Saturday, January 14, 2012

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

David Yates, 2009 - Blu-Ray

The last Harry Potter film I saw was "...and the Order of the Phoenix" in the theatres in 2007, which marks about a 4-year gap between viewing the chapters.  That should really hammer home exactly how invested I am in the whole Harry Potter phenomena.  I mean, I tried... I tried to care.  I read the books, up to the fourth volume during which I got quite bored of reading about Quiddich and put it aside, never to read again.  The film series equally never quite excited me, the fourth chapter, which breezes over the Quiddich stuff (compared to the book, at least) I found insultingly patronizing, and I only have the vaguest of recollections of the details of Phoenix (wasn't Gary Oldman in that one?).

I'm just not that excited by magic, event though, early on, I did get wrapped up in the wonder of Harry Potter exploring his new world much in the same way I think a child would.  But as the innocence and ignorance was stripped from the stories, I think my enjoyment was as well.  Conceptually I think that the idea of crafting a story that ages and matures alongside its viewers and readers is a brilliant idea, the intensity of the shift between the Philosopher's Stone and even Phoenix makes them seem like almost two different worlds.

In the sixth chapter, Half-Blood Prince, very little actually happens, the story of Harry Potter, the chosen one, progresses only in a miniscule way, and in almost all respects, this isn't a very fulfilling story, definitely not one that works as a stand-alone film.  But it actually is the most episodic of the films, investing more into Harry, Ron and Hermoine's personal and emotional landscapes, and taking great measures to establish where their lives are at, at this moment, as it all builds towards the final confrontation between the good wizards and the disciples of Voldemort.  In this respect, it's the most satisfying chapter of the series.

Director Yates does a phenomenal job capturing a specific mood for the film, a sense of foreboding looming over everything including the tumultuous teenage romances which wouldn't be out of place on  Degrassi.  The pacing here, once again covering another full year at Hogwarts is still as choppy as the other films, having to condense a lot of J.K. Rawlings' prose into a short time frame doesn't make for a great 3-act structure (plus there's still some Quiddich nonsense and that whole "half-blood prince" mystery that culminates in a seemingly pointless revelation), but the third act is given a lot of breathing room and dominates the film in its favour, climaxing in the most dramatic of fashions.

I still have the two-part Deathly Hollows to delve into, however unlike the ending of Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince actually leaves me wanting to watch more.