Monday, July 20, 2009

My review: ‘Half-Blood Prince’

The latest film in the series following a bespectacled – and now angst-ridden – teenager, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is good. I desperately want to write amazing, awesome and stupendous, but the David Yates-directed film does not quite measure up to those descriptors. And it does not top “Prisoner of Azkaban” or “Order of the Phoenix.” But this review is not all doom and gloom. “Half-Blood Prince” has many redeeming qualities. I saw the movie twice at sold out shows because I enjoyed it so much.

First among the redeeming qualities are the special effects, which are breathtaking from the opening to final scene. The Death Eaters are brilliantly portrayed as menacing, black clouds of smoke traveling to their next victim. The Pensieve seamlessly and exquisitely transports Harry and Hogwarts head Dumbledore to memories from long ago. Quidditch returns for some good fun. And the exterior shots of Hogwarts befuddle me because they are so enchanting.

Probably the best quality of the film is cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s impeccable vision. His composition of the frame and the camera angles make watching this film delightful and fun. Delbonnel, who brought his great eye to “Amélie,” is new to this installment of the franchise. His job is made a little easier by production designer Stuart Craig, who has stunningly created the magical world detailed in J.K. Rowling’s series.

The final technical aspect of the film, and the others I have always loved, is the music. Nicholas Hooper outdoes himself again, after creating a brilliant score for “Order of the Phoenix.” I am a traditionalist and will always love what John Williams brought to the movies, particularly “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Prisoner of Azkaban,” but Hooper does not forget those accomplishments and is influenced by Williams. “Hedwig’s Theme” is sprinkled in songs “Opening” and “Ginny”; you can hear another William-composed piece, “Quidditch Match,” in “Ron’s Victory” and “Of Love & War.” One of the best pieces of the soundtrack is “In Noctem,” written with a choir singing in Latin to the mellifluous yet haunting melody. I could write an entire review of the stunning soundtrack, but I will try to stay focused.

Yates, along with screenwriter Steve Kloves, lead viewers on a fastidious journey through Harry’s magical world. But what I loved about the book seemed to be missing from the movie. The Harry-Dumbledore relationship, along with the Harry and Half-Blood Prince relationship, was somewhat lacking. The teen angst melodrama overwhelmed me at times. I think Kloves might have infused the screenplay with a bit too much love; including, but not limited to, Lavender’s neurosis. But editors worked their magic well in regards to the love charades. Seeing the film a second time helped me solidify this standpoint: I might not have been a big fan of the screenplay overall, but the editors worked very well within its reigns.

SKIP THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM

Finally, a point of contention that put me on the fence with “Half-Blood Prince” is the ending. Dumbledore's death left sitting semi-complacent from the momentous murder. I should have been bawling like when I read that chapter in Rowling’s book – but I was not. There should have been an “ah ha!” moment at the end where I would anticipate the next film. But there was not. There is a meager feeling of the battle and journey set up for the next film. The final two films in the series will be taken from the same book: “Deathly Hallows.” The first movie comes out at the end of 2010 and the last in the summer of 2011. It was not the way I wanted to leave the theater. The emotionally detached scene in the astronomy tower with Harry, Hermione and Ron was slightly painful and slow. It seemed like the editors ran out of steam and just cut together something quick, unlike the rest of the meticulously edited film. It made me want to leave the theater without watching the credits, which everyone knows I love. (Don’t worry, I sat through them all…)

CONTINUE READING NOW (SPOILER-FREE)

Overall, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a testament to extraordinary creator and genius J.K. Rowling, who has brilliantly delineated Harry’s magical world. The creative team and ineffably gifted cast keep the magic going and transport viewers, albeit with a few missteps, to an unparalleled experience for two hours and 33 minutes. My grade: B+.

Let me know what you thought of the film by commenting to this post
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Photo credits: Review logo by me; others photos and poster courtesy Warner Bros.

1 comment:

  1. James,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your review of "Half-Blood Prince" and agree with many of your points. I, too, was disappointed in the lackluster scenes leading up to the end, particularly Dumbledore's death. Though I rarely cry during movies, the scene in the book made me ball. The movie's portrayal was simply not on par (nor completely accurate, according to how the scene played out in the book).

    But, like you said, the movie was magical and mesmerizing, owing to the special effects and creative direction. And I loved learning more about the real-life characters responsible for this. Thanks for the insightful review! And I'll be stealing the soundtrack from you very soon. :)

    ~Lindsey

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