Fiends, Grobans, Pumpkinmen, lend me your eyes. Forgive the stupid introduction, but you see, I’m excited. I’ve had a revelation and a change of heart. This is exactly why I revisit films and sometimes do “redux” reviews on this site. Naughty, naughty though. You’re not going to get exactly what I mean by a “revelation” in the naff preamble. I’ve got standards. I’m more of a third paragraph kinda
girl manly man. Ever so manly.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Hold tight lads and lasses, we’re nearing the end. With my memory previously foggy about the Potter films after Goblet, rewatching them for review has been like watching them for the first time. I’d seen Half-Blood Prince in the cinema way back in the laughably Luddite and bygone year of 2009, but I realised I’d only retained about a trailer’s worth of information about it in my head. Sure, the main plot bullet points were there, as were some of the small details, but little of any substance. Anyway, as exciting as all this “I forgot things but then I remembered them” stuff is, you’re here for the review, dammit! – or possibly because of this cunning trap about Justin Bieber nude OMG One Direction awesome also iPhone 6 and Big Bang Theory LOLLZZZ. Hey – before you judge me, I never said I wasn’t willing to crawl in the dirt to get a few more measly clicks for my blog. Even if they are from confused youths having taken the wrong turning off the information superhighway.
“Times like these, dark times, they do funny things to people. They can tear them apart.”
With Fudge and the rest of the wizarding world finally buying a fucking clue and learning that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is back in dark business, things have taken a turn for the grim. We start with a Death Eater attack in Diagon Alley, followed by a (apparently massively fatal, even though the place seems pretty deserted) collapsing of Muggle London’s Millennium Bridge. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts with an intent to keep an eye on Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) who he and the gang suspect is up to Voldemort-flavoured misdeeds. Potter also comes back to find that Severus Snape is their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, with old Hogwarts Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) coming out of retirement to take Snape’s Potions spot. During all this, Harry finds himself in possession of a raggedy old potions book filled with annotations divulging secret potions and spells written by someone calling themselves “The Half-Blood Prince”. As you might be able to infer from all of that, there’s a lot going on in Half-Blood Prince. To me, the story plays out like a mix of Chris Columbus-era Potter with the darker Potter world we’ve been presented with since Prisoner of Azkaban. To my mind, it’s the most balanced Potter. It’s got everything in equal enough measures that you won’t be emotionally exhausted by the time it’s all over, which is something to be applauded. The only new significant addition to the cast is Broadbent who is predictably brilliant. Slughorn is an interesting character as he’s a like a super-networker. He “collects” people of extraordinary qualities be it intelligence, athletic ability or whatever and groups them in his “Slug Club”. It’s a great touch to have him tempted back into work on the prospect of “collecting” the famous Harry Potter. The Three Stooges all give series best performances. D-Rads actually convinces for the first time in these films. He’s actually good. He also gets to be genuinely amusing when under the effects of the “Liquid Luck” potion. Rupert Grint had mugging down to an art ages ago, but still gets to have fun when Ron ingests a powerful love potion. I’m not being snarky either – if you can sell comedy, you can sell anything. Both obviously have much more to deal with than doing scenes that make knobs like me chuckle, but it’s interesting to compare. Emma Watson probably has the most emotion to deal with in this one as does admirably. Your heart really goes out to Hermione. Damn that oblivious Weasley!
Fuck it, here’s where I blow my revelation all over your eagerly awaiting faces. If you’d asked me about HBP a few days ago, I’d have rattled off a few relevant things about it before dismissing it as a forgettable placeholder of a film. Now I think Half-Blood Prince is the best of all the Potter films. Even better than Prisoner of Azkaban. Why? I think it’s because it’s got everything I look for in a Potter caper. It’s got the classic Blyton mystery element, some seriously impressive set-pieces, some great character development, emotional depth and a satisfying conclusion that damn near guarantees to jerk some tears from even the most unfeeling of bastards out there. If you’ve read the previous Potterthon entries, you’ll know that I have a problem with the way Gambon plays the venerable Dumbledore (hereby referred to as “Gambledore” because I play with words like a cat plays with a mouse). He was always a little too angry for me and didn’t have the sort of kind, grandfatherly quality that was in the books or brought to the screen by Richard Harris. Whilst Gambledore is a different take on the character, they’ve softened him up considerably. He’s now got that wise, almost omniscient element that is so integral to the character. In fact, despite some stiff competition from Tom Felton, I’d say the film belongs to Gambon, especially after the incredibly effective role reversal scene where Dumbledore has to drink some presumably hateful potion to get to a Horcrux. Him begging Potter to stop forcing him to drink the stuff is soul-wrenching stuff. When the unfortunate event does finally occur, it’s as devastating as you expect.
I guess romance is another big theme in Half-Blood Prince. Hermione and Ron are so close to getting together you can practically taste it at this point. On my initial viewing of HBP, I dismissed the romance as being played too comedic and patronising. Maybe I’ve grown up since then (like fuck) but I found it all to be quite touching. This is encapsulated with the scene with Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and Harry in the Room of Requirement (previous Dumbledore’s Army HQ). They’ve decided that the best thing for everyone is to hide the Half-Blood Prince’s book amongst all the clutter so even Harry can’t find it. He shuts his eyes, Ginny hides the book and then softly kisses him on the lips. “That can stay hidden up here too, if you like.” she says. After initially blaming my heart flutter on the bargain bucket of deep-fried marzipan I had for dinner, I concluded that it was actually the film that caused it, not the merciless barrage on my arteries. It’s probably the sumptuous production design that’s making my left arm tingle too.
I’m almost sick of saying this, but by Jingo, is this film dark. There’s a scene early on where Potter is caught snooping around in his invisibility cloak by Draco. Malfoy paralyses him with a spell, sending Potter crashing to the floor, viciously stamps on his face (resulting in a wince-inducing crack as Potter’s nose breaks) and then covers him up with his own cloak, leaving him helpless for God knows how long. We’ve come a long way from magical mirth and chocolate frog larks, people. A long damn way. Potter’s bathroom scrap with Draco later on is also surprisingly brutal. This may sound about as much fun as “Bottles and Shivs” night at a Glaswegian pub, but well-placed comedic and romantic moments thankfully save the film from being too bleak for its own good. It’s well-structured to say the least.
“Every day, every hour, this very minute, perhaps, dark forces attempt to penetrate this castle’s walls. But in the end, their greatest weapon… is you.”
Half-Blood Prince is my new favourite Potter. Whilst all the emotionally satisfying arc endings appear in the final two parts, Half-Blood Prince mixes up all my personal favourite Potter elements and presents them in a convenient disc form. (Half) Bloody fantastic.
QUIDDITCH WATCH: As if I needed another reason to love the film, we get some proper Quidditch action too. In the snow! The best kind of weather. Also nobody fucks with Harry (who has suddenly become Quidditch captain by default). Best film ever.