Going to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book/movie in the franchise without knowing anything about the first five is crazy. Boy, I must be insane.
I have never read any of the books, or seen any of the movies before this one. I expected to be confused, but also took it as an immersive learning experience. When a two-and-a-half hour movie doesn’t fly by yet you don’t experience boredom, that’s definitely a good thing.
In his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) travel to find Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), an old Hogwarts professor they want to bring back to teach potions. He’s also the key to vital information about the evil Lord Voldemort, as Death Eaters go around causing all sorts of chaos. Director David Yates does a brilliant job of making this movie feel as dark as it looks in the trailer. The lighting and color of each scene perfectly compliments the movie’s tone at that moment, making Half-Blood Prince absolutely beautiful to just sit back and look at.
While taking Slughorn’s potions class, Harry discovers a book that has “Property of the Half-Blood Prince” written in it. The book also has notes that basically let him cheat and figure out the potions easier, leaving him to wonder who the Half-Blood Prince might be. He’s also suspicious of the moody Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton).
The heart of this movie is its ability to not be cheesy about its romantic storylines: Harry, Ginny (Bonnie Wright), Lavender (Jessica Cave), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) deal with the joy and pain of love and love potions in a funny way without it becoming a Hogwarts version of 90210. If one thing’s certain, these kids know how to act. Rupert Grint’s acting definitely stands out because of the humor he brings, but of course the guy that steals the show is Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). Rickman delivers each and every one of Snape’s lines in a perfectly creepy tone.
I liked the dark storyline of how Half-Blood Prince focused on Harry and Dumbledore trying to discover the past of Voldemort, who was known as Tom Riddle as a kid. The suspense is intriguing and it’s great to know the movie didn’t need to rely on a bunch of special-effects battles to keep the story going.
Unfortunately, the very last scene of the movie feels anticlimactic. I know this movie is purely to set up for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but once the ending credits start rolling there’s no sense of immediate urgency to see the next film; that’s something a movie that has a “to be continued” ending should have. I sat in a packed theater with a very enthusiastic crowd that cheered loudly when the movie started. I’ve never been around fans as passionate as Harry Potter fans, it was kind of disappointing to see everyone leave without clapping or saying a word.
That doesn’t mean Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is bad, not even by a long shot. In a world where everyone complains about movies being remakes of books, old movies and old TV shows, it’s great to see one that shows a level of creativity and storytelling that’s an entertaining step above most.