Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince


Directed by: David Yates
Written by:Steve Cloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Tom Felton
Released: July 15, 2009
Grade: B-

On a sunny morning in July 2005, I lined up outside the Victoria Palace Theatre in London for tickets to see Billy Elliot: The Musical.  I arrived at 8:30am and had to wait three and a half hours for the ticket counter to open.

The time flew by however because in my hands was a copy of the recently released Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince.  Totally engrossed, I read each page quicker than the last, anxiously waiting to find out what was in store for Harry and his friends.

Last night, I saw the cinematic adaptation of this book.  Let’s just say that my level of excitement was not even close to that which I experienced four years ago.  Something major has been lost in translating J.K. Rowling’s sixth Harry Potter book to the big screen.

There’s a noticeable lack of action, a lack of suspense.  Some characters are woefully underdeveloped and too much emphasis is placed on the story’s romantic elements.  This is the worst film in the series to date.

In this much darker adventure, Harry (Radcliffe) and his fellow students have returned to Hogwarts School with trepidation.  The evil Lord Voldemort has returned (see the fifth film for more information) and wizarding world are bracing themselves for another attack.  Nowhere is safe.

The school’s headmaster, Professor Dumbledore (Gambon), knows that Voldemort’s power is increasing.  He must be stopped before it is too late.  Dumbledore reluctantly asks for Harry’s help and provides information on how Voldemort came to be.  As a child, Voldemort was one of Hogwart’s most gifted students but there was always something different about him.  He had an insatiable thirst for the dark arts.

Dumbledore believes that the key to destroying Voldemort lies with an old friend, Professor Horace Slughorn (Broadbent).  He has invited the Professor to teach potions at Hogwarts this year… not because he is a great teacher but because Dumbledore seeks something from him.  Harry will be instrumental in Dumbledore’s plan.

As a backdrop to this main storyline, there are number of light-hearted, romantic subplots.  Love maybe in the air but Cupid’s arrows seem to be off the mark.  Harry likes Ginny but is too afraid to admit it.  The same goes for Ron and Hermoine who both find themselves entangled with a not-so-perfect match.

I wasn’t bored by Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince but I think that these movies have lost their sparkle.  Director David Yates, who also made the last film, hasn’t left much of a signature.  There’s nothing new, nothing fresh.  Nicholas Hooper’s film score is dull and the special effects were anything but.  Scenes were included for reasons unbeknown to me.  Why even show the Quidditch match?

As disenchanted as I felt, there are elements of the film to enjoy.  The underrated Jim Broadbent (Iris, Topsy-Turvy) is terrific as Professor Slughorn.  Daniel Radcliffe has a humorous few moments after drinking a special tonic which brings good luck.  It was good to see him liven up and it took the edge off the otherwise depressing story.

The final book, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, will be split into two movies – one released in 2010 and the other in 2011.  I’m disappointed to hear that director David Yates will be at the helm for both flicks.  Hopefully he will lift his game or else this much anticipated series will slip away into antiquity.