Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

With this review, let me point out that I’m not a Harry Potter expert here. Some folks reading this will know as much about this book/movie as I do Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. So rather than compare and contrast the book vs. movie, I’m gonna play it safe a bit by just writing from the perspective of a movie-goer.

First off, as movies go, all of the Harry Potter movies have done several things which are very rare indeed.
  1. They have gotten progressively better.
  2. The young actors who play Harry, Hermione and Ron have gotten nothing but better as they’ve grown up in front of us.
  3. The cast in its entirety has stayed the same minus the loss of Richard Harris who played Dumbledore in the first two films.
When I saw this movie last Friday, it was in a packed theater. In our small town this series is a bigger deal than I would have expected. But as part of the movie experience I first have to say we had a good crowd that night.

The movie-crowd can really affect the enjoyment of the movie playing, for me. And for Half Blood Prince, it was one of those times in a theater where you nearly felt like you were sitting in a large living room, catching the show with some friends. Good times. So the crowd really helped set this up to be fun.

Speaking of fun ... for the first time in the Harry Potter films, I can say that I laughed a LOT in this movie. And quite hard. Since the characters are older now there is much ado about love interests and that awkward time of being a teenager, learning and misreading the signals of the opposite sex, and determining who likes who. There is a lot of that in this movie. They keep it all at a kid-friendly level. But it’s so funny! You could nearly feel the heads nodding in agreement, the folks elbowing one another at the humor of ‘first love’.

Also, I’ve heard actual movie critics say that Michael Gambon as Dumbledore really steals the show, portraying a more tender-hearted, caring Dumbledore, much more akin to the character which Richard Harris brought to life. And I tend to agree.

Dumbledore and Harry’s relationship really does take on the representation of Commander and Right-Hand-Man rather than teacher and student. Harry has grown up more and so has Dumbledore’s respect for him. You can see Dumbledore letting him more and more into his inner circle. Though you also can tell there is a bittersweet part to that as well. Dumbledore cares for Harry much like a father would and it really comes out that he is protective of him. But there is still a greater mission and goal to be fulfilled. Dumbledore knows that and so must ask “too much” of Harry once again.

Between that relationship and the comedy of first loves, the film really takes you on a ride of emotion. Something I didn’t really get from the others as much as this one. Additionally you have all the standard stuff we've come to expect from the films, strange places, the differences between wizard folk and the Muggles, the great day-to-day school life that is always so well done, etc.

In addition to this emotional realism, the “world” in which we view Harry and his friends seems more solid than ever before. Everything seems more fleshed out. These fantastic places seem as though they might well exist at times. It’s a beautiful movie from the standpoint of just appearance alone.

In regards to pure special effects, which can really kill an otherwise great film, these movies have gotten better with that over time too. And this one represents the new pinnacle. I expect that when this series began the budgets were less and the tech was less-advanced. But like the actors, the budget and tech has obviously grown up through the years. The special effects are spot on.

I highly recommend this movie. Even if you’re not a fan of the books or not a big reader, you can watch all these films and really enjoy them. They are a great ride!

And this one is certainly sitting atop them all in my opinion.

Footnote: With this particular movie review I have to out myself as not having been on the Harry Potter super-happy-fun train for very long. Um, maybe two months or so ? Now, before my fellow book-friends tar and feather me, let me just say I love the Harry Potter books. I was just late to the party. So I ended up reading the books all together and when you think about it you long-time-fans – don’t you wish you could have had that experience with your first time through them? See, you had to wait on the next book but not moi! And that's how I sleep at night - by turning my procrastination of epic proportions into other folks shortcomings :)


Krawl said...

I did the same thing with Lord of the Rings...I waited till they were all out! I wish I done that with the Wheel of Time.

Rob said...

That's it Krawl .. I'm sending you out to dig holes.