Harry Potter and the . . . oh yeah, we almost forgot the Half-Blood Prince
We went on our first family movie trip last night to see a special early screening of the latest Harry Potter movie. Bella did pretty good, though she cried during the loud parts. But on to the movie.
In general, it was better than Order of the Phoenix, but still not as good as movies three and four (or even Chamber of Secrets). I gave David Yates a pass on the last film, since I figured most of the problems were due to the screenwriter. But after watching his two back to back efforts it's clear that, while he gets good performances from his cast and has a good eye for visuals, he also a) can't direct epic action and b)has no clue how to deliver a satisfying climax. Both of these failings have me worried about Deathly Hallows, which really needs a director of the caliber of, say, Peter Jackson, to do the book justice.
Anyway, after an eye-popping opening where Death Eaters destroy the Millennium Bridge (pretty much the only major appearance of muggles in the film) we get a rather odd scene (not in the book) where Harry chats up a girl in a train station and calls himself a "tosser". Once back at Hogwarts, the movie follows the book pretty closely. There's a stylishly creepy scene where a female student is flung into the air by a cursed item intended for Dumbledore. There are also some interesting flashbacks to a young Tom Riddle (along with Prisoner of Azkaban, this is the only story in the series where Voldemort does not appear).
After sitting through an hour of, admittedly amusing, love triangles, the beginning of the search for Voldemort's horcruxes finally gives the plot a sense of urgency. After an impressive scene where Harry and Dumbledore enter a peril-filled cave to find one of the horcruxes we get to the big climax, where unfortunately it all falls apart. Dumbledore's death is underwhelming, and the revelation of the identity of the Half-Blood Prince (who is supposed to be a hero to Harry after his book helped him in potions class) is thrown away. It doesn't help that Harry just stands by and watches his mentor die (in the book he was frozen by a spell from Dumbledore). The only real emotion comes when the teachers and students raise their wands in tribute to their fallen headmaster.
The films gets the characters where they need to be for the final film(s). But it fails to offer an interesting plot by itself. Too much time is wasted on how horny everyone at Hogwarts is, and not enough on the mystery which should be central to the film. The cast can't be faulted, though. Everyone steps up their game, though Daniel Radcliffe is the only one who gets enough screentime. Jim Broadbent is funny as the rather barmy new potions teacher Slughorn And Helene Bonham Carter once again relishes her evil role. Alan Rickman is good as always, though even in a movie that should be about him he is left underdeveloped still.
Don't get me wrong, the film is good. But it's probably the second worst in the series from an adaptation point of view (you know what the worst is). It also suffers from the almost complete absence of John Williams' theme. I just hope splitting Deathly Hallows over two films will avoid the rushed feeling of this one and end the series on a high note.