Lowdown: Scenes from another year in Harry Potter’s life.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was always going to be a challenge to put on film, given that – in my opinion – it is based on a book that is by far the weakest of the seven Potter books. It’s a book that was clearly there only to set the ground up for the grand final. So how does the film manage things? It fares even worse.
In this, Episode 6, we’re basically offered glimpses of Harry Potter’s sixth year at wizard high school. That’s it, for better and worse: it feels more like an ongoing TV series that’s looking for the contract for another season than a film that’s meant to make an artistic statement.
Of course, being that Potter is in an enhanced environment and in a world reeking of evil, some exciting things do happen. The problem is that as with the book, these things are mostly there to help us prepare for the next episode; the truly exciting action is limited to the last half hour of this two and a half hour film. Which, if you catch my drift, implies that this Harry Potter film is a rather tiresome and boring affair.
Yet boredom is not Harry the 6th biggest problem. The main problem is that the film tries way too hard to be loyal to the book, a disease that has inflicted most of the previous Potter films. Instead of having a coherently developing film, what we have is a collection of scenes from the book or scenes that are inspired by the book. Sure, they do help in character development – a lot of the film is there to tell us about Harry & Co the adolescents – but the result never transcends into a unified film. If you haven’t read the book you’ll probably lose the plot somewhere in the middle, and even if you don’t you’d have a hard time getting into the thick of things unless you really have a thing for the book. It’s sad to say it, but of all the six Harry Potter films thus far, only one – The Prisoner of Azkaban (the third in the series) – was a well and truly worthy film by its own rights.
P.S. Talking about recurring themes in the Harry Potter series of films, did I mention the over reliance on digital special effects?
Upon the death of a major character at the film’s end (now a mandatory feature of Potter films since the ending of the previous book/film), the grieving Hogwarts wizards demonstrate their respect by raising their wands. I’m sure there are some smokers in Hogwarts (it would be virtually statistically impossible for that not to be the case), so where were all their lighters? And come to think of it, where is all the sex a school like this should have?
Jokes aside, the scene is a demonstration for the convention following rather than convention setting series that Harry Potter had become. It's the stuff a kid with a sense of wonder is worthy off; it’s more like manure for stock than child worthy, stuff to make you feel like you're one of many.
Technical assessment: The Half-Blood Prince is a surprisingly inferior Blu-ray. The picture suffers from an eternal brownish-darkish hue that’s there to convey a sense of pending evil but grows more and more annoying all the time, while the sound department is pretty mundane up until the active film’s end.
Overall: Boring and incohesive, thus ultimately completely uninvolving. I’ll be generous and give Harry 2 out of 5 stars.