Shows the benefits of academic dishonesty.
Spoilers. Seriously, don’t read this if you don’t want spoilage.
The sixth Harry Potter film serves almost an identical plot function as the fifth installment. However, this one does make a bit more sense as things from here will actually advance the narrative.
Honestly, I am not sure where to begin. The film’s namesake—the Half-Blood Prince is barely in the film (whether through the textbook or the actual character). Despite this movie throwing an obvious twist that maybe Snape really is a villain, we don’t see much of him. Keeping him absent I find quite odd considering he is also teaching defense against the dark arts this term.
So, if the film isn’t actually about the prince, what is it about? Everyone’s favorite—more contrived teen romance. What makes this even worse is the stilted acting around every scene. Ron’s new girlfriend, Lavender (who they had switch from black to white for this film) is obnoxious, and so is Ron. The two of them are the type of people you would avoid if you saw them. Hermione’s sudden interest in Ron is forced through Watson’s tendency to amp all dialogue up to 11, which makes everything seem catastrophic.
The only question I could ask myself (and the most frequent one in my notes) is: why? Why is Ron trying out for the Quidditch team, why are we still doing this, why is this scene here, why would Slughorn not share his memory?
Professor Slughorn appears to be one of the few competent teachers in the entire school, and his character is quite likable. He plays a deeply nuanced man, but more on him later. The other character who is presented in a much larger role is Draco, who has been assigned by Voldemort to kill Dumbledore. Sure, in the books they make it clear this is punishment for Lucius’ failure in Order of the Phoenix, but this is simply ridiculous. The series forget to bother developing any of its villains, so instead they all must follow noseless out of fear.
I wish they would have done more with Draco. They should have made him an actual villain or turned him into a good guy, but the film does neither and we get this half-assed character who doesn’t commit to anything the entire series. As with so many of the characters, there just isn’t a lot there.
I haven’t mentioned the technical sides of the film—they are fine for the most part. However, the lighting sucks in this one. It seems as a cheap way to make things seem gloomy they dimmed everything down. Environmental storytelling can be great, but when done as a blanket filter it just seems cheap. One of the more intense sequences of the film is also the most perplexing.
In what seems to be an acknowledgement that the film is boring, the Deatheaters burn down the Weasley home. The sequence is filmed well, and the dark lighting contrasting with the yellow grass makes for a surreal, almost nightmarish feel. Good stuff on the technical front, and when in action Radcliffe plays his part convincingly well. Where the problem is that there is no emotional connection to the Weasley home burning. I have no idea what the limits of magic are, but Dumbledore and Slughorn fixed a destroyed home in seconds earlier, so why can’t the house be rebuilt with the same ease?
The creep of the power of magic in this series hurts the emotional stakes. Aside from murder, it seems most things can be easily remedied. This includes broken bones and serious wounds, forget about structural damage—that is kids stuff. Having the magic be so powerful makes for cool fights, but limits the affective potential.
We learn about the horcruxes in this one, and this does explain how Voldy can keep coming back. A lot of folks in the forums have critiqued this magical structure, but for me it doesn’t seem out of place for the narrative. Sure. Why couldn’t this happen? The series has done nothing to indicate that one couldn’t become immortal (and seemingly easily) because of how limitless magic is.
Interestingly, this film shows the best and the worst of the series. In his efforts to convince Slughorn, Harry drinks a luck potion that makes him seem drunk or stoned. In the sequence that follows Slughorn tells a story about a fish. It might sound simple, but this scene is the most powerful since Cedric’s death in film four. Slughorn relates a nice tale of a student who had an effect on him, and how much that meant to him. The student is Lily, Harry’s mother. This scene was one of the few truly captivating and human moments in the series, unfortunately Harry’s giggling and vacant stare suck the power right out of it.
The film also shows the formula a bit too much. For three episodes in a row we end with a character dying, and each time the stakes have been raised a bit on how important the character is. Three times in a row is just too much—it doesn’t help that this one is telegraphed quite heavily as well.
I think this film is better than Order of the Phoenix, because the way it is set up at least the narrative has to move the grand story forward now. Let’s just hope they don’t do something stupid like break the last one in half to stretch it out even further. 4/10