When Harry gains possession of a tatty but heavily scribbled-in textbook which has been labelled ‘Property of the Half-Blood Prince’ he finds himself top of the class. However, classes are the least thing on his mind when a series of bizarre ‘accidents’ start getting more and more deadly. Harry must help Dumbledore piece together the secret of the evil Lord Voldemort’s immortality, work out who is behind the accidents at Hogwarts and begin to realise his destiny.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) – Director: David Yates
Running Length: 153 mins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon
This sixth instalment in the Harry Potter franchise is a movie that charts the young wizard’s growth into independence, with all the horrible responsibility that such independence brings with it. For the most part, this is a faithful adaptation of the book with only minor changes to ensure that events don’t get bogged down in too much back story. The actors continue to excel in their roles and Radcliffe in particular pulls out a star turn as a boy who has spent the last few years being battered into a cynical but determined young adult. Watson and Grint as Hermione and Ron respectively have a superb chemistry together and the adult actors all bring their A-game, whether it be the weary but focused Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the ever hypnotic Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) or the slightly batty presence of new Potions Master, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). It is also a treat to see the character of Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) finally develop some depth beyond a cowardly and spoilt chip off the old block. In a way, and making a refreshing change, the entire plot of ‘Half-Blood Prince’ revolves around the actions of Draco and Felton’s performance adds a hitherto lacking element of empathy to the character. Each actor gives full commitment to their role and it shines through in every scene.
For the most part, the ‘Half-Blood Prince’ shines out as a superb piece of film making. What lets proceedings down a little is always the plot, as moments that can be given immense weight in novel form tend to lack somewhat when dealt with quickly in a film. The intrigue surrounding the identity of the ‘half-blood prince’ is treated rather haphazardly making the final reveal somewhat anti-climactic. Similarly, director Yates zooms over a major event near the end of the story to such an extent that by not giving the time to linger on the reactions of the key characters, the impact is dulled, if not lost. That said, for the most part ‘Half-Blood Prince’ is a hugely entertaining movie that cranks up the tension levels even higher than previous instalments. It features more comedy than ‘Order of the Phoenix’ and so, oddly enough, is probably a little more appropriate for children than the movie that preceded it. A touch of the ‘magic’ and exploration returns for ‘Half-Blood Prince’, at least until the last act, and if your child has been a fan of Harry Potter up to this point then this movie should be not only suitable, but perhaps their favourite to date.
IS ‘HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
At the beginning of the movie the camera pans slowly down the magical street of Diagon Alley (which featured most prominently in ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ – the first Harry Potter movie). An explosion rocks one of the shops and some people are thrown by the explosion.
On the train heading to Hogwarts, Harry is hit with a spell by Draco that leaves him unable to move. Draco then lifts his left leg and stamps on Harry’s face in a moment of real hatred and spite. Harry has blood on his face and it later becomes apparent that his nose is broken.
During one scene set in the village of Hogsmeade, there is quite a scary moment. One of the female students suddenly screams and collapses. She is shoved side to side on the floor by an unseen force before rising so that she is suspended in mid-air. She continues to scream and her expression is one of terror and agony. The director concentrates on her face in slow motion until she slumps to the ground again. It is later made clear that this character has recovered and is not harmed but the moment is treated as a scary one. Similarly at around the half way point, Ron collapses without warning. His body goes into spasm and he foams at the mouth. The characters around him panic, not knowing what to do. This lasts around 2 minutes.
As Harry has been reading a potions textbook as amended by the mysterious ‘half-blood prince’ he learns of a spell marked simply ‘for enemies’. He later uses this during a magical fight scene and is disturbed to find that the spell causes serious physical injury. The person hit by the spell is unable to rise and their shirt is covered in rips and slashes with much blood clearly visible, pooling around the character. This character’s suffering does not last long though.
In the third act of the movie Harry and Dumbledore are in a large cave. The music disappears entirely and the scene is treated as very tense. As the sequence unfolds Dumbledore’s character veers unpredictably. Sometimes he shouts aggressively (at one point he barks, ‘Kill me!’), sometimes has sobs and tries to defend himself and other times he appears very confused. This is done through a series of fairly quick cuts which make the moment highly dramatic. Harry and Dumbledore are then attacked by ‘Inferi’ which are zombie-like creatures that rise from the surrounding water and grab at them in large numbers. Harry gets pulled underwater by one and sinks slowly deeper and deeper. This scene is shot for maximum fear and the sudden appearance of the Inferi combined with the tense and upsetting moments from before make the whole cave sequence an intense one. The cave part lasts around 10 minutes and may be too much for sensitive children.
Lastly, ‘Half-Blood Prince’ ends with the death of a major character and children who are upset by seeing the death of someone they have grown to get to know over the course of 5 movies may require the presence of an adult and reassurances here, especially because this moment comes shortly after the cave sequence mentioned above and so there is no real let-up in tension for a good 20 minutes or so. Consequently the movie ends on quite a downbeat note with only the main characters resolve to keep on fighting being of any positive conclusion.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
While ‘Half-Blood Prince’ does continue the trend towards more adult themes and darker tones than the early Harry Potter movies, it also allows a little more light-hearted content into the mix meaning that this is not a harrowing experience from start to finish. There is not much potentially unsuitable content involved besides a few scary moments and so we believe that the ‘Half-Blood Prince’ should be appropriate for children aged 9 and above, depending on how sensitive the child is towards the potential emotional trauma of character death and moments of sustained tension.
- Violence: 3/5
- Emotional Distress: 4/5
- Fear Factor: 3/5
- Sexual Content: 1/5 (there are several romantic sub-plots but these don’t extend beyond some kissing. However, Hermione spends around 10 minutes trying to dodge the affections of an overbearing student and describes him by saying, “He’s got more tentacles than a Snarfalump plant.”)
- Bad Language: 2/5 (many uses of mild curse words, usually for comedic effect)
- Dialogue: 2/5 (some of Dumbledore’s dialogue can be a little intense, especially during the cave scene. The evil Death Eaters verbally threaten a character for a short moment)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of responsibility, the importance of being able to rely on others, reaching maturity and how shame over past actions can help right the wrongs of today
Words by Mike Record
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