These children have grown to become awesome actors...I thought the intensity was excellent! 4 stars
7/26/09 smitty We had to have this wordy movie to flesh out the relationships for the conclusion.Well done 4 stars
7/26/09 David Not much action but still damn good. 4 stars
7/25/09 Bryan Darker, richer, with welcome humor. 4 stars
7/24/09 Nachiket Iam avid fan of books, yet this was best potter film. 5 stars
7/23/09 alice Best of the series, but not great if you haven't read the books. 4 stars
7/23/09 Toni Liked the humor, disappointed how much it diverged from the book 4 stars
7/23/09 Val Best HP film period. Best film of the year period. Best film in quite a long time period. 5 stars
7/21/09 Gummby3 Never read the books, but have enjoyed the movies 4 stars
7/21/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Drab. English. Yawn. 3 stars
7/21/09 Mishyana Ignore the uber fan nuts, and go see this great movie. Captures the book very well. 5 stars
7/20/09 Blondii aka alex. x ¢¾ I love all the Harry Potter Movies. i mean WOW! seriously its a must see. TRUST ME.x 5 stars
7/20/09 renee I'm not sure this reviewer has actually read the books. 5 stars
7/20/09 Flounder The best Potter adaptation since Prisoner of Azkaban 5 stars
7/20/09 Andrew Worst Movie ive ever seen PERIOD 1 stars
7/19/09 bob This was without a doubt the worst of all the movies. The cinamatography was the worst I 1 stars
7/19/09 millersxing The franchise gains depth and poignance with each film. It transcends Skeeterish quibbling. 5 stars
7/18/09 michael mann harry potter is childish magic bullshit.LOTR is better 1 stars
7/17/09 pin best of the lot 5 stars
7/15/09 Stephanie Grant I went to see this last night at the midnight showing and WOW it was amazing! 5 stars
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  15-Jul-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 08-Dec-2009


  DVD: 08-Dec-2009

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