A batch of Harry Potter reviews have been released. And while everyone's unanimous that the new film isn't for those unfamiliar with the Hogwarts curriculum, it's still the best movie to come out of J.K. Rowling's books. Spoilers ahead.
It sounds like the next Harry Potter film will be a journey both into the dark underbelly of the mystical realm, with breaks for the students to make out between the stacks. Reviewers didn't even seem too miffed the film cut out the novel's big climactic scene. And what of the films running time (the longest of the Potter films thus far)? Not long enough, says some critics — bladders be damned, you'll supposedly will be looking for bottle to fill on the floor, so not to miss a moment of the action.
Steve Kloves happily returned to once again skillfully condense a massive book into manageable dramatic form; among many tough narrative decisions, he has cut back on the violent mayhem surrounding the murderous climax and put off the introduction of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour until the next episode....
Director David Yates, after a prosaic series debut on the prior film, displays noticeably increased confidence here, injecting more real-world grit into what began eight years ago as purest child's fantasy; messenger owls and chattering house elves have been superseded by a frank Underground tea-room flirtation, school security checks and raging teenage hormones. The sets have been stripped down to reduce Hogwarts' fairy-book aspects and emphasize its gray medieval character, and even the obligatory Quidditch match is staged with greater attention to spatial comprehensibility than ever before.
the film is clear-headed and clean-lined; now that he's at home with the material, Yates has made a "Potter" picture that is less desperate to please than any of its predecessors, itself a sign of series maturity.
David Yates has found his footing in his second outing as a Harry Potter movie maker after 2007's Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix and his decision to use cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel was a masterstroke.
The film looks great and Delbonnel gives the picture a palette of dark hues that lure us into the story and keep us there. I looked at my watch just once during the 153 minute running time, and that was to work out whether I had time to race to the loo. But I stayed in my seat. I didn't want to miss a single moment.
There's lots of blushing, stammering and smooching. Will Harry lock lips with Ginny? Is Ron smart enough to see that Hermione ... well, it's not Skins. Hands are kept above the waist at all times.
Putatively winsome all this may be, but what it actually does is throw the series' biggest weakness into sharp relief: film-making can (and does) control pretty much everything – except how the cute juvenile leads grow up. Still, director David Yates knows how to play all the cards. Although a touch ungainly, his film is solidly constructed, with lots of fine effects. If, as Potter approaches his final confrontation with Voldemort, the wizardly battles begin to resemble Lord of the Rings, it's hardly a handicap; this is tried and tested cinematic language, and does all it needs.
Bottom Line: A jerky start of exposition and backstory gives way to vigorous storytelling in the latest chapter of Harry Potter.
Composer Nicholas Hooper, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and designer Stuart Craig deliver a singularly muscular and vigorous chapter while all the visual and digital effects have now blended seamlessly into the package.
Is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the best Harry Potter film yet? Oh yes. Is it one of the best films of the year? Oh yes again.
Could a Harry Potter film make a showing at the Oscars in a non-technical category? If Warner Bros plays their cards right I believe that they could easily wrangle a nod for [Jim] Broadbent, who plays new Potions teacher Horace Slughorn.
If you're not onboard with the Potter films don't even think of jumping aboard with this one. While Half-Blood Prince is so good that I think it would charm even the most jaded Potter non-believer, the film makes no bones about being the sixth in a series.
In fact, Half-Blood Prince feels like the most grown-up Potter film yet when it comes to the menace of the bad guys. They're everywhere, and they're casually evil. While the death of Cedric Diggory in Goblet of Fire was a stunner, Half-Blood Prince carries a constant presence of malice, and it feels like any kid could be killed at any moment.
So it sounds like we're being made up to after the last feature, which was terrible by any means, but in my opinion terribly rushed. Still, I'll be anxious to read other reviews as we all know the online community often feels one way about a franchise, while the rest of the world sometimes has a different opinion.