Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Reviews

Page 1 of 3748
Super Reviewer
March 2, 2008
Decent addition to the harry potter franchise but beginning to get a bit long in the tooth. Good thing this will be wrapping up soon.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2015
When I reviewed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I described the film as "the beginning of... the long, slow consolidation of the franchise." After four films of varying quality under three different directors, the series found a workmanlike happy medium under David Yates, who delivered a film which had promise and interesting ideas but struggled to get through all the plot.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince continues the transition of the series into a holding pattern which is both problematic and reasonably entertaining. Yates' direction is marginally improved, and the film benefits greatly from the brilliant performance by Jim Broadbent. But many of the issues which plagued its predecessor are still on show, namely the episodic plotting and the feeling of deliberately and needlessly delaying the inevitable.

People have written a lot about the gradual darkening of the Harry Potter series, in both the books and the films. When the sixth book was published, some critics worried that the stories were getting too "grown-up" for people in their early teens who might not have matured with the series. Yates and his collaborators have clearly sought to convey a sense of gathering dread, ramping up the blues and blacks in the colour scheme and with more night scenes than in the previous instalment. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel is mainly known for his work with Jean-Pierre Jeunet; having lensed Amelie, at the brighter, more whimsical end of magic, here he broadens his CV to deliver darkness on screen which is at times almost suffocating.

While the darkness may be welcome on a general level, there is a problem with how Half-Blood Prince applies its desire to be dark and bleak. Underneath all the technical jiggery-pokery, there has to be some form of narrative pay-off, a dramatic climax or the stakes being gradually raised which will make the darkness seem palatable. Shooting everyone in shadow or making them wear dark clothes will get you so far, but in order to truly accept that the world is getting darker, there has to be a moment where the evil or obstruction becomes fully realised. In short, we need a strong indication of the storm into which we are heading - or at the very least, confirmation that there is a storm in the first place.

It is entirely possible to make a film which ends on a sense of open-ended dread, in which the manifestation of evil is implied or otherwise takes place off-screen. Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, which came out in the same year as this, did a brilliant job of hinting towards the carnage of World War I through unexplained and horrifying events which were difficult to fathom. Half-Blood Prince, on the other hand, feels like a false cliffhanger, in which we are left frustrated that we have to keep waiting for the inevitable showdown between Harry and Voldemort, which could and should have happened long ago.

Much of the fans' disquiet about Half-Blood Prince surrounds the death of Dumbledore - referred to euphemistically as "the unhappy event" by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode during their film reviews on BBC Radio 5Live. In the book, Harry is physically unable to stop Snape from killing Dumbledore; in the film, he simply stands there in shock, waiting under the stairs where Snape told him to remain in silence. Like so many details in the Potter series, this is a moment which should have enormous gravitas, but in Yates' hands it feels more arbitrary even without the changes in Harry's response.

This is extremely surprising given the intensity of Harry's previous scenes with Dumbledore. In an interview with Daniel Radcliffe after the series had ended, J. K. Rowling described Dumbledore's relationship with Harry as "John the Baptist to Harry's Christ"; his great deeds and "voice crying in the wilderness" prepare the way for the greater, deeper work of the one who comes after. Dumbledore is increasingly aware in the later films of his own frailties, shortcomings and mistakes, and the search for the horcruxes epitomises his desire to put things right. For all my criticisms surrounding Dumbledore's predictable role within the plots of the earlier films, his relationship with Harry has become one of the films' most consistently redemptive qualities.

One of the highlights of the film is the scene in the cave, where Dumbledore is forced to drink a painful potion to unveil a locket believed to be a horcrux (more on that concept later). Much of the plaudits have focussed on the technical aspects of the scene, such as the rendering of the zombie-like inferi or Dumbledore's fiery apparition. But what is truly memorable is the anguish on both men's faces as they endure horrific pain to complete the task. The pain of the characters is genuine and gives weight to what otherwise could come across as a meaningless McGuffin to pad out the plot (again, more on that later).

