Monday, 27 July 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Next on the platter for the reviews explosion is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film in the series based on author JK Rowling's bestselling books. The Harry Potter series (books, films, merchandise) are truly a phenomenon in every sense of the world. At the start of the millenium, the three main merchandising phenomenon's in film were The Lord of The Rings series, the new Star Wars trilogy and the Harry Potter series. Only Harry Potter has lasted this long, and even more surprisingly perhaps, will continue to last, for trends often tend to die hard, to use a pun. Anyway, here we are with this new film, a continuation on from the fifth in the series with director David Yates once again at the helm, who is now scheduled to take the series through to it's finish. David Yates, despite having a CV which consists of British TV work, took the helm of the previous film, The Order of the Phoenix. Despite having previously established directors at the helm of the series, the producers took a risk which paid off with recruting Yates, and it seems to have paid off. Having not seen The Order of the Phoenix, which is currently the most critically acclaimed of the series, I was pleasantly surprised with what Yates has done to the series. Whereas Chris Colombus injects a sense of wonder to the first two, Alfonso Cuaron creates an atmosphere of surreality and Mike Newell attempts to insert emotionality into the series, Yates seems to be able to multi-task these three qualities well, which is perfect for the film's as the books' material becomes more challenging. The film is frequently gripping throughout and thoroughly interesting, pacing itself reasonably well enough for a two-and-a-half hour film, very much in contrast to that other two-and-a-half hour film directed by Hack. With the material getting more challenging, this latest Harry Potter really is one of the few franchise sequel which stands by it's word in "it's like the last but darker" and has material to completely justify it. The original gang of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson once again play their signature roles with great gusto, and are some of the few franchise players who do not become more annoying as they go along in the series, retaining audience interest. Also, good once again in Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, still dividing audiences as to whether or not he is a villain. I think personally that the best performance though is by Michael Gambon, though that is perhaps expected considering the material. His portrayal of Albus Dumbledore is the best of the series, particularly in nailing the father/son relationship that has developed between he and Harry as the series has progressed. For me really though, despite good direction and acting, the most top class aspect of the film was it's cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel, made famous for his work on films such as Amelie. Alongside Red Cliff this year, the cinematography in this film is genuinely amazing and fits in well with the plot and themes of the story, with the film being edited now in such a way that in the middle of a deep intense scene, the film will cut to an appropriate image so that the audience can more easily, but not too easily, let us access a train of thought regarding the themes previously unaccessible. This, along with the fact that what is real becomes indistinguishable from an effect, is done brilliantly due to the moody lighting and rather inventive hue that seems to resonate as a colour tone over the viewfinder throughout. To point out the bads of the film, it unfortunately does at times seem overly long. Whilst no film should seem overly long, some of the material seems to do nothing to advance the characters or move the plot along. In saying that however it is paced but than Public Enemies, and uses it's time in a better manner. Another issue for me with this film is the fact that there are so many great actors involved, and you do feel at times robbed of the fact that some of them are giving performances which are rather dull. For example, despite having very minimal roles in the story, Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane give interesting performances in their respective roles, whereas Maggie Smith and Julie Walters failed to come across in that manner to me. Also, with regards to the script, it is tight as a whistle, despite being a long film. With such good material, I feel re-writes would be appropriate because at times it feels too long, and at others you feel some material could be expanded. For example, some actors play their characters well, but their characters, for example Bonnie Wright and Evanna Lynch, but I feel the material is left dead in the air, so the film is quite unbalanced. Finally, and this really annoys me, why do people who make franchise films even if they do have good material, not intend to make a masterpiece instead of a mere crowdpleasing effort which will eventually be forgotten. With such strong material, and perhaps this is biased coming from someone who liked the books, I feel that something of much greater emotional depth could have been gained from this film. However, despite these feelings, I feel that this film is really something to enjoy, and parents, be warned taking underage children, because the material is at times quite challenging. I feel that quite often in the film, it is thrilling, with solid acting, direction and some of the best cinematography I have seen this year, so in conclusion, very good and certainly worth a watch.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.8/10

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