Even though I believe The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix land squarely as the two weakest films in the Harry Potter series thus far, it shouldn’t be inferred that excitement wasn’t at an all-time high in the Wizarding World.
In Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Lord Voldemort is among them and his schemes are beginning to come to fruition, tasking Draco Malfoy with a very important mission, and binding Severus Snape with an Unbreakable vow decreeing he will complete the mission should Draco fail. Meanwhile, Professor Dumbledore leads Harry on a quest to figure out how to combat the Dark Lord. During Professor Slughorn’s Potion class, Harry also discovers a worn textbook written by a former student proclaiming himself as the Half-Blood Prince, the textbook is filled with useful instructions on how to develop recipes and other insightful information that improves Harry’s wizardry.
The film was shot with an estimated budget in the neighborhood of $250 million, making it the 15th most expensive film ever made as of this writing and the most expensive film in the Harry Potter series. David Yate reprises his role as director, with a screenplay adaptation of J.K. Rowling‘s novel written by Steve Kloves. The film was warmly received by critics and moviegoers, although the reception wasn’t as high as the most acclaimed films in the series, and became the third-highest grossing film in the series at that time (narrowly losing out to Order of the Phoenix’s total) with over 900 million worldwide.
Something I have noticed in this recent play through the Harry Potter series is the ways I remember certain scenes against how they actually happen in the film. Maybe this is a glitch in the system brought on from memories of the book intertwining with the film, or some other mental hiccup on my part. Regardless, I was excited for Half-Blood Prince and, now, after having revisited the film, I wasn’t disappointed.
The cinematography and style for this film, I believe, is the apex of the series overall in-terms of tonal distinction, capturing the dark Gothic approach the series began with The Prisoner of Azkaban. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel does very well. The special-effects feel more understated and subdued, which can partly be attributed to changing times and technological advancements. The Harry Potter isn’t a series that I have very many faults with as far as special-effects are concerned. Certain CGI scenes oftentimes very much feel like they are CGI scenes, but I wouldn’t say they ever diluted my enjoyment in the series. This film doesn’t feel like it has all the bells and whistles of earlier Harry Potter films nor do I believe the story would have warranted them. Instead, the film feels more intimate and personal overall. The film is aesthetically appeasing, balancing its special-effects with its darkening subject-matter in a way that feels seamless and organic.
The story sees the characters adjust to a changing world, all while they try to live something close to a normal life. Some might criticize the amount of the stacked run-time dedicated to high-school relationships and love-potion shenanigans, but I think it offers proper contrast to the dark subject-matter and as a proper reminder of the silly fun and shenanigans that helped bring the Wizarding World to the dance at all. It also allows the characters to further develop and flesh out and show off their personalities, showing they aren’t merely pawns in a massive chess match, but, in-fact, people in the Wizarding World.
Actor Daniel Radcliffe has criticized his own performance in this film, however, I would attribute that to an actor being his own biggest critic – personally, I found he did very well and believe the cast overall has only continue to grow into their characters. Michael Gambon‘s performance as Albus Dumbledore exceeds in droves for this film, capturing a formidable, epic-scale presence about himself that has been established since the series began. Although I’ve said prior that the original actor for the character in Chamber of Secrets and Philosopher’s Stone as the right actor “for those films,” I couldn’t have imagined him fitting the role for certain scenes in this film.
Although I love the films overall and I find that they come together cohesively for a great series, a criticism I have had for every Harry Potter film since Prisoner of Azkaban, is how they stand isolated from their earlier installments (or followups) as a self-contained story-line. The Half-Blood Prince feels penultimate, but it doesn’t feel transitional. Whether it is from the surprises found in the film, or the dynamic itself, I found the film very satisfying and complete. It obviously doesn’t solve all of the conflicts plaguing the Wizarding World, but it does solve a lot of what it asks in this particular film. It isn’t for the uninitiated mind you, but I do think of it as a standout in the series overall.
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince is a great film, and, in-fact, I would say it is my favorite film in the series so far, becoming the first Wizarding World film so far to boast that accolade on the Mashers Club list. It largely benefits from the established lore of the series, but also succeeds as its own installment, capturing a lot of emotion and depth, while, at the same time, further tightening the series’ grasp around our minds as we’re pulled toward the end.
Placement on the List: – The Greats