Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Adapted by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
There is a point where you have to decide if you're going to review a movie of a book as a fan of the book, or as a fan of movies. It is unfair, I think, to approach a film adaptation from the perspective of an ardent bibliophile. They are two very different mediums, and what works in one does not always work in the other. Because I feel the Potter films have been hindered by attempting to include too much from the books, while fans would argue they have not included enough, I look at this as a movie, not adapted from a source, but as its own creation.
There have been two constant sources of strength for the Harry Potter movies; the supporting cast, and the art direction. Filling out all the roles with great British character actors was a masterstroke that has kept the films nothing short of watchable, even in the weakest moments. As the students of Hogwarts have gained their sea legs, the adults have consistently delivered wondrous performances. That continues here, though Radcliffe and company are, fittingly, carrying greater loads. Fortunately, they are all very capable, if not exceedingly gifted, actors, and they do just fine.
The great triumph of this film is the art direction; the Potter films have never looked better. The memories Harry observes through the Pensieve look gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. More impressive is how the art direction has changed, throughout the series, to reflect the darker moods. Hogwarts looked warm and inviting in the first film; it now seems a frightening, isolated place, a masterpiece of gothic construction that finally suggest a mood befitting its period. The scene where Belatrix Lestrange evicerates the Great Hall is astonishing, and I can't recommend the film enough, if only as eye candy.
The only problem I had with this film, and has been a worsening problem as the source material has grown in length, is the pacing. The final twenty minutes were rushed; when the Death Eaters invade Hogwarts and kill Dumbledo- oh, I'm sorry, I thought you knew already. That scene is rushed, and, when the identity of the titular Price is revealed, it passes by as a, "Oh, that's right, I forgot we were curious about that..." It leaves the impression that they disclosed his identity only because to not do so would be a major screenwriting gaffe. The run up is great, the movie navigates the tricks well, and then it just misses the landing. All in all, not bad, but I'm still waiting for an unquestionably great film in this series. They do keep getting better, so I wouldn't be surprised.