Friday, July 17, 2009

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Year: 2009
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Alan Rickman
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA: Rated PG

Before director David Yates was chosen to direct, Warner Bros. was looking at other directors for the job and even some that have already directed a Harry Potter film. Alfonso Cuarón, the director of the third film, stated he "would love to have the opportunity" to return, but Warner Bros. ultimately decided on David Yates. Writer Steve Kloves, who had written the screenplay for the first four films, returned to write the screenplay for this film. Most if not all of the previous cast members returned for this film. The film was initially set to release on November 21, 2008, but was delayed because Warner Bros. already had The Dark Knight making a ton of money for them so they simply decided to delay it. Don't believe the real reason the studio has said because its BS.

Plot Outline:
Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort's defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), whom he believes holds crucial information. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself more and more drawn to Ginny (Bonnie Wright), but so is Dean Thomas (Alfie Enoch). Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.

The Half-Blood Prince is based on the novel of the same name and marks another one in the series that I haven't read. I read online that die-hard fans of the series were somewhat disappointed that many of the scenes from the novel weren't in the movie or have been drastically altered. While it certainly doesn't have exciting action scenes like the Goblet of Fire or the strong narrative of the Prisoner of Azkaban, but the Half-Blood Prince is still another solid entry in the popular series. Just like the previous film, the Half-Blood Prince has a ton of character development. We are again introduced to new characters, but also focus on already established characters. Their were a few times where I felt the high school type drama was alittle too much and somewhat boring, but I guess its to move the story forward, right? I did however, like that the film still retained its humor and charisma that the first three films had. I'm extremely happy that Quidditch is finally brought back after going dark since the fourth film. I cant believe I missed it this much or maybe its because the special effects were simply awesome through out the movie that it even made the short Quidditch scenes that much more fun. Now I know that this film is based on a big novel and that the previous Potter films have always been over 2 and a half hours, but I really felt they could have trimmed off 10-15 Min's from its run time. Their were definitely some parts that dragged on and could have easily been shortened to make a more cohesive film. I'm also one of the many that didn't really like the ending. It felt un-satisfying and I was ticked off when I found out that the ending in the novel was alot more exciting compared to what we got on screen. Their was a suppose to be a big battle between two main characters that was just completely left out of the film.

Daniel Radcliffe returns to play the title character of the series, Harry Potter. I thought his performance was good, but it definitely felt weaker compared to the previous two films. Their were a few times where I didn't care much about his character because of how flat his emotions were. Rupert Grint also returns to play as Harry's best friend, Ron Weasley. I thought Grint made his character alot more lovable this time around when compared to the previous films. He has always been the funny one and that statement still stands in this film. He seems to be the only one in the cast that actually looks like hes having a fun time. Emma Watson returns as the lovely, but jealous, Hermione Granger. Watson is probably one of the few that has impressed me in everyone of the films. Her character is just alot more fun and interesting to see on screen. Even if shes playing the jealous high school student, she does a damn good job at it. Tom Felton plays as the dark, yet troubled Draco Malfoy. He gives a great performance that I felt was just fantastic especially for a character that hasn't had much screen time since the first film. I guess this is what you get when you don't talk much for five films. Alan Rickman returns to play as Severus Snape and he delivers in spades. He easily steals every scene hes in and is just flat out amazing on screen. I always felt Snape/Rickman was another character that never really got much screen time even though he should have considering the major role he has played in the Harry Potter universe.

The Special effects in the Half-Blood Prince easily dazzles. The CGI effects have certainly come along way since the first film and one of the finest I have seen recently. The cinematography is done by Bruno Delbonnel (Infamous, Across the Universe) and its very impressive. Its makes for an impressive visual art when mixed in with the fantastic special effects. The films source is also in excellent condition and I didn't notice any grain. The image looked smooth the whole time with no artifacts or micro-blocking. Colors were alot muted this time compared to the Order of the Phoenix. I'm sure this is suppose to make the film seem much more darker in tone, but definitely left me wanting more color in the image. Black levels were impressive and easily the best I have seen yet. Darker scenes didn't seem to lose any detail. Flesh tones were pretty much perfect and you can tell who is who. Detail was pretty much flawless and the film looked impressive from a technical stand point. Close up shots revealed a good amount of pores and wrinkles. I'm curious to see how much more better the Blu Ray will look once it ships later this year.

The soundtrack in the Half-Blood Prince is just as impressive as the special effects. The films music is composed by Nicholas Hooper who also scored the previous film, the Order of the Phoenix. I raved about how awesome the soundtrack in the Order of the Phoenix was. I think Hooper is a wonderful replacement especially since John Williams left the series. Hooper brings a good amount of sound that's very magical, but also something to get you excited for. Its a shame this is going to be his last time scoring for the Harry Potter films since he currently Isn't doing the music for the Deathly Hallows. Here's hoping John Williams makes his triumph return to score it. The bass in the Half-Blood Prince is simply extraordinary. As with the previous installments in the series, the bass has always delivered. This film is no exception. Its aggressive, powerful and flat out wonderful. Even though this is mostly a dialogue driven film, the theater was rocking hard. This is going to be pure reference material once it hits Blu Ray.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is another great installment in the popular wizard franchise. While the story isn't necessarily as strong as some of the previous films, its still very good. I think the films run time ultimately feels alittle stretched out and the ending feels like a missed opportunity when compared to how the novel ended. I was happy to see the film still retained its witty humor and charming sense of personality. It also helps that Quidditch makes a solid return to the film series and looks amazing. The cast was great with most of them delivering solid performances. I was very impressed by Tom Felton's performance and Alan Rickman easily steals every scene hes in. The special effects are top notch and the animation is truly one of the best I have seen. The soundtrack is just as excellent as the special effects. Composer Nicholas Hooper injects enough magical melodies and beats to create exciting pieces of music. The Half-Blood Prince makes for a very solid summer release. It certainly isn't a perfect film, but easily better than most of the stuff we have in theaters. I recommend this to those looking for a fun film and to those avid Potter fans, but we warned that theirs definitely some changes to the film compared to the novel.

Grade: B-


The Mad Hatter said...

Great piece!

After reading your comments on the visual tone of the film, I was reminded of what I read about early versions.

Apparently, yates turned in a print that had the colour heavily saturated, only to have WB reject it.

I quite liked the de-saturated look, but find myself curious about the earlier treatment...kinda wishing I could see it and see how it changes the tone.

I quite liked this flick too. Not that great as a stand-alone film, but a solid chapter in the movie series.

Jaccstev said...

I like this latest HP installment because it's very entertaining throughout. I realized from the moment the film began that director David Yates is working from a whole new level of confidence this time out. Much much better than his last effort on the series.

Andrew The Dark said...

I loved this one alot. Awesome special effects and the story was good. I think its the best one, but that may change with the next movie.

Farzan said...

@The Mad Hatter:
I didn't know about the earlier versions of the film. It would have been interesting to see the more color filled version, but I guess the dark moody version would probably have been better for the story.

Yeah, I definitely think Yates is alot more comfortable this time out. I imagine any new start up director would be nervous as hell considering the popularity of the series. He does seem more focused and centered this time around. Half-Blood Prince was entertaining and I praised its visuals and cinematography. I just think the film stretched out alittle longer than it probably should have been.

@Andrew The Dark:
Special effects were awesome and they were wonderfully compressed into the story. While my favorite still goes out to Prisoner of Azkaban, I still think Half-Blood Prince was more than a enjoyable and definitely a solid addition to the series.