Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

It seems that the key to fully comprehending this collection of Harry Potter movies is in having read the corresponding novels. Each film has amounted to a greatest hits compilation of favourite bits from the book with the background details filled in by the book readers' own fore knowledge and enthusiasm for the material. Pity us poor non-book readers, then, as we attempt to decipher the relevance/importance of the included set pieces and how they fit in to the central narrative. This sixth installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, does not break this mold. Even the central premise of the film stretches credulity; Draco Malfoy is recruited by Voldemort to assassinate Professor Dumbledore, one of the most respected and powerful good guys in the wizardry league. Sure, and let's enlist a schoolgirl to take out Dirty Harry while we're at it! Perhaps the justification for the believability of this premise is in the detail missing from the film. The book readers will know.

Another of the films great mysteries is why it is two and a half hours long when, frankly, not much happens in it. The fault lies in a sloppy script that contains little action but much soap opera and relies heavily on character dialogue to interpret the transpiring events. Given that the next book is to be stretched over two movies, be prepared for an even sloppier script. Maybe the producers should have hired Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh to look over the scripts given their success in distilling Tolkien's vastly complicated work into a script which, while taking extensive license, was spiritually congruent with its source. Indeed, had they sighted the Half Blood Prince script, they may have pointed out that having Harry and Dumbledore stranded on a tiny island in a subterranean lake being attacked by an army of Smeagols is perhaps just a teeny weeny bit close to a scene from The Hobbit.

Many lyricals have been waxed over how dark this entry is, and there's even a death in it, but when a crowded suspension bridge is destroyed in London and every soul miraculously gets off the bridge safely, you know the film really isn't that dark! Of course this doesn't stop the following morning's paper reporting on the "rising death toll"; apparently the Potterverse papers hold little regard for journalistic integrity.

Character development is virtually nonexistent, even after Harry beats a fellow student to within half a millimeter of his life, with the exception of a three second shot of Harry briefly considering the ramifications of his actions, his overall character arc remains unchanged. Every other character departs the film as they entered. Indeed, in retrospect, there has been little character development throughout the entire series.

However, despite this there are performances to enjoy. Jim Broadbent is particularly delightful, playing to his strengths as the jovial Horace Slughorn. As Luna Lovegood, Evanna Lynch's refreshing quirkiness steals all her scenes with her gorgeous ditzyness. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint hold up their end of the bargain and Daniel Radcliffe does what he can with a Potter who always was the dullest character. Bonnie Wright is also easy to warm to as Ginny Weasley.

As the franchise approaches the business end of its story arc and the Potter Lore correspondingly compounds in its complexity, the movies become increasingly incoherent due to their ‘greatest hits’ mentality. It's as if a lot of critical details have been left out in order to make room for detail which is crowd-pleasing but ultimately inconsequential; a problem which compounds with each succeeding film; the deeper the lore, the more it gets glossed over. This will be a particular challenge for the last entry in the series due for release late next year which will need to draw all these threads, missing or otherwise, into an intelligible whole.
Stuart Jamieson

Check out the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
reviews here

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