The Half Blood Prince is the sixth Harry Potter film and is based on the penultimate book in the series. Screenplay writer Steve Kloves had the unenviable task of cramming the book’s several hundred pages plus the franchise’s considerable lore into a 150 minute box. I thought he did a pretty good job. I might be the only one. When I asked my mother what she thought of the film after we walked out the cinema, she sighed and shook her head. “In the books,” she said, “Tonks had pink hair”.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter series. Its the darkest point of the series and the lowest ebb for the heroes before the final chapter. There is a impending sense of disaster that hangs in the air over most of the film. Director David Yates shoots the once colourful halls of Hogwarts so darkly, it is almost to the point of monochrome. As much as Harry Potter and his buddies have grown into young adults and prepare to fulfill their destinies as heroes, the series’ young antagonists have also matured into full-scale villainy. Draco Malfoy is tasked with the assassinating beloved school headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Jamie Waylett, the actor who plays Malfoy’s sidekick Crabbe was kicked off the franchise for harvesting a cannabis farm in his bedroom.
Paradoxically, the film is also the funniest of the franchise and therein lies the cleverness of the scripting. It was never going to fit everything from the book in a two and a half hour film. But by breaking up the darker chapters with scenes that are played for laughs, it stops you from getting brow-beaten with unrelenting bleakness and makes the characters more endearing so that you geniunely care for their fate when their lives are endangered later on.
Daniel Radcliffe is the bedrock on which this film’s foundation is built. Although he is the ‘chosen one’, in most scenes he ends up playing the straight man to a colourful and far more charismatic supporting cast. Hermione and Ron steal the show with their stormy relationship. Dumbledore, Snape, Draco and Tom Riddle all get meatier and more interesting roles than Harry. For Radcliffe, he will have to wait his turn until he gets his real chance to shine in the final installment of the series.
For all the film’s strengths, it is a little let down by a slightly disappointing final act. Lets not beat around the bush here. This is Harry Potter and the DUMBLEDORE DIES AT THE END. Yet the scene isn’t quite as memorable as you would want it to be which is odd since both Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Gambon are both excellent in their scenes together leading up to the final moments of the film. Perhaps its because I’m looking at the film through the eyes of someone who has seen Obi-Wan, Gandalf, Professor X and untold other sci-fi/fantasy mentors dying onscreen a thousand times before this so I have become entirely numb to its intended effect.
That said, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is still an excellent film overall and I eagerly await the adaptation of the final book Deathly Hallows which is split into two films, the first of which, Harry Potter and the Never Ending Camping Trip, will be hitting cinemas in 2010.