[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B007N0IJGC][/pullquote] Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth instalment in the popular franchise and marks the penultimate story before the heart-breaking finale. In the lead-up to release of the book, J.K Rowling had promised fans that a major character would die, and she was not lying. For many fans, the end of this story is one of the most heart-breaking in the whole series, and it plays a pivotal part of the story as a whole, so David Yates had a lot of pressure on his shoulders not to botch it in the same way he had dealt with Sirius’ (Gary Oldman) in the previous film.
Entering his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is used as bait by Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to lure former potions teacher Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) out of retirement. Dumbledore explains in a series of private lessons that Slughorn has a memory that is the key to Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) immortality. Whilst trying to get close to Slughorn, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are taught some lessons of love, friendship and sacrifice.
The two most important positives to be drawn from Half-Blood Prince are the vast improvements to the performances of the main trio and also the darker, more horror-like tone, which serve the subject matter well. Radcliffe in particular should be praised for the level of emotional range he brings to the character of Harry, the likes of which have been painfully absent in the majority of the previous films. Grint and Watson do a wonderful job of saying a great deal about their relationship without speaking directly about it, which suits the story perfectly. This is accentuated with the addition of Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), who is hilarious as the over-the-top third wheel.
Half-Blood Prince however belongs, in a large part, to Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) as they are both tasked with a specific job that one of them is able to fulfil. Both actors are fantastic at giving the ˜bad guys’ some gravitas and emotion. They make sure that whilst it is easy to boo and hiss their sometimes comical villainy in previous films, this time it’s real, dangerous and life-changing being a Voldemort supporter.
The closing scenes of Half-Blood Prince are lifted directly from two of the biggest film franchises of all time. When Harry and Dumbledore enter the cave, the camera angles and lighting are almost a shot-for-shot copy of the entrance to the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Luckily the twist is handled with suitable care and attention, although it still struggles with the fact that it’s difficult to care about some of the participants. Finally, when the main trio decide what must be done, the camera slowly zooms away from their backs exactly as it does at the end of Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It seems to deliberate for this to be a coincidence, especially as this scene has a similar meaning with the main characters facing a seemingly impossible task ahead. These comparisons help to make the rushed conclusion of Half-Blood Prince feel more satisfying, but it is a hollow satisfaction that disappears as soon as you make the link between each of the films.
Some will argue that there is not enough action or comedy in Half-Blood Prince and that it’s too dark and intimidating for younger viewers, but as the books have taught us, sometimes the single laugh that you can muster in a time of struggle and peril is often the heartiest. It stands as a very suitable setup for the rollercoaster of a two-part finale to come.