MOVIE REVIEW-Wild wizards: Newest Potter's not <i>Half </i>bad
All the wizards' spells haven't kept me from becoming progressively disenchanted with the Harry Potter films as they've gotten darker, more CG-dependent and, with increasing obviousness, evolved into extended teasers for the cataclysmic battle to come in the final episode.
Despite these flaws and irritating factors, I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the latest movie, more than the last two. It offers more variety: adventure, romance, and numerous action scenes, including an opening sequence that has little to do with the plot but looks spectacular.
At the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we learned the Prophecy: "Neither one can live while the other one survives." It doesn't make much sense if you think about it, but it sets up the ultimate showdown between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), a.k.a. the Dark Lord, whose sins include killing Harry's parents.
The forces of darkness in Lord Voldemort's thrall include fellow student Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton); Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and her sister, Draco's mother, Narcissa Malfoy (Helen McCrory); and, apparently, Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), although we may be in for some more Snape-shifting. They have plenty of opportunities to take Harry out and resolve everything in this movie, but if J.K. Rowling hadn't written a seventh book (which will become a two-part film) the world's economy would be in even worse shape than it is.
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) stops Harry from hooking up with a waitress, instead flying him to Hogwarts School for an early start on his sixth year with his pals Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). This year they'll all face romantic temptations before things get sorted out the way they were seemingly always destined to.
New students of note are Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), who becomes a seriously unserious love interest for Ron, arousing Hermione's jealousy; and Cormac McLaggen (Freddie Stroma), who crushes on Hermione.
A new addition to the faculty is Dumbledore's "old friend and colleague" Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), the new Potions professor. Harry goes to the head of the class by following notes in a used textbook, formerly "Property of the Half Blood Prince." This scores him a vial of "liquid luck," which you know will come in handy.
Harry spends a lot of time playing Tweedledee to Tweedledumbledore, reviewing the headmaster's memories of a young Voldemort, then known as Tom Riddle (Frank Dillane and Hero Fiennes Tiffin at 16 and 11 respectively). Harry only has to touch Dumbledore's elbow and they can fly from place to place so quickly it's like teleportation (yet they need a boat to cross an underground lake).
Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) gets a little more screen time than usual in a sympathetic but not significant role.
Director David Yates (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) works hard to come up with variations on the usual scenes and situations. Quidditch is back, giving Ron a chance to be a hero and letting McLaggen get the movie's biggest laugh with his pose astride a phallic broom.
Spell-casting practice provides some humor and razzle-dazzle, while occasional attacks by Voldemort's minions do more serious damage. Speaking of serious, Sirius Black is still dead, but you never know who might come to life in old photos.
With product placement becoming ever more blatant, I keep expecting Harry to show up with a monogram that resembles the Hewlett-Packard logo.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't read the books or seen the first five movies, but according to sales figures that doesn't leave many out. I think I preferred it to the last two films, but maybe it's like Harry says to Dumbledore: "After all these years, I just sort of go with it."#