There’s no doubt that Harry Potter has grown up. And I don’t mean the character. Daniel Radcliffe and his cohorts appeared to be fully through puberty at the start of Order of the Phoenix, and they don’t look markedly different from the last film.
Rather the film series itself is what has grown up. What started as an undeniable kids movie full of funny ghosts and bumbling trolls chasing around eleven year olds is now a full-fledged epic series for all ages.
And though it’s what everyone’s talking about, it’s not just because this Potter film is the “darkest” yet, although that is a contributing factor, rather, the film is the most emotionally mature entry to date, something that the series has mostly lacked to this point.
For me this is the first film that didn’t feel at all rushed. Most of the first five installments took great care to cram as many plot points as they could into around two hours so the little kiddies wouldn’t feel fatigued, but Half-Blood Prince takes its time, and gives a long book its due by stretching the film to two and a half hours. The filmmakers finally realized that the fourth movie had it right (previously the series’ best entry at a rotund 157 minutes). The fact of the matter is, it’s Harry Potter, we’d be here all night if we had to.
It also helps that this book had a relatively straightforward plot compared to the others. Dumbledore is in need of a memory from Voldemort’s old professor that will help Harry destroy him, and Draco Malfoy has been chosen for a very special mission to serve the Dark Lord. The only subplots here involve the romantic relations of the student body, and arguably that’s the best aspect of this new film.
The previous Potter films often get so caught up in wizarding lore and the books’ plot points that they forget that the series is really about the characters. The mess of love triangles found throughout the movie show a human side to the characters we haven’t really had time to see, and I was particularly struck by a surprisingly powerful scene where Hermione witnesses Ron kiss another girl and bursts into tears.
The only problem I found with these romantic scenes was the chemistry between the actors, although that’s unfair, as it’s really about the chemistry between the characters from the books. I never saw Harry and Ginny together, and that really comes through in the film, where it’s like he hadn’t even thought of it himself until someone point blank tells him “You like Ginny.” And Ron and Hermione? They certainly banter well, but chemistry? That’s only between Hermione and Harry if you ask me.
But enough slash fiction, the film is emotionally impactful in other ways as well. The terror in Draco Malfoy’s eyes the entire movie is palpable, and the monumental death at the end of the film is the most tear-inducing moment of the entire series to date, though an extra five minutes for the following funeral scene would have been well worth it.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is without a doubt the best entry in the series to date. It’s emotionally grounded, unexpectedly funny and as thrilling as you’d expect. The worst thing about it is that we have to wait two years until the next one, but we know this isn’t Twilight, and quality films take time. And we should be more than happy to wait for another pair of movies as good as this one.
4.5 out of 5 stars
I won’t ruin whose death they’re honoring like it was ruined for me. Damn you Rob! It’s been four years and I’m still pissed.