Thứ Sáu, ngày 25 tháng 9 năm 2009
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter
It has been eight long years since the Harry Potter series first debuted on the big screen, and while the hardcore fans are still just as dedicated as ever, it’s hard to say that the same level of magic and wonder remains for the rest of us. There aren’t many other franchises (if any) that have delivered this many installments in such a short period of time, but as Warner Brothers races to finish these movies before the cast outgrows their characters, clearly audience burnout is the furthest thing from their minds.
Truth be told, it’s the formulaic nature of the stories that are starting to wear thin for me. I can’t say for sure if J.K. Rowling is to blame since I have not actually read any of the books, but I enjoyed the first few movies a great deal, and at this point they’re all starting to blur together in my mind. The only thing keeping me interested is the fact that there are brief glimpses of an epic showdown with Voldemort at the end of it all. My hope was that this sixth installment would finally stop peddling meaningless subplots about wacky teachers and concentrate on developing the main story arc. In that sense, it only partially delivers.
Picking up from the intense conclusion of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the story finds Harry still being pursued by Death Eaters and Voldemort’s forces growing more powerful. Dumbledore convinces retired teacher Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts, but with an ulterior motive: he previously taught a student named Tom Riddle, aka a young Voldemort. Dumbledore is trying to collect memories related to the big V so as to figure out how he attained immortality. Meanwhile Professor Snape makes a vow to help Draco Malfoy perform a task for the dark lord, and as for Ron and Hermione… well, they’re just experiencing the joys of adolescence.
One of the most noticeable differences with this movie is that it contains more soap opera fluff and romantic elements than any of the previous films. I guess this is to be expected since the kids are growing up, but it feels like the maturity of the characters are lagging a few years behind its primary cast who are now nearing twenty years old. The way that this stuff is handled is pretty goofy and childish. Some of it is genuinely funny and charming, but a lot of it is unintentionally funny and just plain awkward. The Half-Blood Prince definitely stays in light-hearted comedic territory a lot more often than I thought it would, which seems odd considering that these stories are supposed to be getting progressively darker. But I guess the main problem is that the relationship drama really takes up far too much time while offering little in the way of surprises or character development.
The best thing about this installment is that it is the first one to focus 100% on Voldemort. Yes, there is another new teacher with a secret, but it is all very relevant to the overall plot, and the true villains are laid in plain sight from the very start of the film. The flashbacks to Voldemort as a young wizard are compelling and eerie, but they do come a little too infrequently. Aside from a confrontation with the Death Eaters at the Weasley residence, there isn’t a lot of action in this movie up until the finale — and even the finale feels a little bit underwhelming. From what I understand they omitted a big battle scene because (big surprise) a similar battle also happens in the next book. Go figure.
Every time it seems like a Harry Potter flick might go down a slightly different path, it ends up falling back onto well-worn ground. Early on in this movie there is an exciting sense that the dark magic is starting to bleed over into the real world, as illustrated by a Death Eater attack on the Millennium Bridge in London. Somehow after seeing something like this it’s a pretty big disappointment to wind up back at Hogwarts watching Quidditch matches and sitting through potion classes. We already know that Harry is the “chosen one”… does it really matter what he’s learning at school anymore? To be fair, there wasn’t much in the way of funny candy or strange creatures this time around, but it just seems like every character has to make their token appearance, and very little changes within Hogwarts itself.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is directed by David Yates, who also helmed the last film and will be handling both parts of the Deathly Hallows as well. Visually, I like his style a lot and the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie, Across the Universe) makes this quite possibly the best-looking Harry Potter film yet. The performances are strong, especially the addition of Jim Broadbent who plays Professor Slughorn as both bumbling and guilt-ridden. It’s hard to criticize the movie from a technical standpoint, but still… you have to make people care about what’s on screen, right? Then again, maybe that part’s optional when you’ve got so many avid readers bringing their own encyclopedic knowledge and die-hard enthusiasm to the table.
It seems that whenever a new Harry Potter movie comes out, the standard response is for everyone to call it the best one yet… but how often does this end up being true? Surely I’m not alone in feeling that the magic has been wearing off for some time now. There are a few standout scenes that show just how much potential this franchise holds, but when you have to sit through two hours of filler to get them, it’s pretty difficult to recommend the movie (to non-readers, at least). By all accounts, it does seem like the final movie is guaranteed to be the best, but with their decision to split it into two parts, will we have to contend with yet another snoozefest where nothing really happens? All I know is that the final showdown better be worth the wait, because this is all getting to be pretty damn tedious. — Sean