Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
The moment when the series officially stopped catering to kids. Awesome.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince picks up with HP’s sixth year at Hogwarts. As luck would totally have it, Snape is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the Dark Lord is still back with a vengeance, Dumbledore is frequently away on Voldemort-killing business, and Har’s got himself a new Potions book that’s fooling everyone into believing he’s the smartest effing boy who ever lived. And since Harry is pretty much Dumbledizzle’s right-hand man these days, he gets recruited by The Bearded One to help him piece together the last remaining clues that will reveal all of Voldy’s secrets and ultimately aid in turning that bitch into Butterbeer.
And wouldn’t you know, that fuckhead Draco is worse than ever. Word on the street is that he’s the newest inductee to the Death Eaters Club of Freaky Masks and Morphing into Smoke Monsters, he’s paralyzing kids and breaking noses left and right with swift boots to the face, and he’s actually trying to off Dumbledore! That’s right, freakin’ DUMBLEDORE! What a DICK!
Anyway, we’ve got director David Yates on the case once more, and once more he’s totally rockin’ shit. Everything he did so well in Order of the Phoenix has only been improved upon and it totally shows from beginning to end. From a visual standpoint, this thing is just flat-out gorgeous. Whether it’s Harry reflecting that he “never noticed how beautiful this place is” during a sunrise at Hogwarts, Dumbledore whipping up a goddamn firestorm of most epic proportions in the confines of England’s creepiest cave, or even how the ink-blotted memories rain down into clarity whenever Harry dunks his face into the Pensieve (that was such a cool effect), Yates makes this bad boy look sharp. The lighting is so damn brooding, it all looks so damn clean, and it once again completely complements the noticeably darker tone of the story. Really glad they kept Yates on board ’til the end, this guy knows what he’s doing and he is doing it well.
And after a brief hiatus, screenwriter Steve Kloves is back in action after slightly screwing the pooch with Goblet of Fire. Alright, it wasn’t that bad, but the dude left a lot of stuff out. But since a fine human being like Kloves is the type who learns from his past mistakes, he ends up doing a bang-up job adapting Rowling’s source material and I’m surprisingly glad to have him around again. A good deal of Voldemort’s back story gets left out, the Ministry of Magic is nowhere to be seen, and a big ol’ fight scene at the end along with a certain “grieving period” are skipped over, but you know what, I hardly even noticed. Usually I’m nothing short of the head of Harry Potter’s fan club when it comes to scrutinizing the differences between the books and the movies, and while there probably should have been more of a connection established between V. Dizzle’s past and HP’s present, it actually flows really well.
The script is funny again, the cast are delivering their lines better, and all the plot elements that matter most are there in spades. Kloves even throws new stuff into the mix like the Death Eaters leveling a bridge in London and the Death Eaters torching the hell out of the Weasley’s humble tower located conveniently between a swamp and absolutely nothing. Not exactly integral additions, but they work and I ain’t complaining. The romantic plot lines amongst the characters are also pretty legit and amusing now instead of being as grating as High School romances usually are for both muggles and wizarding folk. There’s a good deal of snogging, a good deal of broken hearts and budding emotions, and no one’s putzing around like a douche, talking about snogging instead of just jumpin’ in there and snogging ’til the sun goes down. They go for it now like the pimps they are, and let me tell ya’, they go HARD! Those cheeky monkeys Ron and Ginny know what I’m talking about! HEY NOW!
Oh, and the Dursleys have been dropped again. Swayze.
But the cast really has gotten a good deal better over the course of two years…except for Tom Felton, he’s still the exact same Draco from Sorcerer’s Stone. Rupert Grint is a hell of a lot more entertaining as Ron and is actually starting to seem like a kid worth hanging out with; Emma Watson’s always been solid as Hermione, so there’s not a whole a whole lot to add, but she’s definitely not the same kid she was in Sorcerer’s Stone…on a number of levels; and Daniel Radcliffe is on point as Harry. He’s not a whiny bitch any more, he’s growing a pair and manning up to the situation that is his life and he was an absolute riot after he got all hopped up on that Liquid Luck. It’s a good, new look on him that I hope sticks around for good.
And let’s give it up for Jim Broadbent as Prof. Slughorn – the one new teacher who doesn’t have an evil wizard in the back of his head/a penchant for turning his students into Alzheimer’s patients/an existence as a werewolf/a hideous robot eye and an unfortunate history of patricide/an angry gangbang with a centaur colony. Man, Dumbledore sure knows how to pick ’em. Anywho, the dude’s never really stood out to me as an actor and Slughorn never really stood out to me as much of a character, but he’s just hilarious and does a great job with the role. One of those swell situations where a little flame of giddiness flared up inside every time he was back in the spotlight. Doesn’t hurt that his dialogue with Harry in Hagrid’s cabin during the Liquid Luck high is arguably the best part of this whole movie either.
Michael Gambon is still alright as Dumbledoodles; Alan Rickman still kicks ass as that stone-faced, smarmy sonofabitch Snape; Helena Bonham Carter could still afford to tone it down as the wand-sniffing Bellatrix Lestrange; and Warwick Davis can continue on being the man as Prof. Flitwick.
Judging by the comments from the last HP review, it seems like a lot of folks are pretty divided over this movie. There’s definitely more dialogue than action and Snape’s big moment in the finale felt a bit on the anticlimactic side, but everything else was so damn good that it was pretty hard for me to just wallow in my petty gripes over shit that a 12-year-old bookworm with a Nimbus 5000 on their wall could probably care less about. The Half-Blood Prince is the most mature entry to date, it’s the most visually impressive of the bunch by a long shot, and there’s hardly any of that annoying-ass teen angst crap lingering around. With that being said, I’m thinking this is easily one of the better entries in the series, probably third after Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix.
But that’s just me. Argue away, fellow nerds.