The real emotional heart of the film, however, is Professor Slughorn. Whether through Rowling's characterisation, Steve Kloves' scripting, Yates' direction or a combination of all three, this character manages to be both particularly human and immensely complex in the ideas he represents. Slughorn's reluctance to give up his memory of the young Tom Riddle works so much better than the vague conspiracy of denial dwelt on in Order of the Phoenix. By focussing the dilemma onto one person, it becomes more palatable for an audience and ironically its impact appears greater, at least in relation to a man's conscience.

Slughorn represents all the guilt, shame and regret that surrounds the wizarding profession with respect to Voldemort. He's a well-meaning but not entirely likeable person, whose nervous and eccentric manner belies a tendency to exhibit favouritism to his students and selfishness with regard to his own soul. Broadbent perfectly conveys the idea of a man haunted by knowledge, mindful that what he knows will help but terrified of the contents of said knowledge. If Dumbledore is John the Baptist, then Slughorn combines the misjudged treachery of Judas with the doomed foresight of Cassandra in the Greek Myths.

Broadbent's enigmatic and melancholy performance causes a significant development in Harry's characterisation which would be touched on in the last two films - namely his relationship with power and how he handles temptation. By working from the Half-Blood Prince's book and outdoing his classmates (including Hermione), he feels for the first time like he has the skill and talent to live up to his image as 'the chosen one'. Throughout the film he is torn between his mission for Dumbledore (to recover Slughorn's memory of Riddle) and his growing hubris and curiosity which stem from the new spells he perfects.

As before, then, the saving grace of Half-Blood Prince is its cast, with each of the three principals growing further into their characters and Tom Felton continuing to develop all that is snivelling and repulsive about Draco Malfoy. But the film still has its fair share of structural problems which encumber it, beyond its inability to have a meaningful ending. Not only is Dumbledore's death reduced to a mere incident, but the film never explains its title. As a result Snape's final words to Harry feel like they were crowbarred in to justify calling the film by such a name; for all the peeks into Snape's history that we've enjoyed, we've no idea why he should be called that or what it means in the wider context of the plot.

The film also has issues with accommodating some of the magical concepts. The atmosphere Yates creates on screen is definitely more magical and mysterious than Chris Columbus managed in the first two films. But mood alone cannot be used to justify concepts like the Room of Requirement and the Vanishing Cabinet. Like the previous film, the idea is badly derivative and jars with the general attempt within Rowling's world for everything to have a logical basis; you cannot create dramatic tension if you can just magic something out of thin air when you need it.

