Friday, July 17, 2009

My review of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


Before I dive into Harry Potter's latest flick, there are two choice rumors/facts out there well worth mentioning.

The first is apparent proof, thanks to Bloody Disgusting, that not only will Robert Rodgriguez begin filming "Machete" next month, but it will also have a pretty great cast. Danny Trejo will of course play the titular badass out for revenge, who was introduced in the faux trailer during "Grindhouse," but according to Bloody Disgusting he'll be joined by Michelle Rodriguez, Jonah Hill and even Robert De Niro as the senator who double-crossed Machete. Wild stuff, that, but I can only say bring it on.

And in slightly Harry Potter-related news, the L.A. Times says that the three finalists to play Guillermo del Toro's Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit" are Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy and David Tennant, aka Dr. Who. Personally, I'd love it if the role goes to McAvoy, who would just be perfect. Either way, an announcement is expected as soon as next week, perhaps at ComicCon, so stay tuned.

But now, of course, on to "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which I almost thoroughly enjoyed.

The book, though easily my favorite in the series, was really just table-setting for the big finale, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which will (rightly I think, since it's like a billion pages long) be split into two flicks.

Even so, director David Yates, who will also helm the final chapter(s), manages to succeed because even though "Half-Blood Prince" is full of teen romance and other silly games, he manages to sustain a mood of constant dread that doesn't just hover over but pretty much encases the flick. Whereas the early movies (and their directors) had a wide-eyed wonder to them, Yates thankfully knows that this is serious business.

But it's still lightened, of course, because love is in the air, from the comic crush of Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) on Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) to the tender moment between Ron and Hermione (Emma Watson) that pays off all their years of simmering attraction. What really comes through in these scenes is just how perfectly they were and are all cast, growing into a natural chemistry even though none of them are exceptional actors.

As "Half-Blood Prince" begins, that little weasel Draco Malfoy, played to snivelling perfection by Tom Felton, is up to no good, and in bad news for the good guys, is being aided by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), who in an early, great scene in the flick swears an "unbreakable bond" to Draco's mother, Narcissus (Helen McCrory), to do whatever he can to assist him. Meanwhile, Dumbledore is taking strange trips, on which he eventually takes along Harry, to discover more about the nature and power of he-whose-name-can-now-sometimes-be-spoken.

And, best of, all, since every British actor of note gets to appear in a Harry Potter flick (Bill Nighy will play Scrimgouer in "Deathly Hallows," huzzah!), Jim Broadbent gets his turn here as Horace Slughorn, the potions professor whose memories of Tom Riddle play an essential role in "Half-Blood Prince," and makes the most of it, playing up every ounce of Slughorn's constant need to be loved.

If there's a complaint about Yates' direction and the script by Steve Kloves, it's that the flick is indeed light on action- or horror-heavy set pieces, but when they come, they really deliver. The scene in which Harry and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, as usual a slight improvement on the late Richard Harris) go in search of one of the dark lord's horcruxes in a watery cave looks exactly like it did in my mind, and the cursing of Katie Bell (Georgian Leonidas) by Draco is even better, like something straight out of a Japanese horror flick.

And those far more devoted to Harry's saga than me will surely be able to take more umbrage than me at the things that were left out from the book, but from that standpoint I have two advantages: I read "Half-Blood Prince" exactly once more than a few years ago, and no longer have anything approaching an elephant's memory. One glaring omission that irked me, though - AND IF YOU'RE THE ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO DOESN'T KNOW HOW THIS ENDS, PLEASE SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH, 'CAUSE I'M ABOUT TO SPILL IT - was the lack of a funeral for Dumbledore, which was just one of my favorite scenes from the books and left this flick without some much-needed closure.

I can tell you, though, that two of my fellow cubicle slaves who are truly devout Harryphiles, Erin and Renee, both enjoyed this flick at least as much as I did, and therein lies the proof for me that it's both the best of the Harry Potter flicks yet and just darn good summertime entertainment. 'Nuff said.

10 comments:

ddadmin said...

David Yates (director) did a superb job just magnificent to watch, may be Alfonso Cuarón would have made them ROCK. I am a great fan of Harry Potter series. My favorite still remains HP3: Prisoner of Azkaban. But Half Blood was simply outstanding on levels. I'll be seeing it again Saturday on IMAX which will be even better as it's one of the original IMAX screens that loom up and over the audience as opposed to newer screens that are just big.
Being a great fan I have collected a list of good sites and articles (may be around 200) related to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (movie information, movie schedule, movie reviews, books, games, news, wallpapers and many more). If you are interested take a look at the below link

http://markthispage.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-you-want-to-know-about-harry-potter.html

Eric said...

Interesting. I read a review on Boing Boing by some guy named Metzger who althought I am not familiar with must have some validity as afterall it si Boing Boing.
But what put me off was that he came off as such a hater. WORST F*****g movie all year. yada yada. Like some Zombie Teen fanboy ranting hate about Twilight. I get it you are not a 16 year old girl.
But when I got home the child had gone to see the movie and when I asked her about it she was pretty Meh about it.
But the show's position in the storyline as the setup for a major 3rd act plot point kind of supports that it will not be a major ride but a setup.

Sean Butler said...

Great review man....I must agree this is how I felt while watching this movie..

Reel Fanatic said...

I'll certainly check out the link list when I get a chance, dd .. thanks for the head's up! .. And there are certainly a lot of ways that devoted Harry Potter followers could pick at this one, Eric, but in this case I was happy to not be a real geek about it so I could just enjoy the ride

cookiewonton said...

Great review - like you, I read this many years ago & for the life of me don't remember too much of it - sounds worth seeing though.

Nell Minow said...

Agreed on all points. And I'd also single out the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel of "Amelie." I thought it was spectacular. I know there has been controversy about toning down his color palette and I'd love to see an alternate version, but I thought the movie looked just right.

Be sure to see "In the Loop" -- just saw it for the second time!

Reel Fanatic said...

I'll certainly check it out Nell ... since you mentioned "Amelie," Jean Pierre Jeunet's "MicMac ..." well, I can't remember the rest of the title, is one of the movies I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year

ddadmin said...

David Yates (director) did a superb job just magnificent to watch, may be Alfonso Cuarón would have made them ROCK. I am a great fan of Harry Potter series. My favorite still remains HP3: Prisoner of Azkaban. But Half Blood was simply outstanding on levels.
Being a great fan I have collected a list of good sites and articles (may be around 200) related to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (movie information, movie schedule, movie reviews, books, games, news, wallpapers and many more). If you are interested take a look at the below link

http://markthispage.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-you-want-to-know-about-harry-potter.html

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