Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is like living through a melancholy dream. Even more than The Order of the Phoenix, this film is nearly devoid of bright color, reflecting the dreary mood of the story. This is actually rather strange, as Order of the Phoenix ended on a slightly upbeat and hopeful note. However, as a mostly melancholic, subdued film, The Half-Blood Prince is wonderful.
Right from the start, it's obvious that this is one of the most visually-impressive fantasy films ever created. The cinematography never ceases to amaze, and the extreme level of detail and realism that accompanies the already-striking artistic style rivals that of the Lord of the Rings films. It's especially satisfying to watch the perfectly-rendered Quidditch match in this film and realize just how far the visual effects have come since The Sorcerer's Stone. Each magical spell, gust of snow-filled wind, and billow of black smoke looks perfectly realistic.
Despite the dark tone of the overall plot, this actually may be the most genuinely humorous Potter film. For a good 80% of the movie, the main characters have little more to do than simply live their lives. It might sound boring or pointless, but there's so much character development and genuine humor that it's completely entertaining the whole way through.
One surprising—but not unwelcome—aspect of the story is the heavy emphasis on the close, loving relationship between Harry and Hermione. It's touching in an unexpected way, and goes to show just how strong their friendship really is.
Even Draco Malfoy is given more depth, as we see for the first time that he is a conflicted character, rather than a one-dimensional bigoted bully.

The Half-Blood Prince is not entirely without disappointments, however. While the dark seriousness of the story is not necessarily a bad thing, it does take away some of the "punch" that The Order of the Phoenix excelled at.

Another problem with the film is the fact that it lacks a real ending. While The Order of the Phoenix managed to create a conclusion where one really didn't exist, here we don't even have any sort of closure at all. Although we are told exactly where the characters are going and what's happened at the end, we still don't have the emotional closure that is necessary for the film to work on a purely emotional level. This very well may have been the intent of the filmmakers, as Dumbledore's death is meant to be an emotional blow, but the simple fact is that the ending is not satisfying. It feels as though we are given an invisible "to be continued" message when we shouldn't have needed one.
However, for all of its narrative flaws, the film is far from crippled because of them. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has a wonderful script, well-executed humor, stunning visuals, and great characterization.

Eight points for Gryffindor.