Harry Potter in Review: The Half-Blood Prince

Director: David Yates

Cast: Jim Broadbent is the latest addition to the usual suspects.

Plot: Whilst the Dark Lord Voldemort builds his forces against the Ministry of Magic, Harry and friends have their hands full with relationships and strange goings-on at Hogwarts.

Review: Director Yates steps into the directors chair for the second of four Harry Potter films, having cut his teeth on the previous installment. With a much easier story to condense into a reasonable running time Yates has taken the opportunity to flaunt his skills and artistic flair more this time around. Much of the colour palette and heavy use of shadows has been brought across from Prisoner of Azkaban with serves to heighten the drama as well as making the old castle a much more interesting place to look at for two and half hours.

Half-Blood Prince is one of the stronger stories in the series, but as part of an ongoing series it serves little purpose beyond being a placeholder. Even thought Order of the Phoenix concluded with Voldemort, Dumbledore and the plainly named alongside them Harry tearing up the Ministry of Magic both sides seem to be taking a breather for the year. Some time is spent revisiting Voldemort’s wonder years but never enough to leave more than an impression. An attack on the Weasley household, which doesn’t occur in the source material, occurs halfway through the film seemingly to remind the viewers that the bad guys are still out there.

Having said that it is one of the better adaptations in the film series with key plot threads and relationships forming the framework for the script instead of simply copy-pasting chunks of the novel into the script program. There’s a good balance between the weighty drama and the lightheartedness of a growing-of-age tale. Sequences in which Ron is given a heavy dose of a love potion and Harry tripping out on luck potion are genuinely funny. The young performers have developed enough as actors to make the characters feel like real people for the first time, and the chemistry between the three leads is undeniable as they riff off each other.

Although there is a greater emphasis on teen romance the visuals are never lacking. Wide sweeping shots of the castle and its grounds feature plenty of detail and imagination and the action set pieces are more exciting then in most previousHarry Potter films. The snowy quidditch match is fast and fun while Dumbledore unleashing billowing clouds of flames packs a strong punch. Some of the set-design feels a bit lacking outside of Hogwarts itself, but on the whole things are handled well.

What could have ended up being little more than a footnote connecting the rise of Voldemort in Goblet of Fire and the final showdown winds up being one of the more memorable outings for the young wizard.

Score: SEVEN outta TEN