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Films: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The latest, sometimes baffling Hogwarts episode fails to cast a spell on Phil Key

Published on July 17th 2009.


Films: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

WE have been waiting some time for this sixth movie in the Harry Potter franchise. It was planned to have been released last November but various problems, including the writers' strike, led to it being put on the shelf for several months.

As for Daniel Radcliife as Harry, he wanders about as usual looking slightly amused and then alarmed in turn. It is either a very subtle performance or a dull one, I have never quite made up my mind

Whether you consider it worth the wait depends on your attitude to Harry Potter. The die-hard fans will, no doubt, love it but those who just love a good movie may be disappointed.

More than any other Potter film, this looks very much like an episode from a serial, starting in the middle and ending before the real conclusion.

Many performers put in just fleeting appearances, among them Julie Walters, Timothy Spall, Robbie Coltrane and David Thewlis. Their cameos are so short that they could have completed them in their lunch hour.

That said, there are so many other characters that for those like me, who have not read the books, it can be a confusing experience. Newcomers to the films will be totally lost.

The main plot line concerns wizard Harry and his attempt to discover what secret the villain, Lord Voldemort, learned at Hogwarts School when he was a pupil there known as Tom Riddle.

It is a secret apparently known to a retired teacher Professor Slughorn who taught Riddle and, with the aid of Professor Dumbledore, he is brought back to the school to run a class on potions. Harry is given the job of extracting the secret.

But there are other events taking place, including Harry's discovery of a potion book that is marked as the "property of the Half-Blood Prince", various romances blossoming among the pupils including Harry and - above all - away from the wizard world, numerous attacks by the so-called Death Eaters.

The attacks seem to consist of dark clouds from which bolts of fire are zapped. The Millennium Bridge is one victim.

The plot lines are all jumbled up so we keep switching from one story to another, a ploy that keeps the interest for the film's 2hrs 33mins but which at times leads you to ask, "What the..?"

One reason you can not take your eyes off the screen is that it all looks so gorgeous with excellent camera work by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and the Fairy Tale Gothic look from art director Andrew Ackland-Snow. The special effects really are special, too.

Against this background there are some good performances from the principals. Rupert Grint gets a starring comic turn as carrot-topped Potter pal Ron Weasley falling in love too easily. Asked why he likes one girl, he replies after some thought, "Nice skin".

Alan Rickman has upped his sly, slimy performance as Professor Snape several notches. Few actors can get so much meaning out of the single word query, "Indeed?"

Those rich tones of the Great Gambon (Michael) are very much in evidence as Professor Dumbledore despite a face full of hair and beard. He gets his big scene atop a rock looking like Charlton Heston as Moses as he battles unseen forces.

Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn is rather appealing, too, when disguised as an armchair.

As for Daniel Radcliife as Harry, he wanders about as usual looking slightly amused and then alarmed in turn. It is either a very subtle performance or a dull one, I have never quite made up my mind.

Emma Watson has really grown up for this outing. Her Hermione even turns up at one point in a low cut dress revealing a fine cleavage as she makes her play for Ron.

As the publicity has stated, this is meant to be a darker Potter than before. Well, the Warner Brothers logo is coloured steely grey with billowing dark clouds behind. And that's before the film has started.

There are more dark clouds in the movie story but I must admit I found the supposedly fearful Death Eaters more comic than frightening. Helena Bonham Carter is particularly daft as chief Eater, or something, Ballatrix, all dark clothes and breathy whisperings.

Admittedly someone next to me rose from her seat with alarm a couple of times, but I put that down to a sudden loud noise ( a favourite trick of horror directors) rather than anything really horrific.

The movie does answer some questions raised in the early part of the film, but there are still a lot of hanging threads, presumably all to be tied up in the final episode Deathy Hallows, to be released in two parts in 2010 and 2011.

In the meantime, we have this bit of a mess. Those who have read the book suggest it is fairly faithful although there are at least two additions, mainly involving the Death Eaters attacks (the Millennium Bridge never featured in the book, for example).

To be honest,both those scenes liven things up a bit in director David Yates's film and the final "Moses on the rock" confrontation has its moments, particularly with the creatures who climb out of the water.

The Potter name will no doubt give the film summer blockbuster status. One just wishes it was more of a whole.
6/10

*Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (12a) is on general release

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JustinJuly 16th 2009.

it is high time to challenge this satanist nonsense.God lives and filling childrens heads with black magic is condemning them to eternal torture in hell.Not a joke its Gods own word. Remember he is prepared to make little children suffer to come onto Him if necessary for them to be saved.We live in a Christian country but the Muslims are right - if you dont fear God then devils will prick you with acid and poison for all eternity.

666July 16th 2009.

You're one sad ba****d, aren't you.

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