Then we come to the horcruxes, which serve as the driving McGuffin for The Deathly Hallows. Even taking on board everything I have said about Dumbledore and Harry's relationship, there are two big problems with this concept. Firstly, the idea is not particularly original, with both Sauron's ring in The Lord of the Rings and the puzzle box from Hellraiser being prior examples. And secondly, there is a simple plot hole to consider; if Dumbledore knew that Riddle's diary was a horcrux, why has he waited so long to search for the others? By introducing the concept so late, rather than, for instance, hunting one horcrux per film, it feels like a last-minute, back-of-a-beer-mat resolution to the story, with everything that has gone before serving to buy Rowling some time.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an enjoyable and atmospheric offering whose performances cover up its narrative and structural shortcomings. While the cast are largely excellent and the dark tone is welcome compared to the earlier offerings, it isn't put together with sufficient skill or ingenuity to deliver enough of a knock-out punch. At the three-quarter mark in this franchise, it's a middling but entertaining effort, and certainly enough to whet our appetites for both parts of The Deathly Hallows.
Super Reviewer
½ May 28, 2012
It's a sophisticated, beautifully filmed movie that transcends its genre in every way, from the subtle humor, to the powerful acting, to the splendid cinematography. It is the most consistent of the Harry Potter films in terms of tone, and while the usual flaws are present, David Yates proves himself to be an excellent director. The entire saga is worthy of praise--each film having its own brilliant moments--but Half-Blood Princes stands out as one of the most mature and best developed of the eight.
Nikhil N.
Super Reviewer
May 23, 2011
Amazing opening sequence, absolutely stunning. A fun movie with a series undertone. Great acting, funny at times. A great set-up for the last two films. As the series is winding down, the excitement is just heating up! Really worth seeing!
Super Reviewer
½ April 13, 2013
There is absolutely no question that this is the WORST film in the bunch...but then again, it's likely also the worst book. I don't know how anybody could follow this film if they hadn't read the books. In the last five minutes, there's a surprise reveal, "Hi, I'm the Half Blood Prince!" without ANY explanation whatsoever or mulling over of the titular mystery. Really bad effort at crafting a screenplay from the book. Still -- it's gets a slightly better than average rating BECAUSE it is Harry Potter and because even Spielberg can't cough up such fantastic visual effects.
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2009
Not the strongest of the series, simply for the fact that it has to introduce a whole lot of plot which won't pay off until two films afterwards. However, it does have one or two cracker fight scenes which strengthen the film overall. Full review later.
Super Reviewer
½ August 7, 2007
Being my favorite book of the series, I awaited this one with much anticipation and the unfortunate gap between it and Order of the Phoenix (the largest in the series) was almost unbearable. I was initially a little disappointed when walking out the theater because my favorite part of the book was completely left out: the attack on Hogwarts. Now that the series is over, while I still am bummed that they didn't film it at all, I kind of agree with their decision and reasoning that it would have been too identical to the finale of the series and would have made the impact of it a little less important. That said, the film is just plain beautiful with the best cinematography of the entire series and some of its best emotion moments they ever had. The way they handled the Half-Blood Prince aspect of the storyline, although less important than the overall story arc, is not as compelling as the book, but because of they way they filmed the movie and wrote the script, it wasn't made out to be a big deal in the first place. A little unfortunate considering it is the title of the movie, but not a significant flaw like others have tried to make it out to be. Some didn't like the tone of the movie, but it is perfectly in line with the book and I find the all the hormones and jokes pretty funny. The series continues to mature and the acting is even better. Even though I thought Order of the Phoenix was better despite being a worse book, this is still a great entry.
Super Reviewer
August 11, 2012
The sixth film of the Harry Potter series continues to grow darker and eerie towards its finale. Half-Blood Prince visually sparks the human eye while providing an even more ominous feel to the story of its famed protagonist. 4/5
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2012
great movie, best book
Super Reviewer
½ February 26, 2011
The film was just amazing, great story and acting, just wished there was more action scenes in the end like the book however. As Harry enters his sixth year, him and Dumbledore must discover what they must do to defeat Voldemort, and they key lies within a old colleague of Dumbledores, Horace Slughorn. Harry also suspects his long time rival Draco Malfoy has become a death eater, and Harry might also be falling in love, with Rons sister. With a ending that will chill your bones, this is the darkest of all Harry Potters. The plot was genius and cool, but its very slow but for some thats a good thing, and its a build up for Deathly Hallows. The music was amazing and cool at the same time. The effects were well done and I enjoyed how they set a certain mood for Half Blood Prince. The actors get older, and get more experience, and it made this there best performance in the series next to Deathly Hallows. Half Blood Prince wasn't the best, but its really amazing and a tremendous edition.
Super Reviewer
½ December 24, 2007
The 6th film in the Harry Potter franchise, The Half-Blood Prince, brings the coming of the end into the story - and, oh, does it ever get deep. Even the villains are struggling in this one. I still feel that the overall narrative isn't quite as even as it should be, but this is definitely getting to the real meat of the entire story. I also felt that the film's dialogue was mixed far too low. I really had to crank this one in order to hear everything. At times people are speaking only in whispers and it's difficult to get a firm grip on the story without the volume being as loud as possible. Other than those minor flaws, this is a great addition to the series... and things only get more serious from here on in.
Super Reviewer
February 9, 2011
Harry Potter: Snape! He trusted you!

