Half-Blood Prince Delivers Near-Perfect Paradox

Rachel Kaplan

Harry Potter. Simply uttering the name–as famous in the Muggle world as the magical one– immediately associates it with a mega-phenomenon about some boy with a funny scar, brooms and flying gold balls, and people who carry around sticks muttering gibberish.

If critical of the movie series, however, the same name brings to mind cheesy humor, subpar acting, and imperfect portrayals of the books that are rushed and not quite accurate. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the latest installment, thankfully can’t boast any of these traits.

Somehow managing to become both the most amusing and darkest film yet, the sixth movie follows now obviously maturing Harry Potter during his last year at school. Set at a Hogwarts we’ve never seen before–filled with teenage romance and vulnerable to multiple bouts of evil magic–Harry begins the journey to destroy Voldemort through haunting memories and a chilling look into Voldemort’s past.

In its two hours and thirty-three minutes, “Half-Blood Prince” ingeniously weaves between on-point humor and a looming sense of danger. The film is hardly worthy of its PG rating, filled with dark curses, bloody scenes, and perhaps the most grave death in the entire series. However, lighthearted jokes fill the movie with much-needed comic relief.

Luckily, the trio certainly hits the mark portraying this paradox. Daniel Radcliffe plays a mature, believable Harry haunted by both his past and inescapable future, Rupert Grint flourishes into a true comedic genius as Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson finally delivers more for Hermione than over-dramatic one-liners and a lot of eyebrow raising. For once, their acting enhances the film instead of distracting from it.

Returning actors have undoubtedly delivered as well. Michael Gambon, usually upsetting fans with an angry, unconvincing portrayal of Albus Dumbledore and certain disregard for reading Rowling’s novels, has hit his stride in the sixth film. Gambon transforms into an extremely Gandalf-like Dumbledore: mysterious, humorous, and wise, important more in this film than ever. Alan Rickman also continues an ingenious performance as Severus Snape, drawing out his words to absolute perfection.

Not much needs to be said about the new actors in “Prince,” as Jim Broadbent does an excellent job as Horace Slughorn. Ralph Fienne’s newphew, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, and newcomer Frank Dillane perfectly portray a cold and calculating young Voldemort capable of chilling even a dementor to the bone.

Though the film was arguably as similar to the novel as legitimately possible, fans, as always, will be upset with inevitable changes. While an added “pacing scene” of Bellatrix attacking the Burrow would much better have been replaced with the missing minister of magic Rufus Scrimgeour (adding a nice touch of corrupted government) or ending battle at Hogwarts, returning screenwriter Steve Kloves comes as close as ever to a faithful interpretation of the book.

The only major problem with the plot is its ridiculously obvious direction of Draco Malfoy’s “secret” task from start to finish (though Tom Felton does an excellent rendition torn apart by what he has to do), depriving new-comers of the mystery experienced in the novel. Despite the plot alterations, however, fans must keep in mind it does not do to dwell on them and forget to enjoy the movie for what it is.

Although the astounding special effects and lush, dark cinematography will make fans wait anxiously for a blue-ray copy of the DVD–Quidditch makes its return with an awesome first match since movie three and the ending cave scene with Dumbledore is downright impressive–the music that accompanies the film is surprisingly lackluster.

Unlike the previous films, Nicholas Hooper’s compositions simply fade into the background; the only memorable tracks during the Quidditch scene and Weasley’s joke shop were replayed from “Order of the Phoenix.” Luckily, there is so much more to pay attention to in the film that the music doesn’t seem all that important.

Even after the usual post-premiere hype, “Half-Blood Prince” will remain to be the best Potter film of the series as of yet, thanks to its faithful interpretation and heightened acting. Unfortunately, this upturn in the Harry Potter series seems to have come a bit too late. With its dark scenes and epic conclusion, “Half-Blood Prince,” befitting of its novel counterpart, certainly succeeds in marking the beginning of the end.