Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince - DVD Review

'Potter and his pals have grown up and with that has come a genuinely interesting film, rather than some child in a cape wandering round zapping various things with a stick'

In much the same way as I'm not a Twilight fan, I'm also not a Potter fan. I've never really got why Potter has done so well, coveted such a legion of fans or had as much pomp and ceremony follow it as it has. There have been other wizards with other friends with other dragons and evil-doers to fight off; what has made this particular Tolkein-influenced tale so successful? Spectacularly good marketing I suspect.

Having said that, after watching The Half-Blood Prince I can at least appreciate why the films are starting to garner a touch of appreciation. It's fast, it's furious and it's frightening and for the first time I found myself interested in what was going on. Potter and his pals have grown up and with that has come a genuinely interesting film, rather than some child in a cape wandering round zapping various things with a stick.

The interest and skill involved here is represented in the craft and care that has gone into one character: Jim Broadbent's Professor Horrace Slughorn. Another stupid name for sure but in Slughorn, Rowling and returning director David Yates have created that most difficult of things; a pure ambiguous character, one that you really do not know where his allegiances lie or what his personal or group motivations are. He's a masterful creation of storytelling and he keeps the plot interesting and involving despite its occasional miss-steps.

And there are plenty of miss-steps. Harry continues his war of words with Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) without the battle ever escalating into anything more than a wizardly slap in the face, something which we've been watching since the first film. The whole Potter/Malfoy battle has always felt like a sideshow and never more so than here with Harry catching Malfoy conveniently sneaking round a corridor corner just in his eye line more times than can be excused as mere coincidence. A friend who had read the book too had a big problem with how the film handles who exactly the Half-Blood Prince is and I must admit I found myself turning to The Missus to seek her wizard-like, Potter-addict, guidance on the matter, the reveal coming far too late in proceedings. It's a muddle (or is that muggle?) but in the end an inconsequential one.

And that's because despite these upsets, there is fun and threat here like we haven't seen before. The now infamous burning of the Weasley house (apparently it's not in the books, which matters...apparently) should be held up as a guide to directors on how to manage a scene of threat in what is still ostensibly a children's film, some lovely golden visual touches accentuating the flame-laden house whilst a multitude of characters look helplessly on. The Potter/Weasley and Grainger/Weasley love arcs also start to bear fruition although, again, there is more than a slight feeling of 'haven't we been here before?' Despite this though the characters do finally feel like they are developing in adult and well-rounded fashion; Hermoine isn't so annoying, Ron isn't so stupid, Harry isn't so, well... Harry!

As kids' films go this really is how you do it but its real success is capturing the none Potter fan. Despite some final scenes that come straight out of the stock cabinet labelled 'Nicely Rounded But Open For The Sequel', the hordes of parents who will be picking this up on DVD prior to December 25th might find themselves surprised as they sit on the edge of their seats come Boxing Day, lurching back when the next scare is artfully teased in to life. Solid and for the first time, endearing, entertainment.

Look Further...

'an enjoyable, dark, and often funny, film that puts on display how much these actors have grown throughout the years' - A Life In Equinox, 8/10

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