Late night showing of HP and the Half Blood Prince was completely full at the large Century screen – we could all sit together in row one, but chose to scatter to random seats further back so we did not have to chose between characters to watch! Many many previews later (and the only one of note was Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, 2012 looked marginally interesting as a disaster film with spectacular effects) the film began with random destruction of buildings and bridges and I felt like I had mistakenly wandered into summer blockbuster disaster film. Then I was put off by Harry acting naive and full of wonder as Dumbledore put a wrecked cottage to rights with the wave of his wand – wasn’t the boy in the penultimate at Wizard School? But soon after that the film settled into a groove that dealt with the maturing of the main characters, their teenage romances, breakups and jealousies. The film kept the proceedings short of sappy and thoroughly engaging.
While the characters are trying to sort out their romantic lives, dark clouds are gathering as Snape takes a vow to protect Draco Malfoy and indeed to perform the deed he is supposed to perform in case Malfoy does not come through! The pensieve reveals secret thoughts and the truth about Voldemeort and horcruxes. A dangerous journey is undertaken by Dumbledore and Harry. And the significance of Snape telling Dumbledore “You are asking for too much!” on the clockwork balcony is revealed as Dumbledore implores “PLEASE” and Snape lifts his wand! But of course it is only revealed because the movies lag behind and books and we know the final outcome.
David Yates lucked out big time when he got to direct The Order of the Phoenix because the stories are getting more mature and dark and interesting as the series proceeds. But The Half Blood Prince lacks a major ingredient to keep it from being exciting – and that is VOLDEMORT! Thus we see the kid Tom Riddle in an orphanage – and he is very much like the serious kid version of Spock in looks and in the special powers he possesses, then we see him as the teenager gone bad at Hogwarts, but we never really see the Dark Lord, and good without a balance of evil tends to fall a bit flat.
The characters themselves continue to grow and often not as one would imagine, thus Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry is a grown young man who is trying to look naive and full of wonder but lacking that famous something that Rowling described in her character. Emma Watson has matured well and is a charmer, Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley is knockout, Rupert Grint as Ron is interesting, but for me the standout performances are by Alan Rickman as the tortured and conflicted Snape, and Helena Bonham Carter as the part demented and mostly evil Bellatrix LeStrange. The special effects are spectacular and just like the kids, Hogwarts seems to grow and mature over the years!
Overall the film is an engaging 153 minute watch with not a dull moment. It could have been much much more – but is still worth a watch.
ADDENDUM: I have to add some special effects moments that were really special! I loved the run through the dry fields while stuff was burning all around, I liked the Gollum like creatures crawling out of the water. AND I was unimpressed by Dumbledore setting the cottage right – that same sequence in Bhoothnath was so much more effective for its simplicity and charm! The Qidditch matches are always fun, but this one was hardly a match anymore – mostly just effects! Though I cannot see how one would make a movie BASED on wizards and magic without special effects……..