Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent
Rated: PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.
Parental Notes: This is a darker, scarier film than the previous ones, and may be too scary for youngsters. Teens and preteens should be fine.
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* July 26 (11am) & 29 (7pm) at Camera 7: Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” as performed by the Bolshoi Opera Company at Opera de Paris. See www.cameracinemas.com/operas.shtml for details.
* July 29, 7pm at local theaters: Fathom Events presents Rossini’s “The Barber of Saville.” See www.fathomevents.com for details.
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* September 2, 5:45pm at the Hayward Main Library: Good Enough for Film, “Freedom Writers.” Screening followed by a brief discussion. Contact 510-881-7980 for further information.
There is a lovely moment in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth film in the Potter franchise. Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has brought Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to a mysterious old house, and before they go in, he says, “you must be wondering why I brought you here.” Harry chuckles and replies, “actually sir, after all these years I just sort of go with it.” Viewers of the film are well advised to do the same. Fans of the book will doubtless have scenes they are disappointed didn’t make it into the film. Those who have only seen the previous films and not read the books may find themselves a bit lost in spots. And those who haven’t seen the other films… well, do yourselves a favor and see them first. Director David Yates takes the same approach he did in the last film, and removes nearly all exposition, so we are thrown into the middle of things from the start.
Things are not going well in the wizarding world. The evil Lord Voldemort (largely unseen in this film) has regained much of his power and his followers are running rampant through both the wizarding and muggle worlds. Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is an oasis of safety, but the dark times have tinged that place as well. Attempts are made on Dumbledore’s life as he (with Harry’s assistance) attempts to piece together Lord Voldemort’s past in an attempt to learn the source of his power. Meanwhile, our heroes are now deep in the throes of teenaged romantic angst, which in the wizarding world has the added complication of magic.
This is a darker film than the previous ones, preparing us for the incredible grimness of the saga’s finale, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (which is set to be released as two films, one in 2010 and one in 2011). There’s quite a bit of humor, but it mostly serves to highlight the darkness it briefly alleviates — much like an early shot of the Weasley twins’ joke shop, a lone brightly-lit and jolly place amongst shuttered and destroyed wizarding shops in a hidden part of London. The shadows are all the deeper for that small bit of light.
The film is a bit chaotic, with numerous subplots, but the main story is handled well, and the young actors have all come a long way since the first film in the series. That may have been an inevitability, given the fantastic acting chops of the adult cast. Gambon’s Dumbledore is more serious in this film, no doubt in part due to the increasing darkness of the saga. Alan Rickman continues to impress as Professor Snape, particularly in the final sequences when he does a great deal with a rather rushed script. Jim Broadbent’s Professor Slughorn balances cowardice with Slytherin ambition, and the actor holds the line well, making Slughorn at once reprehensible and sympathetic.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy this latest installment of the Potter series depends largely on whether you liked the others. It’s very much in the style of the previous film, since it’s the same director. If you’re a Potter fan, even a casual one, this is a must-see film. If not, well, it’s probably not going to make a lot of sense, and your time would probably be better spent elsewhere.