Wednesday, July 15, 2009

REVIEW: 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'

For the last five films, the Harry Potter series has always been a subtle dance with innocence. Whether it’s innocence about the nature of death, which could very well claim boy wizard Harry Potter and his friends in one of their many devil may care adventures, or innocence about love, and dare I say human – or muggle – sexuality as well.

But in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the movie’s sixth and newest installment, Harry and beloved confidants Hermoine Granger and Rod Weasly engage in their usual dance, only this time they walk away before the end of the song leaving innocence standing in the corner.

With only two more years left at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry’s got a lot on his mind. Girls mostly, plus there’s the sneaking suspicion that Professor Dumbledore, the school’s venerable headmaster who always bailed Harry and his friends out in the past, is starting to look frail and not as powerful as he used to be. But the biggest concern is Draco Malfoy, the Aryan-haired foil from the previous films. Now that Draco’s father has been locked away after the crimes he committed at the end of The Order of the Phoenix, the dark lord Voldemort has requested a difficult task of Draco. As Harry snoops around to investigate, he realizes Draco’s plan involves more than a panty-raid or shooting spitballs during potions class.

Played by Tom Felton, the previous films went out of their way to make Draco look like a despicable fascist, but I must credit director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves for making him appear sympathetic during a time when he considers his most vile deed ever. Felton especially deserves kudos for rising to the task, portraying his character as disgraced, conflicted and angry because of evil forces that are beyond his control.

Best part is that Felton’s not the only one. As Harry, Radcliffe shines during a moment when he drinks a magical potion that increases his luck. Ruppert Gint who plays Ron continues to prove he is the most hilarious part of the series, pinning over various women at his school despite the dismay of the lovelorn Hermoine. And at his character’s darkest hour, Michael Gambon adds a human touch to Dumbledore, which was sorely needed if what is to happen to him in this film is supposed to have any meaning.

The supporting cast was solid as well, especially newcomer Jim Broadbent, as the star struck professor Horrace Slughorn.

As both a fan of the books and the films, I could be part of a minority who doesn’t care that the filmmakers left out the epic battle from the final act. What they chose to do instead was focus on both Harry and Draco, two characters who will look upon the campus of Hogwarts, their shared childhood home, and realize that nothing will ever be the same again. They also omit the funeral scene of a major character, opting instead to show the students of Howarts raise their wands in the air to banish the dark clouds from the sky – one of the most magical moments of the film series to date.

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