By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
I have a long history with Harry Potter – getting the books at midnight (and reading them in the eight or so hours immediately following), going to line parties for some of the film premieres, dressing as Tonks for Halloween, even writing law review articles about fandom. I point this out so that you’ll know that I’m practically an expert when I say that the newest movie is absolutely fantastic.
Half-Blood Prince was not one of my favorites of the books, largely because I didn’t care for a lot of the romantic subplot, but I actually found that part much more endearing in the film. I think this was in large part due to some of the young actors; Rupert Grint in particular is a surprisingly awesome comedic actor, and I think that this film had a lot more laugh-out-loud moments than the previous five. But then again, there’s a lot of comedic fodder in 16-year-olds learning about the birds and the bees. On the subject of acting, I will also add that Daniel Radcliffe gets better with each film, but he still hasn’t quite worked out how to cry yet (I was reminded of the “BUT HE WAS THEIR FRIEND!” moment from Prisoner of Azkaban at one point). Also, Tom Felton is quite good, and I imagine that thirteen-year-old girls everywhere are swooning into their pillows.
Though of course the real meat of the story has nothing to do with silly teenage relationships at all – it is, as always, ultimately a battle between good and evil. And one of the things I loved about the film is that there is a wonderful motif of duality running throughout – fire and water, light and dark, twins, counterparts, and of course, good and evil. The special effects are absolutely amazing (best yet), and one of the best parts about these films if you’re a fan of the books is seeing things you imagined in your head coming to life – the magical ropes of the Unbreakable Vow, Slughorn as a couch, Hermione’s attack-by-birds on Ron… And overall, the movie is beautifully shot, much of it quite breathtaking. (Though speaking of CGI, there is one scene in particular where I thought for a moment that they’d borrowed Gollum from Lord of the Rings.)
Obviously there are things to nitpick about, especially if you’re a fan of the books, and though I think that overall this film did a pretty good job of picking and choosing what to put in and what to leave out (good news if you’re a fan of Quidditch – it’s back!), there were definitely some head-scratching moments. Like a completely new scene in the middle of the film that has nothing to do with the book and seems to serve little purpose except providing some suspense and vaguely neat visual stuff. And it was thin on explanations in some places in the same way that Prisoner of Azkaban was – remember how, unless you’d read the books, you would have been wondering why on earth Harry’s patronus looked like a stag (as we never found out who the Marauders were)? I had a similar reaction to this film’s revelation about what should (arguably) be a central question in this story: the identity of “the half-blood prince.” So if you haven’t read the books and are blinking at that one after the film – find someone who has and ask them to explain it to you!
If you have kids and are wondering how scary or dark this film might be, I will say that there was a small child in the audience sitting right in front of me who started bawling at one point – and my friend sitting beside me shrieked at the top of her lungs. However, it is just one scene (near the end of the movie… something to do with a lake…).
As a final note, I will add that Michael Gambon as always is absolutely amazing as Dumbledore. And there is one scene in particular that showcases Dumbledore’s bad-assness that made me rather gleeful.
Overall, one of my very favorite films in the series, and I suspect that both obsessive and casual fans will be pleasantly surprised.