Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter
No doubt in the air with anyone anymore, the dark lord has returned and the battle for the will of the people both in the wizard and Muggle world is in the balance, it’s time for everyone to make their move. Getting the pieces in motion and now some execution to it dictates what occurs in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while also being another example of the second half of a title meaning not much at all.
With a dark cloud looming over everyone, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts for another year with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) getting closer to launching a full-scale assault. With Harry learning more about Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) memories, he needs to get in the good graces of a new professor, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to discover more about the secret to killing the dark lord.
Every move and action occurring in this film serves the purpose of furthering the sides of good and evil towards each other in war. This occurs both with Harry and Dumbledore as well as Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). In a way, this film becomes just as much about Harry as it does Draco as the latter has mostly been reserved as a pest to Harry but now he truly has some actual pull in the plot and it may be one of the most heartbreaking character developments the series has to offer. It makes me glad for Tom Felton, as an actor, as his material was not always the best leading up to this feature but he got the opportunity to shine here with the moral and ethical dilemma Draco gets put in and Felton wears it all so well.
Just as you think the alliance between Harry and Dumbledore could not get tighter, this feature brings them together like never before. No longer a small child in the eyes of the veteran wizard, Dumbledore entrusts Harry like never before because the time has come for movement towards Voldemort. It gives Michael Gambon the opportunity to give his finest performance as the famous wizard, as he must deal with his own mortality and the necessary moves needed to be made in order for Harry to be set up for the ultimate battle to come. The dynamic between them has a distinct change as a result and it becomes fascinating to navigate.
Where this film lacks comes from the second half of its title in regard to the Half-Blood Prince. Harry first becomes aware of it from taking a used book and seeing the notes written by the previous user who went by this specific name. In the notes, it gave all the “cheat codes” to acing the Potions course but in other aspects as well of being a wizard as well. With this adding some level of intrigue, it feels completely underbaked within the narrative. Perhaps more context to the importance gets provided in the novel but by the end when more gets revealed about this Half-Blood Prince, it merely elicited a shrug on my part in confusion as to what all the fuss was about. The issue with this journal also meshes with the problem of this film balancing the aspects of these students still attending classes amidst a major war coming up. It just felt like a distraction of the important things yet to come in this battle and as a result, it just gets added in for this already-long film. Much like with Sorcerer’s Stone, the second half of the title could be cut out entirely and would not have harmed the final product of the film.
However, with these gripes, this film comes with several entertaining and more importantly, emotionally resonant moments. Things are getting incredibly serious and it gets felt in the way these issues cloud the minds of these characters. The narrative builds up some large-scale event set to occur and when it arrives, it lands and sticks the landing in a poignant manner, especially for what it will represent for the final two features coming after it.
The tables are set and the first major moves in this massive battle begin. Harry learns plenty about Dumbledore and what it will actually take to kill Voldemort all wrapped up in a story serving as an impasse for several other characters as they must make definitive choices in their allegiances and how they will move forward. While the second half of the title feels like an afterthought, there’s plenty propelling this film forward to make it very entertaining and fulfilling.