Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Release Date: July 15th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: David Yates Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter
hile the fifth installment provided some of the darkest moments seen in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” displays an even more sinister and morbid approach to the deadly witchcraft and devious wizardry. But with that darkness comes an alleviating light, found in the romantic mishaps and jealous tussles between the students. Blending the foreboding presence of encroaching doom with Quidditch practice, schoolwork, and blossoming high school romances, the sixth entry in the legacy of Harry Potter is simultaneously the most mature and the most entertaining – though the days of playful sorcery and lighthearted misadventures are long gone.
In the sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it is dark times indeed. The school itself has become a breeding ground for danger and deception and the surmounting minions of the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) have brought forth destruction even to the innocents of the outside world of magic-incapable “muggles.” As a new potions teacher, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), is recruited for mysterious reasons, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) must contend with ominous missions from Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) as well as his growing feelings for Ginny Weasly (Bonnie Wright) and the newfound jealous tension between his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson).
For viewers willing to make the five-movie investment, the sixth Harry Potter film is well worth the time. Startlingly suspenseful, tenebrous, and scarier than the previous films (garnering a generously lenient PG rating), the characters have finally reached the point where their budding relationships and daunting trials against the dark arts are almost entirely adult. It’s a new kind of Harry Potter film with a Tim Burtonesque feel and wondrously foreboding sets and atmospheres (Diagon Alley now resembles the battered, rain-beaten streets in “Sweeney Todd”). Harry always seems to be covered in blood or unconscious, Hogwart’s security has reached the point of a prison, and the spells have turned to curses, the charms into hexes, and the potions into deadly black magic. Even the colors appear washed with blackness or drastically muted. By the end of it all, Harry’s going to need an extra dose of liquid luck and the audience will need a hearty round of butterbeer with ginger to escape the dourness.
Perhaps most appealing about the series is the opportunity to see a group of children become young adults, and to journey with them in their adventurous maturation. Any one year seems inconsequential compared to the larger picture: the grand scheme of mastering fantastical powers and defeating the many avenues of evil. Along the way, there are plenty of chances at humor and lightheartedness, especially in the evolving relationships (such as a spirited snogging-filled love triangle) between Harry, Hermione, Ginny, Ron, and newcomer Lavender Brown, as well as several important supporting characters, including the many schoolteachers, friends, families, and enemies. As the characters become old enough for their interactions and expressions to mean more and for their actions to become more significant, powerful, or even fatal, the entertainment is more solid and the story more fulfilling. Even if it plays out like they’re all making it up as they go, the tragedies feel authentic and the leads are genuinely sympathetic. Finally, the chemistry, adventure, special effects, and fantasy can all be taken seriously.
– The Massie Twins