Film Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Spoilers)

I am not a Harry Potter fan, so if you’re expecting a good or bad fanboyish rant about Harry Potter 6 you’re going to be sadly disappointed. On its merits this is a pretty good film, but its let down by some rambling in the storytelling and an often gratingly overblown script. I’ve always thought that film sequels (or serials) should be able to stand on their own two feet – the last Potter I can remember (the Prisoner of Azkaban) was a great example of when this works. Not only are the die-hards delighted with the nods to the books’ continuity, but they’re just nods – the film has a good beginning, middle and an end. Not so Half-Blood Prince. This is a film highly dependent on intimate knowledge of the films which have gone before and the subplots in the books – it makes for an occasionally tiresome watch.

That isn’t to say that the film isn’t fun, entertaining or well-made – quite the opposite. This is a beautifully made film, focusing on the evolving relationships between the adolescent leads. Daniel Radcliffe showed he could act in Equus and continues to prove it here, Rupert Grint remains a solid comic foil and Emma Watson’s performance suggests an adult future on the A-list to match her childhood past. The relationship are beautifully painted – their new loves, unrequited feelings, even Dumbledore’s friendship with Harry are the biggest strengths of this film. The biggest weakness in contrast is the confusingly meandering plot (the film lasts 2 1/2 hours). Director David Yates transposes far too much story from the book into the film, leaving the build-up to Dumbledore’s murder strangely confusing and Tom Felton’s performance as Draco Malfoy irritatingly under-developed. Of all of the young leads Felton has improved amongst the most drastically, but sadly the focus on his character’s dilemma is undermined by Yates’ interest in fleshing out the Potter-verse a little too fully.

The plot against Dumbledore is treated more as a sub-plot than the main plot point of the movie, and when fully revealed turns out to depend on pre-Half-Blood Prince continuity. Why then cast a star like Helena Bonham-Carter in a supporting, villainous role when we aren’t led to understand her character’s motivations? Is she simply a minion of Voldamort? Fine, but so is Malfoy, and his involvement with the band of villains is the most compelling aspect of the plot and is explained (however briefly) to boot. Potter 6 ultimately suffers from being a bridge between what’s gone before and the finale to the series; it’s highly enjoyable but overall is a whole series of wasted opportunities. There was a punchier film to be had which would have pleased everybody – I hope Yates learns from his mistakes for Potter 7. 7/10

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