Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

High School Couples

Love is in the air. While the muggle world and the world of magic are under siege from the forces of evil, I guess there's always time for our growing teenagers to be frustrated more by the affairs of the heart, rather than be troubled with whether the fate of the world is within your control to steer from collapse, unless of course you're Harry Potter, the Chosen One.

The sixth movie and installment of the lucrative J. K. Rowling brainchild, I initially had my reservations about the last film being split into two just because it directly translates, going by the immense box office response, into billions, but the story has now matured immensely into something darker and more sinister. Gone are the more innocent childhood days of matriculation into Hogwarts, looking forward to school to learn new skills and somehow being caught up with the looming of Voldermort's resurrection of sorts, but now as seniors, that premise becomes closer and all the more life threatening as events in the last few films had demonstrated.

The film leapt directly into the thick of things, so for those like me who are not too familiar with the books, then you may find yourself lost from the start. But I guess that'll leave you engaged up front in guessing, being part of the tension building and fun, so fret not, as everything will be unravelled in good time thanks to the excellent narrative presentation by director David Yates, and of course, the strength of J.K. Rowling's source material. As with the past films, a little bit about Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and the earlier generation of magicians get slowly peeled away as the film progressed, and continues to bait you hook line and sinker as you immerse yourself thoroughly in wanting to find out more.

As already mentioned, since the first Harry Potter movie we've literally accompanied our child wizards from their younger days, through to puberty and now into teenagers with raging hormones, and this particular installment had a good bulk of it dealing with boy-girl relationship pangs, with love triangles such as the Ron Weasley-Hermione Granger-Lavender Brown (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Jessie Cave respectively), or a developing one between Harry and Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). Needless to say there are countless of other supporting characters all eager to snag a date with some of the characters mentioned, or have desires to do so through love potions even!

It's a whole range of emotions on display here, where infatuations, unrequited love, betrayal, envy and jealousy all rolled in at certain points, and truly the actors here deserve full credit for their very matured performances, especially in a heartbreaking one where Harry and Hermione find themselves in the same boat, and then realizing that affairs of the heart aren't always that easy to learn nor to master like their classroom lessons and practical tests.

On the larger scale of things, we see less cutesy elements that were the hallmark of the first few films, as this episode sets the gears of Voldermort's sinister plan into motion. Everything in this film is draped in perpetual black or darkened greys, with less than a handful of daylight scenes in it. Besides dabbling with various romances, there's this sense of urgency raging throughout the pacey narrative, which has tension, action, romance, adventure and comedy effectively fused to entertain an audience.

New characters get introduced such as new Potions Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) who has a hidden and mysterious link to the young Voldermort, and so do the old ones like the various school going children, and villains from fellow peer Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) who's planning something as instructed for the dark lord, to the Death Eaters like Fenir Greyback (Dave Legeno) and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) whom Harry has a personal vendetta against. Events such as Quiddich too return to the big screen after a long awaited hiatus, although this time round it was certainly a Ron Weasley show.

The special effects again prove to be a wow-factor. Some set action sequences were crafted independently from the book to provide a more menacing edge to the story and to allow the characters to engage in more magical fights, but also served to up the excitement when it mattered. For the last hour it became more like a Harry Potter and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) partnership as they embark on a quest which resembled very much like Dragonball's, so much so that his best friends Ron and Hermione get sidelined and parked aside for quite a fair bit (the former didn't even have a speaking line at the ending scene of the film even!) but again Dumbledore demonstrated his prowess, just like he did in The Order of the Phoenix, and the visuals were nothing less than stellar and so beautiful to look at - an impressive rage of an all-round fire which also nodded in the direction of The Ten Commandments, rumoured to have taken about 8 months to render.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince joins Star Trek as my choice of bona-fide blockbusters this Summer season. If anyone had doubted whether David Yates is the right choice for helming the franchise until its two-parter movies adapted from the final book, then his second foray here would leave you quite impressed. I'm already stoked about the things to come, so much so that, haven't not read the books proper, I had went to spoil myself silly. And yes, with so much happening in time to come, from where this film ended and trailed off, 2 films would hopefully do justice to the seeds of development already sown here.

Bring them on!

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