alibi online
Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 
 V.18 No.29 | July 16 - 22, 2009 

Film Review

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The magic doesn’t run dry in Potter’s sixth outing

“Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!”
“Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Directed by David Yates

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

Given the almost incalculable success of the Harry Potter books and the guaranteed gravy train of subsequent movies, you could easily forgive Warner Brothers for slacking off a bit on the later entries in the film series. You could. But thankfully, you don’t have to.

Early on, it may have been something of a gamble to attempt a multimillion-dollar film adaptation of such an au courant literary sensation. To ease the concerns of loyal fans, Warner Brothers pulled out its big guns, recruiting some major-name directors (Chris Columbus from Home Alone, Alfonso Cuarón from Y Tu Mamá También, Mike Newell from Four Weddings and a Funeral). By the time they got to the fifth film, however, producers figured they were safe hiring a no-name director. The actors, sets and screenplays were established enough by the time Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix rolled around that British television director David Yates couldn’t do much to screw things up. As it turned out, Yates did a more than workmanlike job, turning the film into one of the most exciting entries in the series. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that he came aboard with one of the more action-packed books.) Happily, Yates is back for the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and is already hard at work on the climactic seventh outing, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (which will be split into two films).

“Wait. This movie isn’t in 3-D? Then what did I pay an extra two dollars for?”
“Wait. This movie isn’t in 3-D? Then what did I pay an extra two dollars for?”

Given how little Yates has to do in order for this film to work, it’s surprising how much he does add to the proceedings. He has an obvious visual sense of wit and makes Half-Blood Prince more amusing than the average Harry Potter. An early shot, with heads popping out from every off-kilter angle in the jerry-built Weasley house, is just the sort of snappy touch a sharp director can add.

It’s a good thing, too, because Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a difficult assignment. Much of J.K. Rowling’s original novel is given over to long, expository flashbacks covering the life story of evil wizard Tom Riddle / Lord Voldemort. Screenwriter Steve Kloves hasn’t been stumped yet, though, and he trims away just enough to keep things moving. Of course, rabid Rowling readers will view this as little more than the “Cliff Notes” version, but Kloves has done a judicious job of picking and choosing his scenes. Most of the novel’s political content about mystical terrorist attacks and government cover-ups on the part of the Ministry of Magic gets shoved to the background. It would have been nice to feel a bit more of this growing menace in anticipation of the climactic film(s). Nonetheless, it’s increasingly clear that Rowling’s novels were a product of their time. The world (or America, anyway) seems to have turned a corner on oppressive, ultra-secretive governments and their terrorist-inspired crackdowns, so it’s not all that unusual to see Rowling’s political storylines take a backseat to always timely teen angst and burgeoning hormones.

Yes, there is a lot of kissing going on in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but at this point in the narrative it feels well-earned. One of the strengths of Rowling’s books is that they matured along with their readers. As the target audience aged into puberty, so too did the characters. (I actually feel sorry for kids who get to read them all in one fell swoop now. It just wouldn’t have the same impact.) Of course, even if you don’t match that age demographic, odds are you’ve spent plenty of time with Harry, Hermione, Ron and the gang. It’s actually nice to ease off the narrative a bit and just spend time with these kids. Watching these familiar characters fumble their way through first kisses, first loves and first breakups is a cute treat after all the wizard-dueling and dragon-fighting.

Of course, it’s not all teen romance. There’s still plenty of danger to be had here: Harry experimenting with a mysterious, previously owned potion book; Dumbledore battling the forces of darkness; new Professor Horace Slughorn providing some valuable background on Lord Voldemort; the continuing machinations of Severus Snape; Draco Malfoy plotting his own evil scheme inside the walls of Hogwarts.

Since the film concentrates mostly on the horrors and joys of puberty (as seen through the eyes of the wizarding world), it would have been nice if Kloves’ script had found a way to tie Draco’s angsty little subplot more tightly in with Harry/Ron/Hermione’s coming-of-age tale. Draco’s growing daddy issues, self-esteem problems and jealousy over Harry’s increasing fame could easily have been highlighted. Instead, we get shots of Draco looking constipated and sneaking off to look at a cabinet. Given the amount of truncation it took to cram Rowling’s 672-page book into 153 minutes, such sacrifices aren’t all that surprising. There are a few inelegant transitions in the film as well, where one scene seems to smack abruptly into the next. Here’s hoping the extended director’s cut DVD alleviates some of this.

“I’m just beginning to realize how beautiful this place is,” says our boy Harry late in the film. It’s hard to argue with him. Over the course of six films, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its environs have been luminously, lushly realized. With the final chapter looming, Harry’s words take on a darker level as well. This will all go away soon. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince straddles a delicate line, making us feel the beauty and joy of being a boy wizard one last time while imparting an uncomfortable feeling about those dark storm clouds gathering on the horizon.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Director David Yates proves more than workmanlike in his second Harry Potter outing. The film is laced with visual wit, and the story (well truncated, of course) hums along quite a bit quicker than the flashback-heavy source material would have you believe. Harry and the gang learn a few lessons about puberty while investigating the secret history of Lord Voldemort. 153 minutes PG.

 

Today's Events

Cine de la Epoca de Oro: Pueblerina at South Broadway Cultural Center

Classic Mexican film starring Columba Domínguez and Roberto Cañedo. Part of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema series.

Black Friday (1940) at KiMo Theatre

Tomorrow's Events

Dance With Me at National Hispanic Cultural Center

More Recommented Events ››
Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    COUCHES (sf,CA)
    COUCHES (sf,CA) 9.13.2014