REVIEW: ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’


Grade: B+

The long wait is over and the students of Hogwarts are back and more grown-up than ever in the latest installment of the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It has been two full years since the last film from the franchise, Order of the Phoenix, was released in the summer of 2007 and the wait has been less than easy for die hard Potter fans. However, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince delivers more than enough to satiate any Muggle-born moviegoer.

The last three in the book series (and last four in the film series) have been entrusted to director David Yates, who handles the films with an excellent blend of darkness and humor. His latest addition picks up right where Order of the Phoenix left off, with the same tones of impending doom looming over every frame of the film. This Potter feels like the most mature of the Potter films in many ways – particularly in the coming of age challenges and the more grown-up sense of humor. For Potter fans like myself, it feels comforting that after three previous directors, the franchise seems to have finally found consistency.

The action of Half-Blood Prince takes place in a world that is in need of a good lumos charm. The clouds are always looming and seem to be getting closer and closer as the students face the realization that evil is closing in on Hogwarts. Harry has just faced Voldemort, and the Wizard world at large finally acknowledges that the Dark Lord has returned. Before Harry can head back to school, Headmaster Dumbledore has a task they must complete – meet Horace Slughorn and convince him to return to teach at Hogwarts. The reason not being because of the bumbling old Wizard’s excellent knowledge of potions, but rather the fact that he conceals a secret that is essential to defeating Voldemort.


Harry is soon reunited with his old pals from school – Hermione, Ron, and Ginny – and the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix, the secret group determined to fight evil. The talk this year is that something sinister is going on with another member of Harry’s class – Draco Malfoy, the blonde Slytherin House boy who comes from a family of Death Eaters. Harry must find out what Draco is up to, while also attempting to pick the mind of old Professor Slughorn, and figure out his girl situation while he’s at it. You know, normal high school things.

There is one way in which this film deviates from the novels in a way that none of the film versions have at this point (from what I can recall). The books are written mostly from the third person limited viewpoint – the reader only knows what Harry knows (with the exception of one or two scenes). For the most part, the movies have stayed consistent with that viewpoint until now. Half-Blood Prince gives us perspective into the activities of another character – Draco Malfoy. The viewers are treated to glimpses of Draco attempting dark magic in the Room of Requirement, arguing with Professors, and having a break down in the bathroom. In doing this, director Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves make the film feel like it does not belong to just Harry, the way the books do.

Early in the film we see the one bright scene set against a dark and desolate Diagon Alley – Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop started by Fred and George Weasly. When inquired how his brothers keep up with the terrible times Ron responds “Fred says in times like these, people need a good laugh.” That line is appropriate for a film that turned out to be one of the funniest in the franchise. This time around the sense of humor is also more grown-up.


One of the biggest sources for laughter comes from Jim Broadbent’s hilarious portrayal of Professor Horace Slughorn. Only an actor with a face like Broadbent’s can create such humor in a pompous and bumbling old fool. He steals every scene he is in and when long gaps occur without his character, I often found myself hoping he wouldn’t be gone long.

Every other actor adult actor in the film doesn’t miss a beat. Michael Gambon’s sympathetic Dumbledore elicits the most emotional performance ever seen in the stately Wizard. Alan Rickman’s Snape inhabits the screen with a level of sinister that makes you loathe him and feel sympathy at the same time. The young actors continue their maturity as artists and people. The bond between the three main characters never feels forced, although some of their reactions, such as laughter, do. It should also be noted that beyond the Harry Potter franchise, you may never see such a solid ensemble of actors working together for some time.

Once again the film is a wonder to behold visually. The always great art direction is once again present in every set piece. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel is fantastic to behold, particularly in scenes of flashbacks or memories. In those, the camera might be tilted, or moving in an uncomfortable direction (like up and to the right while rotating), giving the viewer a sense of unease.

The flaws from the film came from the same flaws in the books – the forced emphasis on teenage romance. Director Yates did a good job of presenting them without feeling too “Disney Channel,” but the amount of mix and match love triangles became hard to keep track of and even harder to care about. This surprised me because in the fifth film, Yates took a book where not that much happens and filled it with heart-pounding action. This time he took a book where a lot happens and emphasized some of the parts that were least important. This is all made up for in the last third of the film, when romance is the last thing on the characters’ and audiences’ mind.

I realize that this review is going on longer than it should, but I want to make one quick mention of Nicholas Hooper’s brilliant score. It has a more mature sound than John Williams’ popular theme that started the franchise to match the tone of the film. At times it sounds like Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” – and it took my breath away in the same fashion.

