Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is, without a doubt, the best movie in the franchise. That makes sense, however, because it was also my favorite book in the series.
In the tradition of Harry Potter movies the book was at least 10x better than the movie and as always, they had to exclude a tremendous amount of action and information due to time constraints. While I have always taken issue with this in passing, it is something I have come to expect and understand. I'll get into some of my biggest problems later on, but for now, let's just talk about the movie.
Dark, funny, emotional but weirdly less intense than I was hoping for from a penultimate entry... this is still the most well acted, directed, and structured film in the franchise. The dialogue is fun and filled with that dry British wit that comes through in the books and is often missing from some other blockbusters... since they aren't from England.
Radcliffe, who was originally the most awful weak link from a titular character since Val Kilmer in Batman Forever (yeah that's right, I said he was worse than Clooney in Batman and Robin, watch them again, B&R is probably the worst movie ever, but not for Kilmer's lack of trying), has honed his craft and really stepped up his game. He still hasn't nailed the big emotions, but he's gotten subtlety pretty down pat. If you can make out the dialogue through his accent, Grint is consistently funny and Emma Watson has always been the best of the three. The grown-ups are just kind of along for the ride, but Helena Bonham Carter is great as the diabolical Bellatrix Lestrange and I love Alan Rickman in almost anything he does.
I think it's unfortunate that the filmmakers feel the need to reintroduce concepts like "Lord Voldemort was Tom Riddle when he was a student at Hogwarts", and "magic"... at some point at the beginning of all the movies, they make a big deal about magic as if the character's are rediscovering again for the first time in 2 years... this time, Dumbledore cleans up a mess with the wave of his wand to the sound an enormous swell of music and an amazed look and implied gasp from Harry, who has been going to magic school for 5 years. It's unfortunate because they could be using that time to include little pieces of info that have been excluded that might give the world more depth for the people who haven't read the books and more detail for the people who have.
It's a tough to review the movie entirely for the movie having read the books. I know about things that should happen in the next movie that I'm not sure how they will address since they didn't plant the seed for it in this installment as Rowling did in the novel. Also, there are events that were explained in the book, that you just kind of have to accept in the movie. At a point towards the end, Dumbledore needs to retrieve an object from a birdbath-like pool of magical water that "must be drunk" in order to get the object. The magical water will cause the drinker great pain, but it cannot just be dumped out, it has to be ingested. I remember that when I read the story, I never questioned it. However it was explained, whatever information I had at the time, was enough... In the movie you just kind of have to take Dumbledore's word for it.
My only complaints about the movie stem from having read the book. The last chapter of the book has been left out and would have added a tremendous amount emotion and a stronger cliffhanger for the next movie. The book had several more "memories" from Voldemort's past involving his parents and his abusive grandfather. The book went into more detail about the horcruxes and what they mean about how the whole thing will end and there was a stronger sense of menace from the Death Eaters and an overall lingering doom.
This was a very dark and surprisingly bloody movie for the PG rating it received. As a movie it was entertaining and very well crafted. It certainly is the Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter series in every sense of the analogy and I highly recommend that you see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. There is a prerequsite though, you really do need to see at least the 3rd, 4th and 5th movies if you want to follow what's going on in this one and I would suggest you start from beginning and read the books. They're better.
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