WARNING: If you hate spoilers, do not read this review. If you want to see the new HARRY POTTER film without knowing what happens, do not read this review. If you do not want the entire plot, from beginning to end, totally revealed before you even buy your ticket, do not read this review. In fact, don’t even glance at this review or ask your friend to read it for you and tell you about it. Much as we hate to risk ruining your enjoyment of the fantasy film blockbuster, due to the intricate – indeed, one might say, labyrinthine – plotting (or is that plodding?) of its scenario, there is no way to discuss HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE without delving into a detailed discussion of the various plot developments, twists, and revelations. We will address these points beneath a microscope, examining them with minute attention and teasing out all their subtle implications. So, having been fully warned, you may now proceed – but only at your own risk.
Here, then, is our full-blown, no-holds-barred, spoilerific examination of every significant plot point made in the new POTTER film:
Voldemort hid a piece of his soul in a locket, and Severus Snape kills Dumbledore.
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen – this marks the end of our full-blown, no-holds-barred, spoilerific examination of every significant plot point in the new POTTER film. Thank you and good night!
What…? You’re still here? Why, what’s wrong? Oh, you have questions. You, in the back – yes, you with your hand up – what did you want to ask? … Okay, I’ll repeat the question for those who couldn’t hear it:
Is that all?
Yes, believe it or not, that is all there is to HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. I suppose one might include the revelation of the Half-Blood Prince’s identity, but it has so little significance to the outcome of events that it feels more like an after-throught than a plot point.
Anybody else? Yes, you in the front…. Again, I’ll repeat the question for the benefit of the rest of the audience.
How did they stretch that out to over two-and-a-half hours?
Good question. Unfortunately, the only precise and accurate answer requires a grasp of higher mathematics involving the space-time continuum, illuminating an as-yet controversial theory positing that infinitesimally small bits of information can, under the right circumstances, expand to occupy infinitely large swaths of time, at a ratio approximately equal to Einstein’s famous E=MC2.
Any more questions? You, on the side, in the shadows. What was HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE about, you say?
Well, it was about two-and-a-half hours too long. Sorry about using that old joke, I couldn’t resist.
Seriously, folks, the new HARRY PLODDER picks up where the old one left off. Which is to say that, although the Voldemort has definitely hit the fan – extending its reach even to the Muggles world – everyone pretty much goes about their business as usual. Sure, Harry may worry a bit, but his friends are more concerned with sorting out their romantic entanglements.
Even the faculty at Hogwarts seems barely engaged by the looming storm on the horizon. You’d think Dumbledore would be battening down the hatches and raising an army; instead, he takes Harry Potter on an extended field trip to track down that missing piece of Voldemort’s soul.
Why Harry instead of a crack team of ninja-assassin magicians trained for the challenge of facing whatever evil may be encountered? Well, you see it’s because Harry Potter is special. We know this because people have told him he is special and he is now telling everyone else that he is the chosen one. We never see any evidence of this; it is simply assumed, because he is the title character and all.
Anyway, Harry Potter is not really special enough to accomplish anything important in THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, but he does give his friend some badly needed confidence by fooling him into thinking he’s taken a “lucky” potion. Ironically, it is these little character bits that are the main joy of the film. As the cast has grown older, they have matured into their roles. The tug of their heartstrings as they try to sort out their changing feelings toward each other, which include confusing stirrings of romance, are nicely rendered, in a way that would do justice to any mainstream drama.
Unfortunately, this is not enough to fill a feature-length fantasy film, which turns out to be surprisingly short on the most essential ingredient: a Sense of Wonder. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, like its filmic predecessors, is all about playing it safe – and more important, playing to the base. Take the novels, put on scream with as much craftsmanship as money can buy, and leave the artistry to low-budget independent films. From a box office standpoint, one can hardly argue with Warner Brothers’ strategy, but it is leaving us with some big, bloated, pretty, but very empty confectionary.
Forget about art. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE can’t even deliver an engaging story with some exciting narrative momentum. It’s not about satisfying the audience; it’s about stringing them along, giving them just enough to keep them coming back for the next film. If anything were to actually happen, that might upset the applecart. (As one of my astute movie-going companions said after the screening, “It was okay, but it didn’t go anywhere!”) Thus we have a third act in which a group of villains breach the security of Hogwarts and, after Dumbledore’s death, instead of launching into a full-blown climactic battle, they break some stained glass, burn down an out building, and then leave, so that our heroes can regroup for the next movie. It’s amazing that a film that so carelessly disregards the dictates of good storytelling can be so successful; I guess one must never under-estimate the significance of a pre-sold audience.
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (2009). Directed by David yates. Screenplay by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J. K. Rowling. Cast: Daniel Radcliff, Michael Gambon, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Helana Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Dave Legeno, Elarica Gallagher.