Directed by David Yates
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
One of the pleasures of J.K. Rowling’s set of seven Harry Potter novels is how seamlessly they move from a portrait of naive 11-year-olds in their first year at boarding school into a life-and-death struggle for 18-year-olds against the dreaded Voldemort. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is the sixth film (the seventh will be divided into two movies, to be released in 2010 and 2011) and I think the very best of the series. Written by Steve Kloves (who has written all but one of the films) and directed with exquisite timing and beautiful imagery by David Yates, who directed the last one, clunkily, I thought; this is the one that will stand the test of time. It contains two story lines that ultimately meld together. The first is, of course, trying to find a way to deal with the deadly Voldemort; the second is to handle the adolescent crushes and loves that all teenagers are heir to.
Harry, Ron and Hermione are now in their sixth year. The stakes have been raised by Voldemort and his human underlings – Draco Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange and – perhaps – Severus Snape (played chillingly again by Alan Rickman). They have killed and will kill again. Against them the leader is Professor Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts – played by Michael Gambon, and Gambon is good enough to make us forget Richard Harris, who originated the role before he died. Harry now knows he is The Chosen One, and as Dumbledore calls on him to do more and more dangerous adventures, the film is stunning in its photography and editing. The production design is extraordinary, the editing is both scary and compelling. I had read and reread the books, and I still was mesmerized by its realism. This time we meet Tom Riddle, the boy who will grow up to be Voldemort, and Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn, who was his teacher and has a secret that must be exposed.
At the same time, adolescent life at Hogwarts goes on. Harry begins to feel a pent-up desire for Ron’s sister Ginny, while Ron seems overprotective of her, and Harry doesn’t quite know how to handle it. Hermione has a crush on Ron, which he seems oblivious to. The wonderful Evanna Lynch is back as the bizarre Luna Lovegood, as are most of the people we’ve seen before.
And Yates, the director, handles all of this without even one seam showing; “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a great success – surely the best of the whole series.