19 July 2009 | joestank15
Dark, funny, and not weighed down by too much exposition.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - A footnote: Funny thing about Harry Potter reviews. If you peruse enough of them, you'll notice that "lack of nit-picks" is a substitute for praise. Everyone comes from different points of view when they go in to see these films. Some people read the books, some haven't. Everyone has their favorites, or hates the films in general. I have never experienced the films without having read the books first so I cannot comment on how hard it is to follow any of them. For some they are too long, for some not enough. I have enjoyed all of the films to varying degrees all for different reasons. David Yates continues from where he left Order of the Phoenix, arguably the weakest of the seven books but one of the stronger films.
In the sixth Harry Potter, Harry works with Dumbledore to unlock a key secret about Voldemort. To do this, Harry has to get close to Professor Slughorn (played with aplomb by Jim Broadbent). What interested me most about the way this is played out are the quiet similarities presented between Harry and Tom Riddle. Dumbledore actively wants Harry to act more like Tom in an attempt to defeat him. This enhances the idea posited back in the 2nd film and book. The sub-plots surrounding this are delightful. Quidditch has never been done so well. The Slug Party is also delightful. Harry's fancying Ginny and Ron's troubles between Lavender and Hermione round out the film. A small downside of this is there is less room for some of the best talent in the UK, many of whom merely supply the garnish on a good meal.
Michael Gambon is wonderful in this turn as the greatest wizard Dumbledore. He just needed the screen time to shine. I hope this nails the lid on the doubters. Alan Rickman plays Snape to perfection, much as it would have been fun to see him momentarily lose his cool. Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane have wonderful cameos. I seem to be the only person that appreciates Daniel Radcliffe post-Equus. I think the young man has really come into his own. Rupert Grint has also become a fine comedic actor. Tom Felton slowly freaks the hell out as a young man given an impossible task. My favorite little scene stealer is Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood.
The film plays fast and loose with the source material, and, unlike with Prisoner of Azkaban, the results are not disappointing. On the contrary, this might be, next to Goblet of Fire, my favorite of the films. Part of the reason this time is the film's atmosphere is so appropriate, the characters so well acted and written, that it makes us yearn for more of everything that IS in the film, not lament what was cast aside. I can forgive plot simplification as film is a different medium. I would not have made all the choices Yates has, but he nails the beginning and end of the film, includes many touching character moments, and the movie on the whole is FUNNY damnit! True Potter fans should see that Yates has broken the letter to preserve the spirit of Harry Potter.
One note from the Potter die-hard within the competent film critic: it is disappointing to miss out on one crucial flashback that would have given Ralph Fiennes a terribly awesome scene to do with Michael Gambon. As for the rest. Potter-ites, Yates has this well in hand. Put aside the canon-charts, and enjoy watching small variations on a story you know and love. I know, given the choice, I prefer a story that pops to life over one nailed down to a strict regiment of plot points and exposition. A-