Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
It says right here, Hermione – a witch CAN date two wizards at the same time.

Elizabeth Edgemont’s Rating:

Ian Forbes’ Rating: (Jump To His Review)

Golden Mug

Score (Nicolas Hooper)
Visual Effects (John Richardson, Tim Burke, Tim Alexander and Nicolas Aithadi)

Theatrical Release Date: 07/15/2009
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Tom Felton, David Thewlis

Elizabeth Edgemont’s Review

I went to this screening with a group, including two friends that have read the epic that is Harry Potter’s life from beginning to end at least once. I myself have read this particular book 3 times, the most recent reading having been a few days ago to compare it to the movie.

So, before I get into our impressions, here is a quick synopsis. I’m going to assume you saw the first 5 films (if you haven’t, this is a foolish place to start), and therefore focus on this one alone. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is heading back to school for his 6th year at Hogwarts. Still haunted by the loss of his godfather Sirius, he continues to seek answers from Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who starts to meet with him regularly to share insights about Tom Riddle, the person that Voldemort once was. As he makes his way through the year, he comes ever closer to the truth about the people around him, and the tragedy that awaits them all.

First the good bits. As per usual with these films, the acting is impressive. They have, for the most part, kept with the original casting, and the new characters are very well cast. The kids are getting a little old, but the mains (Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint) are still fairly believable. The CGI has improved significantly, and the effects fit seamlessly into the fabric of the film.

Now for the not so great parts. Really, these are quite subjective, as technically the film is sound. They are also largely based on the fact that I have read the books. So I suppose if you haven’t read the books, you are more likely to react to the film more like our friend Ian, who liked it a lot and gave it a 4 (although that is subjective as well).

So, while I am not really going to throw in any spoilers in the next few paragraphs, I won’t be hurt if you skip them.

Still there? Good. Here we go…

My biggest issue with the film is its tone. This is the coming of age book/film for the series, where the characters start to fall in and out of relationships with each other. In the book it is subtle, and while there are moments of levity and periods of contentment, the confusion and awkwardness of growing up goes well with the general sense the Harry’s life is difficult and rife with unresolved problems.

In the movie, these scenes are so heavy-handed that they come across as campy. The film lacks the highs and lows that make the book relationships feel honest, and they telegraph everything well in advance, just in case you aren’t smart enough to put things together yourself. They do the same thing with a plot arc involving Draco Malfoy (Tom Fenton), making it a lot less satisfying as it comes to its conclusion at the end of the film.

The result is a film that lacks the darkness of the 5th installment. They should get darker and more violent as we progress, but this one is missing those qualities a bit. They cut a dramatic scene at the end of the book and replaced it with a newly written scene in the middle, for no apparent reason, and it detracts from the flow of the film. In the book, the lightest scenes come right before the climatic final scenes, lending weight to them. Somehow the end of the film lacks the gravity of the book, and it doesn’t end on the dark note that foreshadows the difficulties to come.

As I said, these are subjective comments, but they are the same issues that others have had. As a stand-alone piece, it would have been fine, maybe even great; but the random added scenes, campy romantic element, and slight change in tone keeps it from being anywhere near my favorite in the series. As a result, I give “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” a strong 3 out of 5.

Ian Forbes’ Review

Although I realize I’m being affected by the fact that being the latest installment in the franchise automatically makes much of it seem better because it’s fresher, my gut reaction is to say that “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is my favorite in the series.

Stylistically, “Prisoner of Azkaban” still has the edge if I were ranking the films based on technical merit but the cumulative effect of all the characters’ development over the past five films means that the events within number six hold more weight, thereby affecting the audience more. I completely agree with Elizabeth that certain key events could have been punched up more in the gravitas department and that the overall tone of this one is somewhat lighter than I expected, given the trajectory of the last two films.

Still, at this point in the story, it was fantastic to see Harry and his friends really starting to come into their own, to be proactive as young adults – rather than just react or follow the adults’ lead. Yes, the romantic subplots here were given a whimsical spin and act as comic relief at times, belaying the seriousness of the dark events transpiring everywhere else in the film. However, I found these angles to be fun and satisfying because it showed a different side to the characters only skimmed in previous installments.

The CG in this one is by far the best, as the technical wizards and their computers have only been getting more comfortable and experienced with how to showcase the fantasy elements contained within the story. Comparing the Quidditch scenes alone over the course of the franchise will show you just how far they’ve come. It’s very exciting to see these elements catch up with our imaginations just in time to see the story reach its climax.

The bottom line is that if you’re a fan of Harry Potter films (and for you literate folks, the books), you’re going to be seeing this one no matter what. As Ms. Edgemont alluded to, this may be the least faithful adaptation from novel to screenplay. I have taken the approach of waiting until all the films have been released before reading one page of the books and as such, found this chapter in the series to be a welcome and wonderful step towards the finale.

I have some issues with the manner in which director David Yates tonally treated certain key plot points but they don’t sway me enough to drop the rating any lower than a 4 out of 5 for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”. I’m definitely going to head back to theaters for a second viewing very soon (maybe I’ll wait for the IMAX release in a few weeks … stupid “Transformers 2“, give up the screens) and am even more excited to see how the story comes to a close over the course of the final two films.

  • Jump back to Elizabeth Edgemont’s review