The Half-Blood Prince is my second favorite book in the series, so I was nearly as nervous watching it the first time as I was when I first watched Prisoner of Azkaban. It may seem odd that I like this particular story so much. I mean, there’s no time travel, there’s little action, and instead of just subtracting elements from the book this movie invents an entirely pointless and non-sensical scene (more on that later). However, Half-Blood Prince has one thing that the previous Potter stories do not: copious amounts of flashback sequences.
Dumbledore and Harry’s exploration of Voldemort’s troubled past was probably dull for some, but I found it absolutely fascinating. My curiosity surrounding how Tom Marvolo Riddle became Lord Voldemort was finally sated in satisfying detail. I was so looking forward to seeing these scenes played out on screen, but alas, I was partly let down. The memories in the pensieve were cut down to two, but these scenes were perfectly translated from the book. I was left wanting more, simply because I think the memories that were cut would have been so awesome to watch. In particular, I would have loved to see Tom/Voldemort’s mother, Merope Gaunt, brought to life. Her’s is one of the most heartbreaking subplots of the series, and I would have loved to see it explored in the movie.
As much as I mourn the loss of some great scenes from the pensieve (there was a lot more discussion of the Horcruxes in the memories), at least the ones presented were actually in the book. No, the change that enrages me most is when The Burrow is attacked by Death Eaters on Christmas Eve. What is up with this scene? It makes no sense. If it’s so damn easy for Harry’s enemies to get close to him, then why isn’t he dead already? Just grab him and apparate to Voldemort so he can kill him. This was such a stupid use of poetic license. I get that they were trying to illustrate the point that no one is safe now, but the execution is utterly perplexing.
But back to what the film does right. One of the best sequences in any of the movies occurs when Harry takes a luck potion in order to convince the new potions master, Horace Slughorn, to give up a memory about Tom Riddle. Daniel Radcliffe plays the potion affected Potter perfectly, adding levity to an otherwise dark story. I also liked Jim Broadbent’s portrayal of Slughorn, even if he doesn’t physically match the character description enough for my taste. The entire climax is also incredibly well done, with Alan Rickman again proving that he is the perfect Severus Snape.
I was very hesitant watching this film. The Half-Blood Prince was my least favourite of the Potter books. It felt so much like a filler book. I just wanted to get to the final year and see Harry and Voldemort throw down, why did I have to waste my time hearing about his second last year instead? The movie is really well done, though. I wonder if it is because watching a movie only takes up two hours of my life, whereas reading a book takes substantially more.
So Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts picks up with everyone now realising he was telling the truth all along and evil wizard Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned, and everyone is scared of what he plans to do. Fortunately, Hogwarts Headmaster, and all around bad-ass, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) thinks he has finally found a way to stop Voldemort once and for all, and he needs Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) to do it. The new potions teacher (Jim Broadbent) was close with Voldemort during his time at Hogwarts and Dumbledore suspects he has knowledge about how to kill Voldemort permanently, but he needs Harry’s help to pry this information from him willingly.
There are quite a lot of flashbacks in this film, you see many scenes of Voldemort, or Tom Riddle as he was known back then, as a child. It was interesting to see how he became the darkest wizard known to man. This movie doesn’t paint that picture as well as the book manages to do, but it does a nice enough job of showing that Voldemort wasn’t always evil.
There is also the climax of this film which everyone was talking about. There is another high profile death and an unexpected (or expected, depending on how you feel about him) traitor at Hogwarts who finally shows his true allegiances.
The thing I love about these films is how they mature with their audience. We are in really dark territory now. The last film had some major character deaths and The Half-Blood Prince continues in that way. There are some shocks for the audience here, and for Harry. The fourth, fifth and sixth films show you that nobody is safe and you enter the last book knowing that any character can be killed at any time. It really raises the suspense of these films, which is something that wasn’t there previously.