Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince faced the unenviable task of adapting a explanation-heavy book to screen. Thankfully the film’s contents are dealt with well by second time Potter director David Yates and scenes that could have been quite tedious are bought to dramatic life. With Order of the Phoenix confirming the return of Voldemort, wizards face the prospect of darkening days.
Reeling from the death of his Godfather Sirius, Harry returns to school where he, with Dumbledore, sets about discovering more about He Who Must Not Be Named. Highlighting new Potions master Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) as an invaluable source of information, the two wizards delve once again into the depths of the Pensieve to aid their task. It is on these missions that we find a disturbed character who is willing to go to any lengths to preserve his life. In creating Horcruxes Voldemort has made himself nigh-immortal, making his defeat similarly nigh-impossible.
The story of the Half-Blood Prince himself, original owner of a second-hand book that comes into Harry’s possession, takes a back seat here. Instead we focus on the adolescent pangs of the main characters (Ron finds himself an amorous admirer in the form of girlfriend Lavender, Hermione is lusted over and Harry’s infatuation with Ginny Weasley grows), the increased dark wizard attacks and that death. The background cast are, as ever, on top form here and are joined by the brilliant Broadbent as the theatrical Slughorn who likes to collect impressive students in his Slug Club.
The overall tone of the film is as flawless as Yates’s Order of the Phoenix but, due to the source material, it sometimes confuses itself with brief explanations and hurried scenes – after all, they were set the task of fitting a 600 page book into a two and a half hour film. Nevertheless, Quidditch makes a welcome return as Ron battles with his nerves as Gryffindor goal keeper. Malfoy’s tribulations however, having being given an impossible task by Voldemort, are diluted by the rest of the film’s expositions.
Despite having to squeeze in a lot of facts and details the film does still squeeze in new elements that don’t feature in the book, one memorable example including the burning of the Burrow. Upsetting many of the novel’s fans, the inclusion of the arson attack manages to sum up the imposing danger posed by the Death Eaters without going into verbal accounts of other attacks. One change that is perhaps less forgiveable is the omission of the final battle scene. Left out so that the fight scene in Deathly Hallows Part 2 wouldn’t seem too repetitive, a lot of the impact of Half-Blood Prince‘s finale is lost thanks to the ill-explained ending. The death of course that arises from the confrontation still occurs but is less dramatic thanks to the change.
Dumbledore and Harry’s trip to the lake where Dumbledore suspects Voldemort of hiding one of his dreadful Horcruxes is ferocious and makes up for the film’s flaws. Michael Gambon’s distress is palpable and the fear imposed by the Inferi is great. The fact that the fire Dumbledore produces in this scene took eight months to digitally recreate is testament to its impressive quality.
Although it may be the Potter film that Daniel Radcliffe is least pleased with, Half-Blood Prince does well with a tricky task. Highly enjoyable, it is well-paced and, like its predecessors, involves some neat humorous moments that help lighten the darkening tone.
Best character: Malfoy if he had been given more screen time.
Best newcomer: Professor Slughorn.
Best baddie: Snape!
Best creature: The Inferi.
Best Harry moment: Finally getting his girl.
How did it rate to the book?: We can’t quite remember the fire at the Weasley’s house ever happening in the book… and we remember a much more interesting finale… the changes made are quite disappointing but the film is enjoyable nonetheless.