For the second time in six movies it comes as a total shock that the greatest dangers lurking in the magical world aren’t specific to Hogwarts School. Evolving out of its grass roots of giant snake infestations and kidnapping werewolves, Hogwarts has become a safe haven for those who wish to escape Great Britain’s cloudier than usual weather. But even with something sinister in the air classes must continue and children must learn, prompting The Half Blood Prince to move in a direction we have yet to explore in the Harry Potter series: educational field trips.
The evil wizard, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), is building his army. It’s not the kind of thing that happens overnight. Meanwhile Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has grown out of his broody phase in The Order of the Phoenix and has moved on to his cooperative teenage years. For the most part. Non-alcoholic drinks all around! Things seem pretty good for Harry: he’s captain of the quidditch team, he’s chasing after a girl who isn’t Hermione (Emma Watson), Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is giving him the time of day, and he’s been successfully cheating his way to the top of his least favourite class. Yep, life is good. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is all about laughing with friends, snogging, getting special attention from the headmaster, and preparing for a future where Harry must either kill Voldemort or die trying. Well, I suppose life can’t be all gumdrops and girlfriends.
The Half Blood Prince amps up the humour in an acceptably smooth fashion. Ron (Rupert Grint) has got himself a girlfriend, and as such he is the laughing stock of the school; Ron is dating his stalker. Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) is absolutely obsessed with him – to Ron’s mild irritation and our supreme enjoyment. Lavender is as good as Snape (Alan Rickman) at what she does, only, in a very different way. She and several other little snippets brought out through David Yates’s excellent direction and the cast’s high level of comfort with their characters make The Half Blood Prince a funny movie with an ominous title.
That is, until life gets real. While the fun may be rolling around inside, we still get the feeling that something dark is knocking at the castle walls. There’s a future coming that no one is prepared for. A future that may be so full of trials and danger that it will have to be spread over two movies…
Compared to earlier Harry Potter films, The Half Blood Prince has excellent flow and balance between light humour and horrifically depressing reality. Harry and his allies band together even when they disagree on minor social details (i.e. who’s dating who). It gives a much stronger sense of comradery that the previous films lacked. While the humour is light (that is, until the ending throws a thirsty dementor at your smiling face) The Half Blood Prince is still peppered with suspenseful moments that keep your curiosity on point. Who’s targeting Dumbledore? Why is his hand black and withered? What does Draco (Tom Felton) have against canaries?
Here is yet another Harry Potter movie that steps just a bit further into the doorway opened by The Goblet of Fire, with a promise to take the final leap in the last two installments, The Deathly Hallows. With the characters sitting in their 16th years, much more attention is paid to frivolous relationships than to Death Eaters, mind control, and missing persons. It is now obvious that Ginny (Bonnie Wright) has a thing for Harry, and Harry is a basket of awkward around anything with boobs – except maybe Hermione. The Half Blood Prince is both laughably entertaining (thank you Lavender Brown) and heartbreakingly sad. I give it a sturdy 8/10.