Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates, 2009)

12Dec10

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Alan Rickman (Professor Snape). Screenplay by Steve Kloves. Directed by David Yates. Rating: 12. Running time: 153 minutes.

Way closer to what a late Harry Potter film should look like, The Half Blood Prince gives us nearly everything that Yates failed to provide us with in part one of The Deathly Hallows: plenty of darkness and drama to reflect the occasion – which is, after all, trying to destroy the magical world’s equivalent of Hitler. Indeed, just as it should be, the joy of playing around with wands is largely long gone here, Hogwarts instead finally feeling dangerous rather than fun. There’s still an unhealthy focus on teenage love overclouding everything, the latest relationship-goss infiltrating conversation even after the death of the great Albus Dumbledore, but by now my ears are blocking this out, coming to grips with it as an unfortunately necessary evil.

One of the reasons this works better might be the availability of the likes of Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman for some serious screen time – the kids simply cannot carry it on their own, but alongside these greats the films suddenly jump up a few places in the authenticity tables, reaching a level we only wish could be maintained for longer. I’m convinced by Dumbledore’s elusive pursuit of Voldemort’s history here, a theme that deserves to and does run through the entire film. I’m also genuinely intrigued by Snape’s apparent betrayal, despite deep faith being held in him by Dumbledore. It’s these aspects of the saga that its appeal has been sustained by, not the simple magic tricks we’ve now seen performed a million times and the petty love triangles we can observe in any other piece of common modern day teenage drama. The Half Blood-Prince largely succeeds in understanding this.

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