The sixth instalment of the boy — growing into manhood — wizard feels different, even as it delivers the action and special effects, the magic and the mystery and all the beloved characters that us fans are quite devoted to, in the Harry Potter films.
So yes, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is unabashedly cinematic, taking greater liberties in terms of dropping characters/plot points, adding new ones and enlarging events. However, more than any other Potter film, this one isn’t stand-alone. To get the significance behind many of the goings-on, whether a grieving phoenix streaking across the sky or the fizzy fun of Fred and George’s joke shop in Diagon Alley, you really need to be up to speed with the story-so-far. Besides, there is that “to be continued” feeling; Half Blood Prince lays down the groundwork for the series’ final book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, that will be released as two films over the next two years.
Half Blood Prince begins with the destruction of Brockdale Bridge by the Death Eaters; it merited just a passing mention in the book but is fleshed out into an atmospheric set piece. The mysteries deepen as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) enters his penultimate year at Hogwarts. The school’s wonderfully wise headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) entrusts him with a difficult task: induce a former Potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to return to Hogwarts, and worm out of him, secrets about Tom Riddle (as evil Lord Voldemort was once known).
There is also the strange case of the unknown Half-Blood Prince, whose old textbook has Harry in thrall, as well as hints of shadowy, evil things called Horcruxes. One has to marvel at JK Rowling’s feats of imagination.
Familiar characters return, to play roles of increasing darkness such as Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton); or of heartwarming goodness as in the case of Harry’s best buddies Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint); or of increasingly complex ambiguity as with Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman).
The cast is an astonishing list of who’s who among top British performers such as Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane and David Thewlis. We dreadfully miss Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort, though young actors Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Frank Dillane do play He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in his younger days with chilling evil.
There’s plenty of teen romance thrown in for Ron and Harry with Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) respectively.
Keeping in mind the wide age range to which the series appeals, you understand the time devoted to such romantic entanglements — still, it feels a bit tiresome to adults and in need of some trimming. It’s been eight years since we started our cinematic adventures with “The Boy who Lived” now moving to fill his destiny as “The Chosen One” — and we have grown so well together. The Potter franchise has apparently raked in some US$4.5 billion thus far. Director David Yates (who also directed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), and screenwriter Steve Kloves (who has written every Potter script save Phoenix) add to the series’ strengths with this sixth richly imagined film. Even if it also inducts us into the society called Harry Potter and the Moviegoers-in-waiting for the Deathly Hallows.Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman
Storyline: Harry Potter and friends enter their sixth year at Hogwarts and face ever-darker dangers and mysteries.
Bottomline: We may only be Muggles, but know where our allegiance lies: in supporting our favourite boy wizard’s continuing adventures.PARVATHI NAYAR