16 July 2009 | javaman-7
An engaging set-up for the final episodes
Java Man Reviews "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" Originally appeared in LakewoodBuzz.com July, 2009.
The film opens with our hero, Harry (Radcliffe), hanging out in a late night café perusing his copy the Daily Prophet and flirting with an eye-catching waitress. They make a date for the end of her shift, but Harry can't keep it because he is whisked away by His Beardness, Professor Albus Dumbledore (Gambon). They soar into the night and arrive at the home of Horace Slughorn (Broadbent), a former Hogwarts lecturer who Dumbledore is trying to persuade to return to his old job as Professor of Potions. Slugborn, with his unique technique of recovering past memories, may be the key to the psyche of one Tom Riddle, a former student who has morphed into the vile Lord Voldemort. Thus begins the sixth adventure of Harry and his conjuring cohorts Hermione and Ron (Watson & Grint) as they divide their time between studies in sorcery and the looming confrontation with Voldemort.
Oh, and that crazy Slugborn mixes one humdinger of a love potion.
REVIEW: 3 1/2 of 4 Java Mugs
Other than the fact that they are both British, and that each is destined to save the world, Harry Potter and James Bond have one other thing in common: Their movie franchises have logged the highest box office totals ever, with Potter likely to pass Bond by the time you read this. Another item that may please the Potter fans is that there will be ten Best Picture nominees this year instead of five, giving the Potter cast and crew a pretty good chance to work some magic on the red carpet.
The story is basically a set-up for the final episodes of the series; an engaging set-up, but a set-up nonetheless. Yet it works. I sensed that most of the patrons of the sold-out midnight showing I attended would have plunked down good money to watch the next two films until dawn.
There is more attention paid to character than in previous Potter outings, but some of our favorite villains make only token appearances. Those dynamic Death Eaters and the deliciously evil Bellatrix Lestrange (Bonham Carter) are in far too few scenes; and Voldemort appears only as a threatening cloud formation. Not to worry, though. We will certainly see more of them in 2010 and 2011 when the series wraps up with the filming of the final book in two parts.
The performances are up to the series high standards. Radcliffe and Watson are fine, as usual, and Grint has much more to do this go-around and does it well. Of course the Hogwarts faculty, portrayed by British acting legends such as Smith and Gambon, are a joy to watch. Rickman as Snape and newcomer Broadbent as Slugborn are standouts.
Director Yates and his team have created a bleaker and more ominous Hogwarts, no doubt setting the stage for the dark themes that are to follow. Atmospheric cinematography in Norway, the Scottish Highlands and dozens of English prep schools provide backdrops which are cunningly combined with outstanding visual effects.