RETRO REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Poster - Warner Bros.
Poster – Warner Bros.

The following is a spoiler-filled retro review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Severus Snape (played by Alan Rickman) makes an unbreakable vow with Narcissa Malfoy (played by Helen McCrory) to protect Draco (played by Tom Felton), and fulfill his mission if Draco is unsuccessful. At Hogwarts, Harry (played by Daniel Radcliffe) finds a mysterious textbook with helpful notes that used to belong to someone known as the Half-Blood Prince.

Half-Blood Prince is another good Harry Potter film, but I do think it is slightly overrated. I have a lot of issues with the film, and they start with the way the film is put together. I find it to be really jarring how, for example, we cut directly from Harry’s meeting about dark magic with professor Slughorn (played by Jim Broadbent) to Harry knocking on his door sometime later.

Something similar happens in two scenes between Harry and Dumbledore. Harry has collected Slughorn’s memory and views it with Dumbledore. They have a brief chat about Horcruxes before we cut directly to Harry meeting with Dumbledore again.

In this one – the sixth film in the franchise – Yates does a good job of adding the humor that may have been missed from his last film. There’s a lot of Quidditch, there is a lot of attention paid to love triangles – subplots that can feel rather mundane, even if there are potions in play.

While there certainly are scenes and sequences that leave you breathless – with Draco being injured by the sectumsepra spell being particularly shocking and upsetting – there is a lot of overfamiliar elements to the film. The mundane and the overfamiliar does hurt the film a fair bit, considering just how serious this film should have felt after the events of Order of the Phoenix.

That last film really did a marvelous job of giving you a real emotional gut-punch. A punch that is sorely lacking in this film. As this is a spoiler-filled review, I can talk about Dumbledore’s (played by Michael Gambon) death openly, and I will say that it really doesn’t have the right emotional weight for me. How is it that audience-members are more hurt by Sirius Black’s death, when we’ve spent every single film with Dumbledore?

It’s not because Gambon isn’t a good actor – he most certainly is. But when Harry cries over Dumbledore’s body, and the rest of the school lift their wands and stand together, something is just missing. Maybe more attention should have been paid to Albus and Harry’s relationship in this film, considering how unresponsive the headmaster was to Harry in Order of the Phoenix.

Speaking of Michael Gambon, he actually does get a lot to do in the film. His big Horcrux mission scene is rather engrossing. Jim Broadbent is also a highlight of the film, as he delivers a great performance as a character you feel like you’ve known. Alan Rickman, of course, did a solid job, but I still feel like we don’t get enough of his character.

While I do have a lot of issues with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, it is another good film in the film series. It is visually stunning, it includes some splendid performances, and while it is really a film that sets up the final chapter in the series, it does feel important, even if it didn’t hit me the right way.

7.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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