Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Well, it’s markedly better than the last entry, but still a far cry from the highs of the third and fourth film.

Visually, it’s not quite as dull and flat as the preceding film, presumably thanks to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel.It has some of that glossy feel and lighting that one of his other films, the fantastic “Inside Llewyn Davis” had, but that’s marred by Yates’ everlasting love for darkness – literal darkness, making it hard to appreciate the film’s few visual strengths. At least this film occasionally tries to communicate it’s story through its visuals, with some legitimately well-framed shots.

In story terms, the film is not great. The pacing is perfunctory, the structurally “necessary” (according to Yates) second act action setpiece utterly nonsensical, the ending strangely low-key for what should have been a much more dramatic affair.

The sixth book’s story was mainly about diving into the backstory both of antagonist Lord Voldemort, and the generation preceding Harry’s, giving a lot of depth to characters previously sketched primarily in archetype. Voldemort ceases to be a nameless force of evil as his family and their terrible circumstances and interactions are revealed, and Harry experiences that milestone in a teenager’s life – when they realise their parents aren’t perfect, but are just people like them too, and come into understanding of some of the not-so-admirable things they’ve done.

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The movie dispenses with such revelations in a short series of scenes as quick as it can, and focuses the majority of its runtime on the relationships and low-stakes interactions of the teenage characters with each other. Taken in a vacuum I rather enjoyed this approach, but it was bizarre to disepense with such critical storytelling for a series following J. K. Rowling’s story so closely, and to spend most of the film on teenage shenangians.

At its best, the film is a reprise of what made the fourth film so great; marrying an increasing sense of darkness with the very relatable antics of teenagers in close proximity with each other. At its worst, the film is a reprise of what made the fifth film so awful; dull, perfunctory storytelling gliding over anything that made the corresponding book particularly memorable.

Overall, it is an enjoyable film a lot of the time, but it could have been a lot better. I give it two and a half death eaters, and a forgotten memory.

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