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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

Rated: PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.

Runtime: 2 hrs 33 mins

Genre: Science-Fiction/Fantasy

Theatrical Release:Jul 15, 2009 Wide

Synopsis: Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort’s defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn, whom he believes holds crucial information. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself more and more drawn to Ginny, but so is Dean Thomas. And Lavender Brown has decided that Ron is the one for her, only she hadn’t counted on Romilda Vane’s chocolates! And then there’s Hermione, simpering with jealously but determined not to show her feelings. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again. --© Warner Bros [More]

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham-Carter, David Bradley, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Helen McCrory, Hero Fiennes Tiffin

Director: David Yates • Screenwriter: Steve Kloves • Producer: David Heyman, David Barron • Composer: Nicholas Hooper • Studio: Warner Bros.

As the synopsis above will direct you, there is plenty of “office romance” going on in the school this time. Lot’s of “Love Boat does Potter” type machinations among the crew. All fine and good as far as it goes, but it does feel a bit minor in light of the larger story line. And that larger story is consistently put off throughout as it seems to creep forward to what ultimately feels like an anti-climax. The way this ends I was ready for the full blown movie to begin, but instead it’s “to be continued” time. And that’s the way I felt about the entire exercise: like I was waiting for the main course.

I realize that there are two more installments coming which feature the final meeting between Luke Skywalker.... I mean Harry Potter and Darth.... eh, Voldemort... the big bad guy. Fans of the series will have a good time spending time in the minutia of the familiar buddies as they go about school boy-school girl flirtations and the “Melrose Place” style confabulations. I suppose if you are into Harry you are kind of a “geek” for it like Trekkers are “geeks” for Trek. (My being one also) And as that is probably the case, fans no doubt will find no problem sitting through the abundance of small narrative as they await the use of magics and battles with magics. I don’t play with magic myself, I have no desire to, and the fantasy of doing so doesn’t interest me. But if it did, I suppose the rather mundane usage of it here would be enough.

Or would it? Harry can say a word and conjure water, fire, mix potions for death, luck, love. Hmm. With Star Trek we can discuss the real world powers of things like Dark Matter, that moves entire solar systems around in space; or how Uranus revolves around the Sun on it’s side. Personally, I find the science fiction that draws from the amazing real world a lot more satisfying to play games with than such ordinary magic. But, I suppose, Harry Potter’s audience enjoys getting lost in the imaginary possibilities of that which is provided.

I was quite impressed with the production, that is for sure. I was reminded of many an old Charles Dickens adaptation by the Hogwarts school, and I suppose that’s on purpose; they just don’t serve grule in the dining room. (hehe) There is lots of CGI and it is dark and creepy as it should be I suppose, despite the assertion that these are “good’” wizards (and witches?) I especially liked the huge skull of death in the sky, it had a nice monolith danger as it hung there in full site. I guess a human skull always means “death”, right? A large floating fish head just wouldn’t have communicated the proper meaning. There's a Monty Python sketch here somewhere.

Why are the bad guys so obsessed with the death thing anyway? They are all black and white Gothic and lack the color of their adversaries. They aren’t dead themselves (although they are called Death Eaters), and if they were, then that I could understand. They have to be for life, aren’t they out for immortality or some such thing? If they were dead, and knew death was better than life, then the skull would make sense to me from their standpoint. But they are not, and it seems to me that they would be quite interested in life and ruling over it. I sure hope we one day see the good guy just give the bad guy what he wants, somewhere, sometime. Just let him have the world domination he so richly craves. He’d find that a world of zombies is no fun to live in or he’d find that having to kill everyone, because there will always be resistance, would ruin all his plans anyway. But you’ll never see that.

The direction and acting is very, very good, also. I enjoyed everyone’s performance, even Harry himself who is flat and boring in comparison to his support team. Don’t you ever believe it isn’t a ton of work to direct young actors like these. Much of the work they do is under direction and you rarely see any input form the actors themselves, and that is probably best. The multitude of work of everyone involved is finely tuned, and I wish the movie had had more immediate gravitas to lend more credence to that work. But this installment wasn’t designed for that, it was just an episode on our way to the Superbowl promised in the next few years. In fact, as I sit here typing this, I think back and maybe you could just have one of your friends tell you what happened in this one and wait for the next two... but you won’t do that.

Things to watch for:

* Drugs/Alcohol: Harry, Hermoine and Ron drink butter beer.

* Language/Profanity: A few uses of mild profanity including “hell,” “damn” and “piss off.”

* Sex/Nudity: Romance is definitely on the brain in Hogwarts this time around. There are a few kisses between different teen couples, but nothing more.

* Violence: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” has an even darker tone than any of the other “Potter” movies to date. And the first scene definitely sets the pace when the Millennium Bridge is destroyed and several civilians are thrown off. A couple of fights break out between Harry and Draco, and their faces are bloodied. There are violent exchanges between the Weasleys and the Death Eaters, and more precarious spells are concocted than ever before, especially when one of Harry’s classmates is possessed and nearly dies. The last 20 minutes are the most violent and action-packed of them all when Dumbledore and Harry make their way to the cave. What eventually goes down is different than what actually happens in the books, so I won’t spoil it here. Be forewarned, however, this isn’t stuff for younger children, despite the PG rating.

Magic isn’t really the star of the show here, the characters are. And as I say, it really is only the backdrop for moving the plot along. I don’t agree with it any more than I agreed with the witch craft in Charmed or The Craft, but like all controversial subjects in movies, it is ultimately up to the parents of the kids who follow such things to allow or disallow these concepts into their homes. They also need to decide if their money will be spent to support those ideas. No one else is going to do it for them. The difference can lie in the act of sitting down with your kids and discussing your take on things like magic, witchcraft, snogging, mixing potions, violence and flying on brooms; or leaving those things to be defined by the child’s society and the things they will inevitably be affected by. The final take is up to parents.

And on that note, I hope parents do get more involved. As I left the t multi-plex theater, I walked passed the one showing “Bruno” which had just let out also. I don’t have to see Bruno to know what is going on in that movie, but it did bother me to see a Dad with two kids under ten years old walking out at the end. If they are watching Bruno, Harry Potter is the least of our worries.

3/5 Stars

I thought it could have been better, but I understand the audience it’s aimed at.

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