Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Review

After an agonizing two year wait, it's that time again on the film calender where children and parents alike come together for another instalment of the outrageously successful Harry Potter series. Before I get under way I just want to point out that I have never actually read any of the books, do not e-mail asking why, just have not got round to it yet, so I like to think I can approach the movies on a purely film basis instead of picking it apart, screaming at the screen why "such and such" did not happen, or was left would be like the Golden Compass all over again.

When we last left Harry and his talented young band of wizardy misfits, he had just been through the battle of his life (so far...) with "you know who" resulting in the death of the only man he could seriously consider as family. A few months on and seemingly going off the rails slightly, with the help of his grand old mentor Dumbledore (played by the wonderful Michael Gambon) he once again starts the new year with a somewhat clean slate. Completely unsuspecting from my part, the students, unlike previous years are under attack from a very different adversary as adolescent hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry's long friendship with Ginny Weasley is growing into something deeper, but standing in the way is Ginny's boyfriend, Dean Thomas, not to mention her big brother Ron. Having romantic entanglements of his own to worry about, Ron has (new character to the fold) Lavender Brown lavishing her affections on him, leaving Hermione simmering with jealousy yet determined not to show her feelings (quite possibly the most frustrating "Will they? Won't they?" since Ross and Rachel in Friends). Once a box of love potion-laced chocolates ends up in the wrong hands everything changes. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof with far more important matters on his mind. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but as tragedy lies ahead, Hogwarts, and Harry's own world may never be the same again.

Structurely I thought the film played out very well in terms of the film length and overall plot development, though was a little underwhelmed by the lack of darkness that promised from the film's trailers and the "edgy" 12A rating. This was still very much a children's film, which is not a criticism as such, but besides the story's final act there was not a big lot on offer for the adults to enjoy besides a few cheeky innuendos that would make young teenage girls giggle in delight, which dominated the majority of the film and is frankly a shame since one of the best films (never mind children's films) released this year so far, Coraline proved that you do not have to sacrifice one audience for the other. Despite the lack of genuinely dark themes the acting once again saw an improvement from Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. However they were all completely blown out of the water by the brilliant, pixie-like oddball Luna Lovegood (played by Irish born actress Evanna Lynch) who displayed some moments of sheer magic on screen with a beautiful mixture of spell-binding wonder and endearing sincerity. As always of course the support cast of the Harry Potter films is always promised to be its main saving grace, with the class of Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Mark Williams, Julie Waters and Jim Broadbent amongst other heavyweights of British acting, lifting the film's stock immensely.

Being a big fan of David Yates' television work, he is personally not my favourite of the Harry Potter directors (that award goes to the brilliant Alfonso CuarĂ³n for his work on the Prisoner Of Azkaban), though he does an extremely commendable job with the look and feel of the films, capturing the imagination of many I'm sure, I felt that Warner Bros. were left with a missed opportunity to get some genuinely ground breaking visionaries to tackle these films like Burton, Del Toro and Gilliam that could have really took the production values and the darker themes to an entirely new level. Nicolas Hooper's score was beautiful and touching as expected though was extremely disappointed to hear a severe lack of the main theme created by John Williams all those years ago that is now synonymous with the movies. It was not all despair and disappointment however as the film did have some stunning cinematography really showing the size of the famous school, and its beautiful English countryside surroundings. They also combined extremely well with the special effects team in the opening shots of the Death-Eaters flying around London.

Final Thoughts
Not terrible by any means and will no doubt do extremely well at the box office in the coming weeks, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an enjoyable way to spend two and a half hours, however it was unfortunately (as has been the case with some of the other films) not a spelling binding way to spend two and a half hours. With some great direction, acting and a fantastic final act, the film did just enough to hold my interest and keep me looking forward to the final adaptation (which is being turned into two films so they can milk it that little bit longer). Having not read the book I don't personally know what was left out to make up the story but maybe it should have been renamed Harry Potter and the Uncontrollable Teenage Hormones.


See this if you liked...
Well I'm hardly going to say Citizen Kane...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is in cinemas everywhere from today.

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