By Willie Krischke – July 17, 2009
I haven’t read the Harry Potter books — I’ve only seen the movies — which I suppose makes me a Muggle. It also means that I tend to spend the first twenty minutes of every new Harry Potter movie pretty confused, trying to remember who’s good, who’s bad, and how they all relate to each other. Unfortunately for us Muggles, a Very Important Event occurs in the first twenty minutes, involving perhaps the most confusing and ambiguous character in Potterland; the scowling and snide Severus Snape (Alan Rickman.) So I’m going to help the rest of you Muggles out: Snape is a good guy pretending to be a bad guy, pretending to be a good guy. Got it? Good.
Because after Snape’s Very Important Event takes place, not much happens in “Half Blood Prince” for a very long time. Harry, Hermione, Ron and a whole army of minor characters return to Hogwarts school, and love is in the air. Ron gets a girlfriend, which makes Hermione jealous; Ron’s little sister Ginny gets a boyfriend, which makes Harry jealous and Ron protective, and Harry gains an admirer/stalker. Love is in the air.
Some of this is truly entertaining. As usual, Emma Watson’s performance as Hermione stands out; she brings layers to her unhappy crush that feel real and true and fun to watch. Sadly, none of the frinds can manage as much depth. Rupert Gint still plays Ron with the meat-hand method of Larry, Moe and Curly, and Danile Radcliffe’s Harry has yet to show a glimmer of personality behind those wire-rimmed glasses.
(By the way, the title refers to an astoundingly unimportant and uninteresting subplot. Harry finds a used textbook that once belonged to the Half-blood Prince. It is filled with notes and new potions that help him get a good grade in his class. But who is this Half-blood Prince? And who cares, anyway?)
Each movie brings us a new teacher; this time it’s Jim Broadbent as Slughorn, a professor who “collects” gifted students by inviting them to ice cream socials and winter balls. (I always hated teachers like that.) Slughorn once taught the evil Valdemort, and perhaps taught him a little more about the dark arts than he should have. Harry’s quest is to find out just what Slughorn taught him, and why. He’s rather lackadaisical about this task; in fact, the whole school seems rather lethargic and unconcerned about things like assassination plots and roaming Death Eaters and the like. Maybe because love is in the air.
The assassination plots come courtesy of Draco Malfoy(Tom Felton,) who I think we’re supposed to believe is essentially a good kid trying to be evil. Or maybe he’s just angry because nobody seems to be in love with him, despite his snappy European cut suits. Mostly he looks like someone should lend him a couple albums by The Cure. He never really gets enough screen time to be conflicted; this particular subplot, which feels like it ought to be the central plot, instead feels crammed in around the edges.
Anyway, Harry does eventually pry Slughorn’s secret from him, and thus launches the final half hour of the film, in which ten times as many things happen as in the first two hours. It all leads to a final showdown involving Dumbledore, Malfoy, Snape, and various other Death Eaters. I find it hard to believe that anyone alive and awake for the last ten years would not already be in on the “surprise” at the end, but just in case, I’ll keep quiet.
“Half-Blood Prince” is certainly not the best of the Harry Potter movies; actually, it might be the worst. It suffers from the problems of most “middle movies” in an epic series – how to get from here to there – and never really amounts to much. Yates and co. have decided that final book must be split into two summer blockbusters, so we’ll end up with eight movies from seven books. But if they’d wanted to cut some material out, they could’ve found plenty to get rid of in “Half-Blood Prince.” It’s mostly filler.
- well, naturally, if you’re a die hard Harry Potter fan, nothing anyone says will stop you from seeing this, will it?
- if you’re a casual HP fan, but need to keep up on the story for the next flick.
- if you haven’t seen any of the other Harry Potter movies. This is not the place to start.
- that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? If you’ve seen the other five, you need to see this one. If you haven’t, don’t start here. Simple as that.