"Dark Secrets Revealed"

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Half-Blood Prince is my second favorite installment, only behind Deathly Hallows Part 2. Half-Blood Prince happens to be my favorite book in the series too, so that might have something to do with it. This sets up the events in the next two films to perfection. I love how the last scene was done and how it's used in the last film as well. If you weren't a reader of the books it would be a huge surprise to see the conclusion of this film and how things aren't really what they appear as the films go on.

With Half-Blood Prince we are totally manipulated into thinking one way by Rowlings and then the events of Deathly Hallows shock. Yeah the movies can't do it because we already know what's going to happen. But when I read the last two books, I was surprised a few times.

David Yates, in my opinion, really improves with his second Harry Potter movie. Granted Order of the Phoenix wasn't a horrible movie, but to me it did seem a bit off or not as good as it should have been. Half-Blood Prince was better than I expected and I was really impressed by it.
Super Reviewer
½ August 8, 2007
A tad more stylish than the previous outings, but with significantly less substance and no plot. Under these circumstances, one would think it nearly impossible to procure some real drama, but it happens somehow. The film is strangely powerful. Sadly, it's also very dark, literally. You can barely see anything. Michael Gambon is noteworthy in a key movie for his character, Albus Dumbledore. Daniel Radcliffe as the titular hero is more likeable than ever and as Lavender Brown, Jessie Cave is delightful.
Super Reviewer
½ July 17, 2009
Harry Potter enters his sixth year at Hogwarts, and things are darker than ever this time around. The Death Eaters are attacking wizards and witches left and right. Harry finds a book that was the property of the half blood prince and becomes obsessed with its teachings. He is also taken under Dumbledore's wing to learn more about Voldemort's past and what lays in store for all wizards/witches in the days to come.
Along the way, he, Ron, and Hermione take on new romantic interests. This subplot adds a lot of much needed and very entertaining humour to an otherwise very gloomy film.
This is the best blockbuster of the summer. It shows how a film can have amazing effects while telling a great and involving story at the same time. One of the great things about the Harry Potter series is that the stories aren't just about the plot, or how the wizard world will defeat Lord Voldemort. It is also about adolescence; growing up and learning to cope with the occurences in the everyday world. Not to mention all the great wonderful characters that have been the bread and butter of JK Rowling's brilliant fantasy.
Quidditch also makes a grand return. The scenes are as exciting as they were the first time we were introduced to the sport. David Yates, helming the director's chair for the second consecutive Potter film, is the perfect man to finish this saga. He retains exactly what he needs to from the book while changing enough to make this film as tight, concise, and coherent as it is. Things are falling into place, and the stage is set for an awesome finale.
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2011
I enjoy the Harry Potter movies, but I was unimpressed with this installment. I was bored at times and was completely uninterested and thought it was pointless. I did enjoy bits and pieces of it, though. I was very close to rating this a half star lower, but I remembered the parts with Harry and Draco and Dumbledore's death, so I feel as if I'm being very generous giving it this rating. Only view this film if you are a die-hard fan of the series though. Recommended for a one-time viewing.
Super Reviewer
½ July 16, 2011
Everything that was wrong with GoF's teen angst, drama and romance is fixed here in HBP thanks to some well timed comedy, a competent script and a great performance from our leads.

Not only that but it's exploration of the franchise's main antagonist Lord Voldemort and his past is exceedingly gratifying. If only Malfoy was given more screen time to explore his inner conflicts and struggles with being "good" or "evil" as well. IFONLY.

Instead we're forced to watch Hermione x Ron scenes... the end product is still pretty good just not so "brilliant". A satisfying watch and crucial chapter of the HP series.

PS. Rowling needs to stop making plotholes in her own universe. First the time-turners and now lady-luck potions? Beyond me why these weren't used later on to beat Voldemort.

