Back in 2001, legendary director of “family friendly” films Chris Columbus teamed up with Warner Bros. to bring the works of J.K. Rowling to the silver screen with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. They managed to do so with such amazing prestige and results that the rest of the films were sure to follow in line. This trend stayed true for a few more years with Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. The movies were getting better and darker as the titular character grew older. Sadly, with the latest installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the only thing the audience gets this time is awkward emotions and a sense of loss.
With The Half-Blood Prince, which is based on the sixth book in the Harry Potter series, the viewer is treated differently. Rather than open their minds to a secret world of magic and wizardry, they are already inundated with such things We have all just gotten over the loss of Harry’s “uncle”, Sirius Black, and the very first battle is waged between good and evil. This movie should carry on the excitement and those feelings, right? Sadly, not in this case.
The pacing of this film is that of a funeral, but for a good reason. There are roughly three sequences that can be considered of the “action” ilk, and those are broken up by 45 minutes of deep staring and sex humor (which is about as awkward as you would expect coming from British children). There is a surplus of light moments, only to be weighed down by the final 10 minutes of the film, which makes the ending of The Empire Strikes Back, for example, look like the ending of a children’s book. If you thougt a film could not get any more morose, wait until the final minutes of this movie.
Another great thing about the Potter film franchise was the names that came along for each project. From Alan Rickman to Gary Oldman to Ralph Fiennes, David Tennant and Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson, one would think that another film in the series would bring in at least one more big name before taking it’s swan song in 2010 and 2011. But alas, the biggest names we get in the film are Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge) and Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club), and with Carter, half of her scenes had to be cut short so that they wouldn’t accidentally show her pregnancy.
The acting could be on-par with the film’s predecessors, if the fact that each child actor has aged rapidly wasn’t so distracting throughout the film. Radcliffe (Potter) and Watson (Hermione) seemed to have aged well, but other actors like Rupert Grint (Ron) and Tom Felton (Draco) looked more like funhouse mirror versions of their former selves, which is, to say the least, a bit of a problem.
The most disturbing element in the film may have been unintentional, but still warrants mention. It’s understood that Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore character and his relationship with Harry are meant to be a major part of this film. But the problem is that the attempt at a father/son relationship comes across as less platonic than it should.
Love and “sex” (more like heavy petting or “snogging”) is a huge part of this film, and there are a few times where Dumbledore and Harry have some awkward moments and it leaves the audience to wonder. Whether this was intentional due to the news that Rowling revealed Dumbledore to be gay, or it was an accident, these bits still come across as uncomfortable in the 150 minute film.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince can be categorized as a far darker Empire Strikes Back with wizards, where the protagonists, and the audience, are left without hope prior to the final battle. Between the painful pacing and the lack of wonderment that the previous films held, this is probably the weakest of the six films — which can also be said about the books.
There are a few moments added to the film, such as when Harry picks up a waitress in a diner, that could probably go without being a part of the final cut. But in the end, the lighter moments at least help balance out the tragic end.