Producer David Heyman summed up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview. “What I love about the movie is that it has many different parts -- comedy, romance, suspense, good versus evil -- but it also sets up the final chapter that is Deathly Hallows,” he explained. Indeed, this sixth Harry Potter outing includes all those elements, yet the film’s marvelous visuals are what I admire most about it. While watching Harry unlock memories captured as liquid in crystal capsules or visit an eye-popping magic novelty store or struggle with a host of horrific zombie-like creatures or -- well, the list goes on -- I couldn’t help going deeper and deeper under the spell of its cinematic wizardry.
Of course, I confess being a longtime Harry Potter fan. So my interest in the fascinating characters here is a given. The strong bond of friendship among students Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) has always meant a lot to me. Seeing them face the stirrings of young love in The Half-Blood Prince offers fans a bit of humor amid all the suspenseful intrigue at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft during this particular term.
What are Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and “Defense Against the Dark Arts” Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) up to? Who should be trusted? Why does Dumbledore give Harry such a dangerous mission? How can Harry uncover the truth about the villainous Lord Voldemort’s time as a student (Hero-Fiennes Tiffin) at Hogwarts, especially his relationship with “Potions” Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent)? Why is Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) acting even more sinister than usual? And who is The Half-Blood Prince? Clearly, there’s evil afoot, and the stage is being set for a showdown between Harry and Voldemort, which will take place at the end of the franchise.
But back to the amazing look of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. Director David Yates (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (whose visual artistry also enhanced A Very Long Engagement) must be modern wizards, for -- with the help of magical special effects, sets, music and costumes -- they have created a movie of incredible beauty despite its mostly dark themes. I understand they had to recolor the film before its release, and whatever that means, it definitely worked for me.
Another highlight of this movie is Bonnie Wright’s lovely performance as Ginny Weasely, Ron’s sister, who sparks Harry’s interest in more than a friendly way. It’s a delightfully understated turn, one that comes across as quite warm and genuine. However, as usual, Alan Rickman, takes the acting honors. With that intense facial expression and those unique vocal inflections, Professor Snape simply commands the screen whenever he’s on camera. Everyone else also does a fine job, but I wish Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) had been in more scenes.
Although The Half-Blood Prince is not my favorite Harry Potter movie (I liked the first one best), it’s definitely a must-see for Harry Potter fans as well as for anyone who loves well-made fantasy films.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG” for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.)
For more information about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or the Rotten Tomatoes website.