PPS. The ability to "split a soul through killing another being because it's a violation against nature" is absolute rubbish. Killing is completely natural, the idea that it breaks some law of the universe is complete moral arrogance! Absurd.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2010
This is an unbelievably fantastic film! After a sloppy addition to an otherwise perfect franchise, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince comes back out on top, while not being the best, grabs all that is left that is good and rips the soul out of it, leaving us burning with fear in the end. The final sequence of this film had me gasping, and now the franchise can finally get back up on it's feet and bring us a finale that will stun us. As Harry is faced with torture throughout this film, it is no question that the true finale is brought to life in this film. It tells that Harry must find 7 horcruxes, hidden by Voldemort in everyday objects around the world. In order to destroy the dark lord, all 7 must be found. We are left with nothing but devastation in the final few minutes of this film, and honestly, there is not any happiness left to be seen, this series has hit it's darkest moment. And so, the end begins!
michael e.
Super Reviewer
½ July 11, 2011
I have only seen 2 Harry potter movies because I don't have much care for them, but the two ive seen are the first, this one, and an hour of the deathly hallows part 1 including the end. And I was surprised by how well put together this film was. I saw this movie only because I thought it was going to be much more of a comedy than an action movie from the trailers, not the case. It had funny scenes but it was completely dark and brooding to watch. I actually cried when Dumbledore died, and ide only seen him in one movie. Plus the action was pretty good and so was the acting
Super Reviewer
July 10, 2011
I would like to take the time to go back to the late 1990s. During that time, there was a man named Roland Emmerich who went and caused the greatest failure in cinema: the creation of the fill GODZILLA. That film was, in a lot of ways, is considered to be the failure of the entire GODZILLA series in America due to that being this Generation's look at the franchise. Now, once the company named Toho who created Godzilla realized their error in allowing the American remake, they had the film Godzilla: 2000 released which was like, to Godzilla fans, a can of air freshener being sprayed after someone had, excuse the crude saying, terrible gas in a room. Now, you might be wondering why I am mentioning Godzilla in a film review for Harry Potter. Well, the answer is simple: That is what watching this film is like after the previous abomination in the franchise. Watching this film again, I felt relieved to have the old Potter back. This film is basically everything that was wrong with the previous done right. Now, let's get to the details. For direction, I will say that David Yates is growing on me. At first, he did not seem like he knew what he was doing with the series when he directed part 5. Now, he has more control with how the film should be and go. Seeing him work with this film shows promise for the last two films. Next the acting. Watching this film, I can not imagine what had gone wrong with the previous film. It seemed like everyone got their heads back done to earth, drank my coffee, and finally got their act together. Now, the acting that I think is needed to be mentioned would be that of the principal cast (mostly our three plucky heroes). Like in part four, I find it funny when they start acting like real teenagers because after all that they have been through, you would have thought that they would put things like romance and relationships aside. But this film reminds us that they are still teenagers and this film exploits that in a very well way. So, for acting, it is nice to see that they are bringing their craft back. For the script, I only have one thing to say: THANK GOD they brought back Steve Kloves. Seeing this film, I was in shock at how much he has talent with adapting these films. Now, I know that in my review for the Goblet Of Fire, I criticized him for not doing that well with the script and adapting. But, here, I am just grateful that he returned. He brings back the whit, charm, and just wonderfulness that made the other films great. It is with that, I am glad that he is writing the last two films. For the score, that is where things are still the same as the previous films. Personally, I would have liked it if they were able to do something new. Something fresh, with what they have. Overall, this is a great return to the original Potter films, but has something extra added in that makes this film marvelous.
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2011
Half-Blood Prince is a much more dark, thrilling and mature film than the rest of the Potter films, as are the characters which are played well by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. Humour also finds it's way into the film giving it the much needed comic relief. Visually stunning, and in the end emotionally satisfying as well, Half-Blood Prince is by far, the best Potter film yet.
Page 1 of 3748