The Harry Potter series is something that has been running at the same time as the book were being written, and it’s hard not to wonder how much one commented and shaped the other. J. K. Rowling has suggested certain things be in the film because of end payoffs, and now we can see what she was hoping for as the books are done. With Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I think it’s fair to say that this film isn’t the sixth film in the series, even though it is, but meant to be the start of a trilogy. My review of the sixth Harry Potter episode will continue if you click the continue reading link (I dare you).
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has grown up and is almost nearly on his own, but dealing in the aftermath of the last film’s mess, which involved Sirious Black getting killed. He doesn’t really live at home any more, and is joined by Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) in recruiting the latest potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Potter is able to entice Horace, and all return to Hogwarts for what could be Harry’s final year as the war approaches. Things are heating up, and Dumbledore is gone more and more, while the relationship between Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) grows between both of them, as they partly deny interest but both see themselves dating other people.. Harry is not left out of the dating rituals as the film suggests that Harry Potter and Gunny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) get their hump on.
This is a film that gets to rely on the building of five previous films for their characters, so you have people like Helena Bonham Carter, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith and Timothy Spall showing up for the briefest bits, and delivering what they do, but at this point the tapestry of characters is rich, and relationships are defined, and after The Order of the Phoenix, it seems David Yates has upped his game, and this feels like the most lived in and confident of the sequels in the sense that he keeps hitting mature notes that play well with the characters. Yes, both David Newell and Alfonso Cuaraon elevated the game, and the fifth film seemed slight in comparison (Rowling was slightly taking a breather before dropping her kids into the shit), here it no longer feels like the playtime and adventure of the earlier entries, and the film ends on a funeral for an important character, while trusts are betrayed and different interests, and such have been raised.
Of course if you’ve read the books you know exactly where everything is going and this film seems to have lost much of the fat of the original book, but it also breathes really well, perhaps because it seems Yates sees this as the start of a trilogy. They don’t really need two films to tell the last book, but it’s exciting to see that with this film, more so than the previous efforts that things are beginning to be thought of on cinematic terms, and here everyone involved trusts that you’ve been on the ride for the last five efforts. You might have read the books as well, it doesn’t matter, now that the end game is revealed, they get to tell the story as they see fit, and here you really get the sense that Yates has turned this into cinema. I was nervous after the last entry, but here, I feel like the franchise has been given a voice to close it out, and with the right people in charge of such efforts. The cast knows what they’re doing, and it’s fun to see the ensemble return, and grow and get older, but also have the bedrocks of personality like Alan Richman’s delicious Snape, who has always been leading to what should be the killer scene in the final film of the series.
Warner Brothers presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 True-HD. The film is also presented as a digital copy, and the DVD version of the film is also included. On the first disc there’s the maximum movie mode which offers PIP commentary and photo and storyboard galleries, with fourteen branching points (38 min.) covering important sequences like two of the kissing scenes. Disc two offers a “Close Up with the Cast of Harry Potter” (29 min.) which talks to the main stars, like the three leads, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Neville Longbottom (Mathew Lewis). One Minute Drills (7 min.) has James and Oliver Phelps (the Weasley twins), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), and Emma Watson (Miss Granger) telling what their characters have been throw at this point. There’s a first look at the new Harry Potter film (2 min.), then “J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life” (50 min.), a TV doc that appears to be thrown on the set. “What’s on Your Mind?” (7 min.) is trivia for the cast hosted by Tom Felton. “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” (12 min.) is a sneak peak at the Universal Orlando resort ride. Rounding out disc two are eight additional scenes (7 min.). For those curious about the sneak peak, there’s very little footage, and it suggests that Harry’s in for some trouble. As if you couldn’t guess.