Reviewing a Potter film isn’t the easiest thing; you know they’re going to miss things out and not expand upon some important aspects of each book, but you just need to get on with it. It’s been no easy task adapting the last 3 books to the big screen, simply because they’re so big and there’s so much to cover, and with Half Blood Prince it seems one film just isn’t enough (even if it is two and a half hours long).
Firstly, don’t be fooled by the majority of positive reviews for this film. There are gaping holes aplenty, with a lot of forced aspects and some criminally underdeveloped relationships that drag down its strong points. For every strong performance of a major character, there’s a boring one to accompany it.
Of the main cast, you can divide the best and worst performances into two groups; Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) all put in star turns, whilst Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny) just don’t. Whilst the former group seem to relish every moment in front of the camera, and actively become their character, the latter group come across far too intense for their own good; they’re just boring in this film. Gambon puts in the best Dumbledore performance we’ve seen, as he’s finally added a more kindly aspect to the great man whilst keeping the ingenious spark. Grint and Lynch are both massively entertaining; every time they’re on screen, your attention is on them because they’ve really nailed their characters.
Unfortunately, the latter three can’t be given such praise. Radcliffe has definitely grown up as an actor in the last decade, but he seems to get stuck in second gear and spends most of the film staring broodingly at things and seeming uncomfortable. Worse still are Watson and Wright; hopefully this is just a bad directing fault, but these two seem to have drained all the life from their characters. Wright, inparticular, has taken the spark and sass from Ginny and just made her very dull, completely unlike her written counterpart. Like Wright, Watson seems to be a victim of being ‘over-posh’, which takes away anything interesting about who she’s playing. Hopefully, we’ll see some well-rounded performances by the next film, because part one of the Deathly Hallows is in trouble if we don’t.
Performances aside, it feels like screenwriter Steve Kloves could do with reading Half Blood Prince again a few times to really figure out the importance of some events. The Weasley’s house is destroyed by Death Eaters in a horrifically anti-climatic moment in front of a criminally underused Weasley family, Harry and Ginny have one tiny kiss which we’re expected to believe is meant to represent a blossoming relationship and established actors like Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith and Julie Walters are used incredibly sparingly. We don’t see Dumbledore’s funeral, there’s barely any sense of the dread, fear and worry thats meant to end the book, replaced instead by healthy, seemingly-naiive optimism at sunrise.
It’s not all doom and gloom; Dumbledore’s demise is masterfully done, along with an immediate aftermath and realisation that’s actually surprisingly moving. The film, as ever, looks great, with every set and every scene looking as you’d expect; busting with colour and bristling with activity. As the series progresses, just like the books, we’re seeing darker stories, darker times and aging characters dealing with the a lot of fears, which is great because the Harry Potter series does become more adult as it goes.
Director David Yates has hardly done a bad job here, but for everything done right, there’s something done wrong. Obviously, trying to translate a 600-odd page book onto screen is no easy task; things will be done well, and things will be done badly. There are some great performances, and some bad ones. Some stunningly underdeveloped relationships and some moving moments. All in all, Half Blood Prince feels very much like the book; not a hell of a lot really happens, we’re just being prepared for the end. You should still go and see it, it is a Potter film after all. Just don’t expect too much.