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  • Sri

    David Yates (director) did a superb job just magnificent to watch, may be Alfonso Cuarón would have made them ROCK. I am a great fan of Harry Potter series. My favorite still remains HP3: Prisoner of Azkaban. But Half Blood was simply outstanding on levels. I’ll be seeing it again Saturday on IMAX which will be even better as it’s one of the original IMAX screens that loom up and over the audience as opposed to newer screens that are just big.
    Being a great fan I have collected a list of good sites and articles (may be around 200) related to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (movie information, movie schedule, movie reviews, books, games, news, wallpapers and many more). If you are interested take a look at the below link

  • Jason

    David Yates should be fired from these films they lack any integrity of the books. this file has nothing to do with the book harry potter and the half blood prince. i really don’t know what the purpose of this file by David Yates was but to piss the fans off. the concentration of Draco Malfroy is bull.I wish they could give me back the 2 and half hours of my live. I feel like i got ripped off from the movie theater and wish they would give me my money back cause i seriously don’t want any of my money going to this dumb director David Yates and if he don’t get fired from the last films i will just set at home download them just cuase it wont be worth my time and money

  • Katie

    I can definitely see what you mean about the over-emphasis on the romance, however, had Yates chosen to wean out the young love entirely, wouldn’t he be removing the main element that separates Harry from Lord Voldomort? Love! Likewise, what else do teens Harry’s age think about? We can all at least be grateful that Yates did not buy in on the ‘Twilight’ saga and employ ridiculously drawn-own longing looks and a complete absence of plot.

  • @Katie
    Yeah, I totally get what you’re saying, but there is so much in the sixth book that is way more interesting/exciting than the romance. I’m just a Potter fan being whiney.

  • G1000

    I can’t wait to see this, but I’m not going until next week. I hate crowds, and hopefully enough people will have seen it by next Monday or Tuesday that the theater won’t be too packed. Sounds wonderful!

  • bob

    1. This was without a doubt the worst of all the movies. The cinamatography was the worst I’ve seen in any movie in a long time. They cut off peoples head at the forehead many times. They did a good job of setting the mood by the lighting but that was as far as it went.
    No, the bridge scene was not in the book nor was any of the other attacks that were shown in the beginning of the movie. They were just mentioned in a conversation in the beginning of the book. This change was bad, it would have been more effective and informative if they would have just presented the way the book did. But Hollywood had to go with the action and glitz instead of good dialog.
    This happens through out the whole movie. But then, what do you exspect when the makers cater to the brain dead movie goers of today.
    The ending was totally changed in the movie, for what purpose. It was more dramatic in the book. I would love to here an explaination from the makers as to the reason for these stupid unnecessary changes.
    They wastes screen time on scenes that where of no value to the story. This wasted screen time could have been better used smoothing out the jumping from one scene to another.
    Just an eratic movie. The only ones that would like this movie are diehard fans who just will accept anything even if the title was “Harry Potter and The Crappy Movie”

  • G1000

    Finally saw it. I enjoyed it a lot! B+ (tied with film 4 for third-best in the franchise).

  • I don’t know where the positive critical claim for this movie stems from, aside from the look it was downright awful. It’s as if the filmmakers slapped the 5th movie in the face and ignored all the good things it achieved. I want my money back. I found a good rant that gets to the bottom of it here:

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  • Mike

    I am in agreement with your review, but I rate HBP slightly higher, say A-.

    In this day and age where teenage romance is often treated to American Pie like sex romps, perhaps one of the most effective scenes is the one that doesn’t exist in the book. Ginny leading Harry to the room of requirement to ditch the potions book.

    But mostly I am commenting here to wholeheartedly lend my agreement in regards to the soundtrack; it is the best yet. Some very nice mood music here, plus some tracks that standout (When Ginny kissed Harry, Aragog’s funeral, Harry and Hermione) by themselves

  • pretty good considering how many of these they have made, they all stand up pretty well.

  • Brandon Cooley

    I thought that after the first and second movies it was`all down hill from there. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th movies were all disapointments and this one is no different. Like the others, the director focuses on the unimportant aspects of the story, while the acting by the three main characters is pathetic. I would give this movie 2 1/2 out of 4 stars

  • Brandon Cooley

    I thought that after the first and second movies it was`all down hill from there. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th movies were all disapointments and this one is no different. Like the others, the director focuses on the unimportant aspects of the story, while the acting by the three main characters is pathetic. I would give this movie 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

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