It's been an exceptionally long wait for Potter fans for this, the sixth and penultimate installment of the series, but fans are unlikely to be disappointed. David Yates, who did such a splendid job with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), is back at the helm to good effect as the mood of the series continues to darken.
As with previous installments, there is once again simply too much story to cram into the two and a half hour running time. Those not familiar with the books, or who have not at least been following the films, are left to flounder without the slightest compunction. Yates dives directly into this new adventure with no preamble, giving up any pretense that this is a stand-alone feature.
The last two years have seen the principle cast grow up a good deal, and Half-Blood Prince has a significant high school romance sub-plot that contributes much of the action and most of the humor of this installment. The romantic comedy elements are not particularly slick and are aimed very much at the younger teen crowd with tentative maneuvering, hypersensitivity and arch references to snogging. Nevertheless, while young love is portrayed in broad brushstrokes, Yates has enough real sympathy for his young stars and the tribulations of adolescent romance to pull off this rather difficult act without embarrassing himself or the audience.
Moreover, stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) have managed to maintain a level of continuity in their characters, giving the audience more of an investment in them than would normally be possible within the relatively short span of a feature film so crammed with other material.
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
DIRECTED BY: DAVID YATES
STARRING: DANIEL RADCLIFFE (HARRY POTTER), MICHAEL GAMBON (PROFESSOR ALBUS DUMBLEDORE), JIM BROADBENT (PROFESSOR HORACE SLUGHORN), BONNIE WRIGHT (GINNY WEASLEY), JULIE WALTERS (MOLLY WEASLEY), RUPERT GRINT (RON WEASLEY), EMMA WATSON (HERMIONE GRANGER), HELENA BONHAM CARTER (BELLATRIX LESTRANGE), ALAN RICKMAN (PROFESSOR SEVERUS SNAPE)
RUNNING TIME: 153 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: IN GENERAL RELEASE
Unfortunately, the teen romance takes up a good deal of time, so that the magical machinations of the wizard world can only be given rather cursory treatment, and the assembled adult cast, with a few notable exceptions, are left with very little to do. Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall) is all but ignored, and Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) swans around in a caricature of being mad, bad and dangerous to know.
While the heroic trio of Radcliffe, Grint and Watson do a more than adequate job, it is Michael Gambon (Professor Albus Dumbledore) and Jim Broadbent (Professor Horace Slughorn) who give Half-Blood Prince its depth, and Yates lingers perhaps a little too lovingly on these two old men of the theater. Gambon has settled into his role as principal of Hogwarts and Harry’s mentor beautifully, and this installment allows him to pull out all the stops as the master wizard who makes the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. Broadbent, who plays the minor but pivotal character of Professor Slughorn, is perhaps the most enjoyable character to watch, and in his relatively short screen time makes an enduring impression.
A new arrival on the scene is Bonnie Wright, who plays Ginny Weasley, Harry’s love interest. Previously she had been very much in the background, but with Half-Blood Prince she emerges as a strong and potentially interesting character who is likely to blossom in the final installment. She helps provide the young love aspects of this film with a little gravity, in contrast to Grint’s playing his own romantic predicament for laughs, not always with complete success.