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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (12A)

Rachel Winterbottom thinks it all smells a bit of teen spirit in Potter's latest potage

Written by . Published on July 17th 2009.


Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (12A)

Something is happening in the streets of London – black clouds of smoke are falling from the sky and the millennium bridge has been twisted into smithereens. It’s exactly as the trailers promised. But then, they promised a lot of things. They said that the darkest hour was upon us. They didn’t mention the hour and a half of romantic comedy that preceded it.

This film is mostly filler, and it knows it. While it’s true that the film’s themes have to change with its maturing cast, theme is no substitute for plot. The characters seem much too preoccupied with teenage angst to save the world.

J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series has both flourished and suffered through the parade of directors who have moulded it into their various visions. The Philosopher’s Stone was the kid of the ensemble, hyped up on all of the E-numbers in Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Prisoner of Azkaban successfully eradicated the Disney undertones and the following films were just as determined to kill anything twee that remained.

Of all the Potter directors, David Yates seems care most for gritty realism. Slowly but surely the wizard hats, chocolate frogs and flying cars are being snuck out of the back door. Soon Hogwarts will be replaced with a concrete detention centre and ‘magic’ will be street slang for MDMA.

To enforce this realism, the film opens with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in a scummy railway station. And he’s flirting with a girl. He even uses the word tosser. Then Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, away with the fairies), headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, turns up. He whisks Harry away to recruit a new teacher, Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), and then takes him to the Weasley’s, where Harry suddenly finds Ginny Weasley very attractive.

While Harry’s busy womanising, Draco Malfoy (Tom Fenton) is recruited by Voldemort’s evil followers to carry out ‘dark deeds’ on his behalf and Hogwarts professor Severus Snape makes an unbreakable vow to step up should Draco fail. To further prove his allegiance to the dark arts, Draco takes to wearing black suits and skulking around acting suspiciously.

The cast have matured as actors throughout this series. Where at the beginning they were carried by the excellent adult performers, now they’re holding their own. Emma Watson has curbed Hermione’s rampant eyebrow action and Rupert Grint’s Ron doesn’t gurn quite as much. Daniel Radcliffe has improved the most, however. Just watch out for the bit where he’s stoned off his tits on luck potion – he carries the film on pure entertainment value alone.

It’s become part of the Potter tradition now, during the pre-film publicity, for the cast to say that the latest instalment is the ‘darkest yet’. Presumably that means that the last film will be so dark that it will just be a black screen with the occasional suggestive giggle from Hermione and Ron. In truth, comedy and love triangles make up the majority of the screen time so any ‘darkness’ feels tagged on at the end along with the action, thrilling as it is.

Unfortunately, as the students can barely control their hormones long enough for a plot to unfold, the Half-Blood Prince part of the narrative is mostly sidelined. While the romances are fun, the film never quite gets the shift in tone right from adolescence to action and by the time the Prince’s identity is revealed, it’s hard to care.

In the series’ development, it’s the awkward gangly bit in puberty where your body seems to be trying to grow in two directions at once. This film is mostly filler, and it knows it. While it’s true that the film’s themes have to change with its maturing cast, theme is no substitute for plot. The characters seem much too preoccupied with teenage angst to save the world.

Even on that theme of young love, the film can’t quite decide how far it wants to go. While it’s happy to have a character suggestively licking his fingers over a profiterole or exhibiting wanton displays of his broomstick in Hermione’s direction, much to her discomfort, it also seems painfully aware of its younger audience.

Harry and Ginny end up in the Room of Requirement and – shock – almost kiss. If Yates really wanted gritty realism, the Room of Requirement would have lived up to its name and provided the young lovebirds with a double bed and a packet of ribbed for her pleasure.

Hopefully the thrills at the end where Gandalf, sorry Dumbledore, whips up a fiery storm of retribution, will lead into more of the same in Yates’ concluding parts to this series. Either that, or give just Radcliffe the real world equivalent to that luck potion and film that instead. Magic.

5/10

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is in every cinema – and in some on Mars - for months...

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GordoJuly 17th 2009.

spot on review, this was pants, 4/10 Harry Potter and the Crock of Sh*te. You were right mr. Schofield

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