Harry Potter. The name alone induces screams across the world, and may make movie theater managers such as myself fall on the ground when the prints arrive in the building. Just because I did get to watch it early does not mean I didn't do my share of waiting around the theater. More than 7 hours after I got off work, I was still at the theater and ready to watch what I had been waiting for ever since the wonderful 'Order of the Phoenix' two glorious years ago. Not only was 'Half Blood Prince' my favorite book in the series, it was also one of my favorite books of all time. My expectations could not have been higher, possibly the highest for any movie I'd ever had.
So is it absolutely crazy that my expectations were still surpassed?
Whether it be the shockingly wonderful script from Steve Kloves, the perfect acting across the board, dazzling effects, or the absolutely excellent direction and cinematography, 'Half Blood Prince' is EASILY the best film in the series, and is a great cinematic achievement that becomes the first Harry Potter film, in my opinion, that stands alone as a fantastic film, one that could even be Oscar worthy.
It appears as if the book series finally being finished has done wonders for the films, as this is the first film produced since the end of the series. Steve Kloves' for films 1-4 were average at best, as he often struggled to write compelling dialog for the younger characters. Not only has he vastly improved, but for the first time in the entire series, I was more interested in the younger characters than the absolute gems of characters played by the adults. 'Half Blood Prince' probably has the least amount of action in the series, but it is by no means boring. Kloves' script assures us that this ride is just as mental as it is physical. There are some minor problems, such as the backstory of the title character, the Half Blood Prince, not really being explained at all, but these flaws are outweighed by Kloves' seamlessly weaving plot points from both 'Half Blood Prince' and 'Deathly Hallows'. Some characters, such as Rufus Scrimgeour, Bill Weasley, and Mad Eye Moody are sorely missed, while others, such as Ginny Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange, benefit from much more to do than they had in the book. To put it simple, Kloves' adaptation this time around is his best yet.
To me, the lines a writer writes are only as good as the actors that say them, and this flick boasts what could be called the best ensemble cast of the year. The bright points for me were Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, and Bonnie Wright, who both really got the chance to flesh out their characters in this one. Wright nails the passionate, hot tempered Ginny very well in brief opportunities, while Rickman is once again perfect as the icy Severus Snape, though to reveal why he's perfect would be robbing the viewer of a wonderful show. Felton packs a world of emotion and nails the character once again. The main newcomers to the cast were all excellent. Jim Broadbent is perfectly cast as Horace Slughorn, while Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Frank Dillane are positively chilling in their cameos as the younger incarnations of Lord Voldemort. Dillane in particular is nothing short of brilliant in his two scenes. Helena Bonham Carter's over the top performance as Bellatrix Lestrange is something that would only work in a Harry Potter film, as she is hilariously psychotic and sadistic in her role. The biggest surprise of all is Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore to perfection this time.
The faces of the Harry Potter franchise are the three actors that now appear to have grown up with their characters long enough to actually be them. Emma Watson is at her best for once as Hermione, while Rupert Grint brings everything back to the table after basically taking a movie off. Daniel Radcliffe tops what was his best performance in 'Order of the Phoenix' in this one, but for different reasons. Radcliffe is showing real all around talent as an actor, as he exudes the sarcastic confidence that he's always been missing that is integral to Harry's character. It should be noted that Radcliffe is definitely the best at comedy of the trio.
While I viewed it to be perfect, this might be because I've read the book and plugged in what few leaks there were. All the non-readers I saw it with said that they didn't have that many problems keeping up, and that this one really gelled with the previous installment. I credit that, and the movie's overwhelming excellence to David Yates, who really just gets this franchise. He has recreated the magic I felt when first reading the book again and again, with classic moments meant for readers that non-readers will still find entertaining enough.
This movie definitely strays the furthest from the book, but I really didn't care. I didn't miss any of the things that were cut, nor did I object to any changes in the movie. In a word, it was perfect. Bruno Delbonnel does a marvelous job with the cinematography, which is amongst the most beautiful camera work I've ever seen, especially with the colors and lighting. The art direction is equally brilliant.
'Half Blood Prince' is an exciting thriller, that is as charming and sweet as it is mysterious. It is as suspenseful as it is angsty, and that's saying something. Hormones and chaos are abound at Hogwarts, and Yates manages to handle it with perfect grace, as his film does not, for the first time ever, feel choppy or rushed. The film flows wonderfully, and builds to a climax that will keep your emotions running high for at least 20 minutes. I really could not have been more pleased with this movie.
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