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  Publicity Stills of
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
© 2009 Warner Bros. Ent
Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R.
Harry Potter characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Ent.
All Rights Reserved.

Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, David Bradley, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Cave, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Frank Dillane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Natalia Tena, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Bonnie Wright
RunTime: 2 hrs 20 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.harrypotter.com/

Opening Day: 16 July 2009


Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort’s defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn, whom he believes holds crucial information. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself more and more drawn to Ginny, but so is Dean Thomas. And Lavender Brown has decided that Ron is the one for her, only she hadn't counted on Romilda Vane's chocolates! And then there's Hermione, simpering with jealously but determined not to show her feelings. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.

Movie Review:

Last we left off, Harry Potter had just narrowly escaped from an encounter with the Dark Lord in the Ministry of Magic, aided of course by Professor Albus Dumbledore. It is worthy to note this- for lest you’re completely ignorant of the Potter folklore, you’ll know what’s in store in the sixth chapter of the hugely popular J.K. Rowling series.

“Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” opens quite stunningly with the destruction of London’s Millennium Bridge by the Death Eaters- among them Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and new addition Fenrir Greyback- swooping down from amongst dark ominous clouds that have gathered around Central London. These are dark times indeed- a deliberate choice of mood for each successive “Harry Potter” film in the series.

Dumbledore and Harry Potter once again lead the fight against evil, and this time, they are off looking for more Horcruxes (for non Potter-lites, they are Dark Magic devices to hide a part of one’s soul in order to attain immortality). Their union and purpose more clearly defined, part 6 of the series devotes substantial more screen (and print) time to the relationship between the two right up to its climactic showdown. Even for fans who must have read the book more than a couple of times through, the film’s staging of the finale loses none of the emotional impact it rightly deserves.

Indeed, director David Yates, only the second director (after Chris Columbus) to return for a Harry Potter outing, displays a confident and assured hand in handling the film’s darker and certainly more sinister proceedings. The evil that we only glimpsed at the start continues to grow, an insidious threat that now looms ever so prominently over the wizarding world. There is a sense that even at Hogwarts no one is safe from it- once brightly and magnificently lit, the corridors and main dining hall of Hogwarts are now shrouded with a dim pallor. And ever so attentively, Yates, together with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and production designer Stuart Craig, makes that sense of foreboding ever palpable for their audience.

But if there were one weakness that this second-last entry to the series has, whether on book or on film, it’s that we’re not to see that anticipated final showdown between Harry Potter and Voldemort just yet. In fact, Voldemort doesn’t even make an appearance here, leaving his Death Eaters to do his bidding. So, just like the previous five films, there are two distinct story strands- one with the impending return of Voldemort (which we have been waiting for since book/film 1) and the other with the myriad of subplots that will be resolved within this chapter.

It’s not an enviable task that screenwriter Steve Kloves has in adapting the 600-odd page novel into a feature film. His fifth Harry Potter adaptation (he only missed The Order of the Phoenix), Kloves focuses that self-contained story strand on the budding romances among its key characters- Harry, Ron and Hermione. It’s a choice with its merits- the awkwardness of their adolescent crushes injects some much-welcomed levity into the otherwise gloomy events- but also its pitfalls- chief of which is the excision of the history behind the Half-Blood Prince, from which of course the film earns its title.

Whether the screenwriting decision of Kloves, or the directorial judgment of Yates, some significant parts of the book have also been altered in this adaptation. While some fans may be less than pleased with this, neophytes to the story may very well be befuddled by other developments that may seem superfluous. It’s a tricky balancing act that Yates and Kloves have- but one that they still manage to do so admirably, creating a product that, despite its 150-minute running time, is thoroughly engrossing from start to end.

The returning ensemble of mostly British thespians also help immeasurably by their by-now familiarity with their roles, delivering them with great aplomb. Front and centre is none other than Michael Gambon, his portrayal of Albus Dumbledore growing ever more dignified and multi-layered. Alan Rickman is also excellent as Severus Snape, with considerably more screen time than before, and veteran British actor Jim Broadbent joins the cast as Professor Horace Slughorn, his arched eyebrows and widened gaze betraying a deeper sign of tremulousness especially with the teenage Tom Riddle (aka Voldemort).

It’s been eight years since we were first introduced into the world of wizards and wizardry, a world where good and hope will collide in spectacular fashion, and a world where our hope lies with a boy with a lightning-scar on his forehead who once lived in a room under the stairs. This is also a journey that will end soon, the magic meant to last only two more instalments (due out in end 2010 and mid-June 2011). Despite its flaws, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a film that’s visually and emotionally enthralling- and as the “Harry Potter” series draws to its close, it will make you wish that the magic will last longer.

Movie Rating:

(There’s plenty of magic here to keep you entertained and engaged from start to finish)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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