Friday, July 24, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Cast :: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton.

Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort’s defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn, whom he believes holds crucial information. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself more and more drawn to Ginny, but so is Dean Thomas. And Lavender Brown has decided that Ron is the one for her, only she hadn't counted on Romilda Vane's chocolates! And then there's Hermione, simpering with jealously but determined not to show her feelings. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.

Darker and a whole lot drearier, this sixth Hary Potter adventure centres on a slow-developing mystery, and the filmmakers clearly struggle to give it much pace. It's well-made and watchable, but feels like an intake of breath before the frantic finale.

After the horrific conclusion of their fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Radcliffe) has a solitary summer before being drafted by headmaster Dumbledore (Gambon) into the ongoing war between the wizarding forces of light and darkness. And as year six starts, Dumbledore assigns Harry to get some important information from new potions professor Slughorn (Broadbent) about the Dark Lord's background. He of course does this with the help of pals Ron and Hermione (Grint and Watson), who with Harry are also caught up in conflict more typical for 17-year-olds: raging hormones.

The title refers to the previous owner of Harry's potions textbook, who scribbled rather too-helpful notes in the margins, although this is actually an aside in the story, so the revelation of the prince's identity is a bit of a letdown. The hormonal farce is also an aside, as Harry dodges the attentions of Romilda (Anna Shaffer) so he can keep an eye on Ginny (Wright), who already has a boyfriend (Alfie Enoch). Meanwhile, Ginny's big brother Ron is being pursued by the adoring Lavender (Jessie Cave), which sparks pangs of jealousy for Hermione, who's the object of affection for the new Quiddich hunk Cormac (Freddie Stroma).

All of this provides a welcome relief from the plot's otherwise gloomy goings-on, which are photographed in shadowy drabness while eye-catching digital trickery distracts us from the pedestrian directing and editing.

Fortunately, this murky-nightmare look adds to the film's creepy undercurrent of foreboding doom, which effectively bursts forth in the film's final half hour, when the marauding Death Eaters (led by an effectively bonkers Bonham Carter) launch a nasty confrontation that sets up the saga's final chapter.

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